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Culture of Content : Your soil makes the greatest harvest

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Yes, your eyes are working just fine: I did just put the words “culture”, “content” and “soil” in the same sentence. No, I haven’t gone insane. And yes, I believe that many a great thing can be grown, with time, care and patience: culture falls into that category, and so do all the little marvels that culture might in turn produce for a business.

But in order for something to grow – and I will not be teaching you anything new here – you need to plant the seed to first let it take root, and then make it bloom. But enough with the lousy metaphors, I hear you say, get to the point. Gladly! As you may have figured out, I am of course not talking about just any kind of culture, or regular gardening either, for that matter! I am talking about a “culture of content”, which, if grown correctly, will act as fertilizer for your content marketing strategy (your culture of content exported outside your organization’s walls), and, on a larger scale, for your entire business’ success. Yes, a culture of content is THAT good.

Content: why it matters and should be used to “speak” rather than “shout”

What makes this culture so very unique and interesting here is the “content” part, the very same content thanks to which businesses exist in the first place. Content is the first point of contact with the outside world, it tells your story, who you are, who you aspire to become and be known as, as a business. But that is the easy part: anyone can just post content about themselves and leave it at that, and that’s precisely what countless companies have been doing for years, making the content market what it is today, tough like never before.

But there’s much more to content than meets the eye: if you want to make the most out of it, you have to understand that what makes it a truly great asset, is the fact that content is a two-way street. Content can help start a conversation, and God knows that it is what businesses are in dire need of and ultimately should be aiming to do if they want to foster strong relationships with the outside world and hope to stand out, make a difference.

Yes, content is first and foremost about engaging, making yourself heard and seen in the deafening and overcrowded place that is the current content market. Yes, but in a smart way. When I say “smart way”, I don’t mean “screaming more and/or louder” than everyone else, but “speaking better”. I am using the verb “speak” on purpose here, for two main reasons:

  1. Because your content has to “speak to” people, it has to engage them. That’s its main purpose.
  2. Because “speaking” better (by that I mean bringing higher value through quality content) will have a higher potential to resonate more and wider than any “shout” out there: you speak, and it is the quality of your content which will shout for you, not your number of posts. At the end of the day, great content will always have better odds at finding its way to the surface… and the top.

The revelation about content: the not-so-obvious “elephant in the room”

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And now’s the time to finally tell you where I’ve been going with this… That content has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is – this is pretty obvious – your company. No, good content doesn’t magically appear with a wave of a magic wand: it needs to be worked on (if it was easy, it would spoil all the fun!) and, cards on the table, it is an absolutely titanic job. The kind of job you want to have as many people as possible helping you with. Because, truth be told, no matter how seemingly perfect your content strategy is, without everyone backing you up and helping you with it, it’s only a matter of time before you – and your strategy – run out of breath.

Because no one else is going to produce your company’s content but the members of the organization in question, it naturally falls to you and your people to think of ways to engage your audiences and produce quality content that reflects the way they view the company, that aligns with its business objectives and also reaches the specific targets it has in mind.

And that, my friends, that is where the culture of content comes in: if you wish to make your external content marketing strategy an investment worth your while, it is no longer an option to set the foundations of one. Like any internal culture you wish to develop, you have to get everyone concerned (the entire company) on board, you need internal buy-in, you need people to believe in it, to live it, to nurture it and to work toward it. If that one criteria can’t be met, you might as well forget about trying your hand at content marketing, as, odds are, you’ll fail.

But while the concept sounds tempting, trying to implement a culture of content that will help set the tone of your external content marketing strategy is not as easy as it may seem: working with and on content is time-consuming, it’s fairly costly, it’s tedious, and content marketing is also a new discipline that people don’t know much about… Yes, getting internal buy-in to build a culture of content might very well prove to be one of the greatest hurdles you’ll face.

But, Nicolas, not everyone has “green fingers” (yes, I’m back to my lousy metaphor!), I hear you interject. Well, it is my belief, that when it comes to growing things and when you set your mind on doing something, you are unstoppable. Let me show you how to get started and win everyone over in a heartbeat (-ish).

Content Marketing Gardening 101: “Prepare the soil” in 4 easy steps

You have to keep in mind that the aim of your “culture of content” is primarily to support and help you grow your content marketing strategy. Why? Because what your business – and its executives, mainly – will most likely care about when you talk to them about “content” is “What will it bring to our business?”. If you follow that logic, you’ll have to talk to them about its value business-wise (content marketing) if you want to set the foundations of your “culture of content”. In fact, you’ll need to do much better than just talk: you’ll have to convince them, get company-wide internal buy-in. And that is the trickiest part to building a “culture of content”: it requires no small amount of preparation, communication skills and takes, some might say, a very steady hand.

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Don’t know where to start? Fear not! I’ve compiled and highlighted the best pitching tips, arguments and stats sources that will help you get there safe and sound, with step-by-step guidelines.

1. Before running head first to your boss’ office or employees, DO THE PROPER RESEARCH AND UNDERSTAND THE VALUE OF CONTENT MARKETING:

Be sure to be extra prepared and become an expert on the subject. Leave nothing to chance. There’s no question or stat that should elude you: become the ultimate egghead. Make sure to bear in mind that, when talking to a decision-maker in the organization, you want to point out the pieces of information that are most relevant to the company’s specific context (market, sector, size, what its competitors do with content marketing, etc.) and needs, because they’ll want to know how content marketing stats and facts (see here for more) apply to their business’ particular situation. Unearth the best and most recent stats and studies you can find, get the key general facts (those positive and those less so) and spend some time focusing on data looking into the sector your organization is active in as well. Identify the key areas that your audiences will most likely have problems with (cost, time, ROI indicators, etc.) and find stats that counterbalance them.

To help you in your research, there are two checklists that are particularly well made and will accurately help you evaluate, before your pitch, your ability to address the issues that are the executives’ (the first people your pitch will be done in front of) most common pain points: time – money – impact – results. They both are particularly useful tools since the executives are the audience that will give you the hardest time and also happen to be the ones who will ultimately make a decision: all the more reason to come prepared and ready for anything they throw at you! If you want to be absolutely sure you’re ready to get out there, feel free to check out Lisa Hinz’s list of questions and Jodi Harris’ checklist.

2. You’re now sufficiently armed to “storm the castle” and GO PITCH THE C-SUITE/EXECUTIVES (CEO, CMO, CFO, etc.):

“(…) creating a content marketing culture at your company starts with management. To successfully foster a content-focused culture, higher-ups need to participate and lead by example: some employees will participate without needing much convincing, but others will mimic what others are doing – especially upper management” (Marketingland, March 2015).

 The true convincing will be done here: they have both the “practical” (as decision-makers) and “ideological” (as emblematic figures of the company) means to enable the creation of a content marketing culture. You’ve got the content to convince with, now what? Well, now is the time to give you a few tips regarding the actual pitch: what should you open your presentation with? How should you behave? What should you pay extra attention to? Ron Van Peursem (Business2community), Arnie Kuenn (Marketingland) and Lisa Hinz (LMHinz Marketing) can give you the best pitching tips in that department!

3. You’ve successfully rallied the executives to your cause (congratulations!), you can now MOVE ON TO THE OTHER EMPLOYEES:

Once you have management buy-in, take the time to explain to the rest of the company what content marketing is, why you’ve decided to implement in now, what you’ll be expecting from them in the frame of the strategy elaboration process, the goals you’re expecting to achieve. Also make sure to touch base with them regarding how all of this will be done and give specific details on how the content strategy will be built and how it will be implemented later on.

4. Everyone’s on board? Brilliant! Now you can GET DOWN TO IT AND START PUTTING YOUR IDEAS INTO ACTION:

Start by asking yourself if you’ve got everything you need to make the content marketing process work in an optimal way: would you ideally need some more staff dedicated to content creation and management, or can you just give current employees training to enable them to take on such tasks in the future? Are there any tools that can help you? Etc.

All set? Perfect! Well then, all that’s left for me to give you are two final yet vital principles you should always keep in mind to nurture both your culture of content and make your entire content strategy elaboration process run smoothly:

  • Let everyone take part in the content process: if you were to decide to hand over the management of the content strategy to the marketing and/or content department (in charge of the general tone and style of the strategy), everyone who’s willing to contribute something to the strategy (participate in brainstorming sessions, etc.) should not only be allowed to but also encouraged to do so in the future.
  • Show your appreciation: if you want to abide by the first rule and encourage everyone to participate in the process, you have to nurture the relationship you have with them and show them that their input and accomplishments, if truly outstanding, are recognized and deserve praise: it is good for team morale and will show everyone the value of content. That attitude might – who knows? – even spark others’ interest in trying their hand at content creation… and become active participants in your “culture of content”!


Ever had troubles with internal buy-in (culture of content) or content marketing strategies before? We’d love to hear your views on how you got it to work in the end, so please do not hesitate to get in touch.

About Nicolas Finet

Nicolas is a web marketer with a solid technical knowledge and co-Founder at Sortlist. He is focused on growth, deploying talent and efforts to make it always faster. He stimulates Sortlist’s strategy in line with the strong market and business insights he possesses.