In my last post on content marketing I ended with these comments:
This is the challenge facing organisations looking to create compelling content: how to build sustainable content strategies. To do so, organisations will require a mix of marketing and editorial expertise and processes and an infrastructure to support content production.
And once you have this you can then look at how you can use social tools to leverage the content held within your organisation – to turn your organisation inside out so that it lets the customers in and lets some of the organisational expertise out. But that’s the subject for another post . . .
In this post, I want to pick up where that post left off. And to start, I offer you this visual metaphor.
We know that nine-tenths of an iceberg is unseen, leaving only the top tenth visible. Taking this visual metaphor, let’s look at organisations and their content and communications. It is much like the iceberg in that those outside of the organisations (and, sadly, many inside them too) get to see what the organisation makes visible. This is done through marketing, corporate communications and PR. And the content and communication usually seen here is defined by one word, the big ‘C’, and that is control.
This is where the organisation manages what it says to the outside world, how it markets itself and how it develops and manages conversations around its products and services. Anyone who works in any of the departments servicing this part of the comms ‘iceberg’ will be familiar with the process of sign-offs and policing that comes before a ‘campaign’ can go live.
And if something happened that was not planned the organisation usually has a crisis comms plan in place to manage its response.
Much of this comms activity will be measured and there will be attempts to put a return on investment against some of it.
This is pretty much how organisational comms work and have worked.
In terms of the overall value of the business, however, there is a whopping 90% of content that remains hidden. This tends to be where the knowledge, history and culture of the organisation sits. This is also where there is risk. Traditionally, this is seen through a risk lens.
Leaks from staff are the stuff of social media policies and headlines proclaiming that organisations have banned colleagues using Facebook due to the sharing of inappropriate material. And then there are the very real concerns around the inappropriate sharing of confidential information.
Organisations are very good at managing risk – they have processes, policies and procedures to support this.
Back to the iceberg metaphor briefly. Organisations also tend to be pyramid shaped in terms of organisational design. That means hierarchies, which helps explain why the public-facing content and communications are managed from the top. There is perceived to be less risk in communications coming from that part of the business. A director of corporate comms and public affairs will be working very closely with the senior management team.
But what of the employees involved in the 90%? These are subject matter experts, product experts – the people who have knowledge and skills that make the organisation the success it is. And it is these people who hold the keys to far more compelling content. They understand the market place, the trends, the technology – the types of information the company’s supply chain, customers and potential customers might find very useful.
So, how to get at it? The UK government is trying to open up some of its departments so that stakeholders can see more of what is being worked on. This is happening through departmental blogs.
The Department for International Development has a range of bloggers who share their ideas and work. As the site says, “This blog is a place for staff from the Department for International Development to share their personal experiences of helping to eliminate poverty across the developing world.”
These initiatives are relatively new but they show how colleagues’ knowledge and expertise can be shared beyond the walls of the organisation.
This can have tangible benefits. I’m working with a music charity on its social media strategy and as a part of this work one of the team started using Twitter to share his work around music technology. One of the aims of using Twitter was to bridge the music making community with the technology hacking community.
Through Twitter he was able to connect with people across both communities and to run a technology hack event which would never have included some really good hackers had he not connected with them on Twitter. You can read more about that here.
These are just a couple of examples of how organisations are turning themselves inside out in order to show what they know. It is still early days but, as we can see from the hack day, there are tangible benefits to come from opening up and sharing what the business knows.
Clearly there are challenges to moving away from a controlled approach to content and communications towards a more open approach in which colleagues are supported and encouraged to have a voice, and to create, connect and share what they know.
But if you believe in showing your value as an organisation, this will be the way forward.
[Picture credit: Vicbuster]