Why aren’t your employees driving your content creation?

Sarah Welstead content creation

Sarah Welstead content creation

I know what my clients think when I suggest that they have their employees write blog posts or whitepapers or post an industry-related opinion piece on their LinkedIn profile: “Yeah, right. If I could get these guys to string together 3 paragraphs without holding a gun to their heads, I wouldn’t need to be hiring you.”

Other times, I know they’re thinking – and they often say – something like, “Look, I need my guys focused on what they need to get done. I don’t need them wasting half the day trying to think up tweets or whatever.”

Most of your employees know more about your business than I ever will

I listen to what my clients tell me about their business, I do my own research, I tend to work with clients over long periods of time and – it has to be said – I’ve been around the block a few times, so I’m pretty good at grasping my clients’ business models and what they’re looking to achieve in the marketplace.

But I’ll always be an outsider: I don’t know what the business is like on a day-to-day basis; I’m rarely on the front line with clients; I don’t have to use the industry-standard-but-hopelessly-complex enterprise software that everyone hates – and I don’t get to hear the thousands of anecdotal stories from trade shows or client visits or competitors that even a junior manager is exposed to in their first year on the job.

So there are some insights I just won’t ever have – but it’s these insights that can drive great content across all kinds of channels.

(And make no mistake, a thoughtful-but-humorous piece on that terrible industry-standard software is going to be more interesting to your audience than another blog post about how you just made a new hire.)

It’s good for your business in a whole bunch of ways

I know many companies think that if they let employees spend 3 hours of company time working on a blog post or article, they’re just ‘losing’ that 3 hours – it’s a non-productive time-suck that doesn’t do anything for the bottom line.

But in fact an employee-bylined piece that’s well-distributed can deliver benefits in all kinds of ways:

  • It can reach new audiences, especially if the employee publicizes it across their own social networks
  • It can deliver a boost to SEO for similar reasons
  • When customers/competitors/potential employees see that there are lots of people in your organization with interesting stuff to say, they naturally assume your organization must be cutting edge/smart/market-leading
  • It can spur other employees to come up with their own insights to talk about – which not only means additional content, but an organizational culture where insights and inventiveness are valued
  • It might turn up some valuable insights hitherto unknown to senior leadership
  • Over time, it can contribute to a reputation for thought leadership that gets your organization on more shortlists for more business

Is it hard to quantify all this? Yes.

Will it happen overnight? No.

Will it happen if you stick to it? Absolutely.

They don’t actually have to write the stuff.
They just have to tell someone who can.

I know most people struggle with writing magazine articles or whitepapers or blog posts or even clever Instagram captions. (If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have a job.)  That doesn’t mean they don’t have great insights and information to share – it just has to get out of their head and into some kind of form that other people can see.

The solution? Allow and encourage employees to spend some time with – and be interviewed by – whoever is tasked with doing your content and social media.

No, allowing the social media/content person to corral several mid-level managers for an hour or two every once in a while is not a shameless squandering of resources. (Do I really have to say this?) And no, it won’t mean that your employees are suddenly so ‘distracted by marketing’ (I get that objection a lot, BTW) that they can’t return to their desks afterward.

Let the content person do the writing, while the employees take the credit. At worst, you’ll end up with better content. At best, you’ll help build your brand as an industry leader in all kinds of ways.


Content Marketing: Beyond the blog

Statistics on content marketing 2016

I think we can all agree at this point that for almost every brand, company, product or service, content marketing makes sense. It particularly makes sense for B2B and SMB companies, who are often working with limited budgets, highly specific target markets, and a need to educate their targets on their services or the specific problems they solve.

But then the big question becomes: Exactly what kind of content marketing should you focus on?

The subhead on this infographic says “Marketers aren’t creating the content their audience actually wants.” Since when have any consumers anywhere actually said, “Oh yes, that content created by Acme Inc was exactly what I was looking for! It was just perfect.”? They never say that. No one wants to admit they actually liked anything with the word ‘marketing’ in the title.  So let’s just approach every data point (or ‘datum’ for purists) with a healthy dose of scepticism, and dig a little deeper into what this infographic is telling us.

People are more likely to read long-form content more thoroughly than blogs?

Well, sure. Sometimes blogs are just some random infographic with an introductory paragraph, or a link to a corporate video, or a picture of someone’s breakfast table. You can’t consume a picture of a breakfast table ‘thoroughly’. Long-form articles are, by definition, the kind of thing you either commit to reading or just skip over entirely.

Does this mean that you should start getting your office intern to write 2500-word articles on your corporate philosophy and post them on your blog? No. A ‘skimmed’ blog can be just as effective as a ‘thoroughly-read’ one, depending on the context.

45% of people want to see more ‘social posts’?

I’m not even sure what this means. If your target audience is teenagers and your product is makeup, then yes, more social posts are a great idea – nothing keeps your brand top-of-mind better than an endless stream of attractive Instagram and Snapchat posts. If, on the other hand, you’re selling waste-to-energy technology to foreign governments, then I’m 100% certain that adding more posts to your Facebook page isn’t going to move the needle.

43% want more video content?

Of course they do. Because, when you ask people a direct question, they assume that it’s going to be more fun to watch catvertising than to read your blog. But that doesn’t mean they want to watch a series of 7-minute videos in which your CEO discusses your corporate philosophy and Commitment to Customer Service. You’ll get more hits if he blogs pictures of his breakfast table every day.

They’re right about diversifying your content channels

It’s the same old story: For marketing to be successful, it has to reach the right people at the right time in the right place. And these days, people aren’t all in one place all the time. They’re consuming content on phones, iPads, laptops, desktops – and they’re still consuming content via traditional channels like tv, radio and print, even though everyone keeps forgetting that. A content marketing strategy that relies entirely on blog posts on your corporate website just isn’t going to give you the reach you need.

Anyway, as usual I’m in danger of veering off-topic (into a discussion of how getting the channel mix just right can mean that every marketing dollar works like $5) here, so I’ll simply encourage you to take a look at the infographic below and give some thought to how your content marketing strategy will look in 2017.



Statistics on content marketing 2016

Down the Rabbit Hole: The podcast

Down the Rabbit Hole podcast

Down the Rabbit Hole podcast

I was going to preface this by saying that my obsession with podcasts started when we got a dog and I needed something to keep my mind busy on long walks, and then really kicked into high gear when my daughter was born and I needed something to keep my mind busy through long nights of nursing a fractious infant.

But then I realized that it started long before that – like in the late 70s, when I was given a Holly Hobbie radio for Christmas. I’ve always had trouble falling asleep, even as a young child, and while my parents were pretty permissive about letting me read in bed long after my ‘official’ bedtime, they didn’t want to see their 9-year-old with her light on all night. So I’d tune the radio to CKOC, turn the volume down really low, and drift off to Trooper songs and the DJ’s patter and the news. Even now, hearing ‘The Boys in the Bright White Sports Car’ on my headphones late at night can give me a safe, secret cozy feeling.

These days, I still fall asleep (and walk the dog, and clean the kitchen, and do the laundry) listening to the radio – but now it’s podcasts rather than AM Top 40, and it’s less about the hit parade than it is about interesting voices and stories in my ear.

Which brings me to Down the Rabbit Hole, a podcast that Alanis Walker and I have started.

I’ve known Alanis for almost 20 years now: We worked together at Anderson DDB back in the day, and she taught me more about PowerPoint than I have ever learned before or since (there was a time when knowing how to ensure a font stayed true when you moved a PPT deck from a Mac to a PC was a critical job skill). She was an early contributor to StayAwake (which started life in 1992 as a zine) as the author of the popular ‘Malaprop Corner’. Most importantly, we share a love of language and learning new stuff.

While we don’t always geek out to the same things (I tried, and failed, to match her appreciation of Mystery Science Theatre 2000, but we do both agree that PG Wodehouse was a genius), we do tend to have the same approach: We catch the end of a thread of something, we want to know more, and before we know it, we’re down a rabbit hole. Four hours later, we know everything about, say, the science behind Stephen Fry’s QI explainer on why horizontal stripes don’t make you look fat.

But what’s to be done with this information? Is it right that it just goes in to our heads with no chance of escape? Do we have the right to deprive those around us of what we have discovered in our rabbit holes of knowledge?


So we’ve created our new podcast, in which we share the fruit of our recent rabbit holes, fall down some new ones, and provide you with some entertainment along the way. Alanis even has actual facts at her disposal most of the time.

We’ve got 3 episodes in the can right now – you can check out the pilot episode, on the subject of Guilty Pleasures, here.

Is this the best podcast you’ve ever heard in your life? Not yet. But if you’ve ever found Alanis or I even marginally interesting, I encourage you to give us a trial listen.

Let us know what you think!