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Four steps to unlocking the content in your business

I talk to a lot of companies about content marketing. A significant number of those conversations right now relate to a move away from the big, standalone pieces of content (research studies, whitepapers and the like) to short-form content created in a much more agile way. While personally I'd shy away from using a term like 'brand journalism' to describe the approach, this new model certainly requires a far more editorial mindset.

The structures and processes around the editorial function in a business are the subject for another post. But central to success in most businesses is finding and releasing the content that sits within the minds of the employees: those people dealing with customers on a daily basis; those at the forefront of product development; those with the deep sector and industry experience that makes them genuine thought-leaders.

More often than not, I find that the perception of how easy it is to encourage these people to create content based on their expertise is at odds with the reality. Just because they have the knowledge, doesn't necessarily mean that they're able to turn it into usable, quality content.

Here are four steps to unlock the content that sits inside your people:

1. Find the current content creators

It's likely that some of your employees are already publishing content about their professional lives in some way, on any number of platforms. They're already motivated, they already understand the publishing process. Find them, bring them into the company's editorial fold, and make them your champions.

2. Build content creation part of people's jobs

We're all busy people (notice how long it's been since my last Metia blog post). We all have objectives, and our behaviour and focus is driven by these. If you're expecting someone to create content on behalf of the company, make it part of their objectives, incentivise and reward them. Analytics can help here. Indeed a bit of internal competition around page views, comments, shares, like and retweets might be all the incentive people need.

3. Prompt people with an idea or theme

Simply asking someone, however expert they might be, to produce a piece of content is unlikely to get a great result. In fact it's unlikely to get a result at all. Give someone a specific topic; spend some time thrashing around ideas with them; ask for their thoughts and perspective on something you've seen published elsewhere. The content snowball often needs a little push off the top of the hill.

4. Don't make production a problem

The goal is to access the expertise and insight of your people, not to focus them on a format. If you ask someone who isn't a natural writer to produce a polished 500 words on a subject, it isn't going to happen, however much the subject is aligned to their expertise. But ask them to sit down for fifteen minutes and chat with a good copywriter and you'll get your story. Find out what works for each of your content creators. You might discover, for instance, that simply recording a conversation which takes place over an internet video call produces a useful, succinct piece of content for your website.

I absolutely believe that most businesses aren't unlocking and using the expertise and smart thinking held in the minds of their people as effectively as they might. And it's content, if produced in the right way and placed in the right channels, that can support functions across the organisation: from marketing to recruitment; from internal communications to sales; from customer service to community relations.