This is a piece of content talking about content marketing, and by the end of it you’re either going to trust what I am telling you as valuable information or disregard what I have to say. But before we even reach this point, another form of trust has to take place, and that trust is the starting point for any good content marketing plan.

Related: How Nurturing the Creative Process Will Generate Unexpected Results

But first, some background context.

As someone who creates content all day and is constantly trying to learn new approaches and ideas, I was eager to attend the KCIABC’s annual Business Communicators Summit in Kansas City, where the keynote address by marketer and designer Quinn Tempest focused on demystifying content marketing.

I won’t go through Quinn’s entire presentation—if you have a chance to see her speak, I would recommend—but one topic in particular jumped out at me. It is something that seems obvious but is more difficult to accomplish than it sounds.

Before we get into it, let’s jump back and cover our bases here by hitting on the foundational elements of content marketing.

What is Content Marketing?

Seeing as Quinn’s keynote was all about demystifying content marketing, it may not be as easy to describe as you think. It’s not about you (it’s about your audience), it’s not just a campaign (it is a philosophy), and it cannot be supported only be your marketing department.

Content marketing is content (obviously) that instead of trying to directly sell a product or service, provides valuable information to the reader that informs them about your company’s areas of expertise, which helps them make better purchasing decisions. It can be blog posts (like this!), webinars, ebooks, website copy, social media campaigns, you name it. And if it’s done right consistently, your audience will turn into your customers.

Quinn has a catchier way of describing the importance of content marketing:

  • People buy from brands they like
  • People like brands they trust
  • Relationships build trust
  • Content builds relationships

Makes sense, right? But before you can build trust with your audiences, you have to build trust within your organization, which is not as simple as it sounds.

If it’s done right consistently, content marketing can help you earn your prospects’ trust, and ultimately, their business.

OK, Back to Trust

When content marketing fails, it’s normally for the same few reasons. One of the biggest being it isn’t given enough time to succeed. Many business leaders expect an immediate ROI from content marketing programs, which is unrealistic as trust cannot be earned overnight. As the ancient saying goes, “One helpful article does not a trustworthy brand make.”

Another common reason content marketing efforts can fall short is because it doesn’t have the support of the full company. An effective content marketing strategy can be maintained by a marketing team, but it needs to actively involve every department of a company.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re probably really excited to jump into creating great content, but you can’t do that alone. The first step(s) in developing a successful content marketing program is getting the rest of your organization on board. Here’s what you need to do.

Get Everyone on the Same Page

As Quinn puts it, the first step should be to align your three Ps: people, processes, and priorities. Make sure your strategy includes getting buy-in from both your team and your company’s executives. Devise your strategy beforehand, and decide which metrics your team will use to prove the ROI down the road.

Content Team…Assemble!

Who is making this dream a reality? Make sure you gather your team well in advance and assign designated roles. These could be content creators, subject-matter experts, editors, analysts, web managers, and any other job necessary for your program to find success.

It’s important to keep open lines of communication with every department in order to create content that is valuable, helpful, and truly showcases your company’s capabilities and personality. Devising a strategy to actively involve your whole company is usually one of the most difficult aspects of content marketing, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Usually, it requires a bit of trial and error. Be patient, keep at it, and eventually you’ll find a system that works for your team.

Content marketing can’t be an initiative solely supported by one department—it’s a team sport.

Streamline Your Approval Process

No one wants to create a great piece of content only to have it sit idly by in approval, or never even see the light of day. Make the path as simplified as possible, with content passing from the creator to possibly an editor and then to those who have been designated to approve. Having too many eyes on it—from team managers to directors and then executives and legal teams—only increase the likelihood that the approval will be delayed either due to hectic schedules or contradicting feedback.

Create that Content

You’ve gotten everyone on board and a team developed. Now it’s time for the fun of actually developing the content. How do you do that? Planning, processes, and teamwork.

First, understand your audiences and the kind of content they’re looking for. Work with other departments to find out what questions they’re frequently asked, and figure out how you can use this information to create content that provides value. Then, use this information to inform your editorial calendar. Plan out your content strategically and well in advance, and have a process in place to replicate the content production easily and effectively. You can’t just bring in new consumers with one article and let them slip away. Make sure you have plenty of content (in various formats) to keep them engaged as you nurture the relationship and earn their trust.

Measure, test, and make changes

Just because you have a process doesn’t mean it should stay the same for eternity. Measure your outputs (are you driving traffic and keeping readers on your site?), make tweaks to your plan, test those tweaks, and repeat.

What content marketing strategies have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below!

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