If you’re fortunate enough to work at an agency full of brilliant individuals, you’ve probably experienced the following:
You’re in a leadership meeting debating different approaches to solving a problem, and a lot of ideas are on the table. Suddenly, someone’s voice cuts through the noise, and what she shares is so inspirational and well thought out that you find yourself scrambling for a pen and paper to write it all down.
She’s one of your agency’s subject matter experts.
She understands the industry, your clients, and your company so well that ideas and solutions come to her like in a dream. You know your audience would benefit from her knowledge, and you know she should be creating content.
But how does your team turn that realization into reality? Here’s what you need to do to transform your internal expert into a consistent content creator.
First things first: Put yourself in her shoes. If you’re active in your industry, involved in your company, and leading your team forward in such a way that you’re a great candidate for thought leadership, do you think you’ll have extra time to get into the weeds with any one area of your agency — especially inbound marketing? It’s just not realistic.
You can’t go up to this leader and say, “Hey, all those amazing things you said in our meeting? I’d love for you to write 800 words about it, follow these publication guidelines, and fit the documented content strategy that Marketing put together. Thanks!”
She’s going to need a team to help her. Whether you budget for an in-house content marketing team or decide to outsource, you’ll need at least a project manager, a content strategist, a writer, an editor, and a distribution specialist.
Next, you need to think about tools. You’re probably already using a number of different tools to support your marketing and advertising efforts today — about 12 of them, on average. Take stock of what you’re working with already, and compare their functions to what you need to make content creation easy for internal experts. Different teams may want different platforms to help with their specific functions, but there are three types of tools every team can benefit from:
- A knowledge bank: This customizable tool stores and organizes all those amazing ideas your thought leader has.
- An editorial calendar: Built with your agency’s goals and capacity in mind, this calendar keeps your team and your content on track.
- Social distribution tools: Content isn’t finished once it’s live; it’s up to your team to distribute it to your audience.
Finally, consider the process. The process your team puts in place to work with your thought leader can make or break the experience — and the success of your agency’s efforts. Some experts are natural writers and may want a larger role in the process; others enjoy the act of storytelling but prefer to leave the details to their teams.
Each agency’s process is unique. Based on my personal experiences and what I’ve learned from five years of leading a company that helps thought leaders create content, the best processes include these six steps:
1) Discover the thought leader’s passions and expertise.
To keep your thought leader engaged, tackle topics and projects that truly interest her. In those first meetings, encourage your team to uncover what she’s passionate about and where her strongest expertise lies. What they learn in this step will guide their content strategy.
2) Determine the best strategy to communicate that passion and expertise.
Next, your team will need to document the strategy that will help your thought leader communicate her passion and expertise. It can be as robust or as simple as your team likes — as long as it includes a description of your agency’s goals for thought leadership, which publications you’re targeting, who your audience is, and how you’ll bring those elements together. Documenting this strategy will remind your expert of the rhyme and reason behind the content your team creates, and it will align your various marketing efforts.
3) Set up a process for knowledge extraction that plays to the thought leader’s strengths.
Knowledge extraction is your team’s way of drawing expertise, examples, and personal stories from your thought leader to fuel the content. Rather than ask for a write-up from your expert, your team can ask her specific questions to gain the raw material needed to craft an article. That material can be stored in your knowledge bank and even used to write future pieces of content.
A Q&A process works well here, and depending on your expert’s strengths, your team can aim for a written Q&A or an interview in person or over the phone. Tailor the approach to how your thought leader best communicates and what saves everyone the most time.
4) Create awesome content she’ll love.
This is your thought leader’s chance for a break. With the answers collected in the knowledge extraction phase, your team’s writers and editors can get to work crafting the content. By removing the thought leader from the heavy lifting of actual writing, your team utilizes her time intelligently — and all that extra time means she’ll have the chance to review the finished work and ensure it’s written in her voice.
5) Coordinate publishing.
Unless your thought leader’s expertise somehow happens to be in online publications (and she has the time to manage those editorial relationships), your content team should take the reins here, too. Enlist your distribution specialist to pitch content to your target publication, work with the editors there to make any necessary changes, and publish your thought leadership content.
6) Coach her on promoting the published content.
Take advantage of the time between content acceptance and publication to prepare materials to help your thought leader promote her published content. Encourage your team to write social media posts, and suggest online communities for your thought leader to participate in. Draft emails to share content with your partners and clients. Prep your sales team on ways to leverage this content in sales conversations. The better her content performs, the better your shot will be at contributing to that publication again.
Remember, your subject matter experts probably won’t have the time or know-how to run a full content team, become a published thought leader, and maintain consistency all on their own. Pair your internal experts with a fantastic content team, the right tools, and a solid process, and you can create engaging, authentic content that drives results for your agency.