This week, I’ve been working on content strategies for three tech businesses that share a similar problem/opportunity: How to engage the whole team in content creation.

The answer comes from a different business model, and one we’re particularly familiar with – agency land. Agencies are famously crap at their own marketing, but those that excel consistently create great content, and engage billable staff to do so.

Sounds straightforward, but it’s tough for agencies. They have to respond to client demands, so often don’t know when a free moment will appear. They just know that a client will drop out, and their designers or developers will suddenly have a free day.

Because of the reactive nature of the day-to-day, great agencies plan their marketing in detail at least three months in advance. They don’t say to the team, ‘we need a blog a week, who’s game?’ What they do is create detailed briefs, in advance, and hand those out when the time is right.

Daily agency life is feast or famine, often reactive and rarely precisely structured. SaaS businesses thrive on roadmaps and gantt charts. Engaging the team in content creation means looking at burn rates or kanban boards and seeing where the space is. In short, planning ahead is easier when the company is built around detailed planning and workflows.

The principle is much the same, however – plan your marketing well in advance, have a content calendar, have briefs ready and understand the in-house experts you need to call on for each piece of content.

Be brief

Planning is one part of the challenge of getting everyone in the company creating content. Quality is the second. Marketing must recognise that when they engage billable staff, they’re not dealing with content specialists.

Internal staff may have the product, industry or technical knowledge, but when it comes to marketing, they are amateurs. Amateurs can create incredible work, but don’t expect them to write well or represent your brand’s tone of voice accurately.

The secret to making this work is – as is so often the case – the quality and depth of the briefs. Here’s what you need to include, regardless of whether it’s a video, blog or visual asset.

  1. Who it’s for – We’ve written extensively on the need for well-researched persona’s. For the amateur, look to simplify things by asking them to think of a client they know who resemble the persona you have in mind.
  2. A crystal clear objective – Stating the obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many marketing teams miss this in the rush to feed the content beast. Again, keep it simple, using real language (no mention of ‘funnels’ here.) Do talk about the change that consuming this content will have on the audience.
  3. Key points – Unlike a brief to a professional content creator, you really do need to spell out the structure of what you’re looking for. Your team will thank you for it. A clear set of instructions is much less daunting than a blank page.

The other option, of course, is to interview them face-to-face, get their thoughts and get the content team to write it up – more work for marketing, but often the best balance to engage staff and maintain quality.

In the past, I’ve cautioned against engaging the broader business in content creation. But I’ve softened – it can work, and when it does, the results are exceptional.