My content performance philosophy and how teams can implement it

Estimated read time: 13 minutes


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 70,865 other subscribers



When it comes to content, let’s be honest: Content performance has never been harder. We expect content to do something for our businesses. We want it to drive results – directly or indirectly.

Content performance cultures were not a thing when I started in journalism. Content performed when your boss liked your articles and nobody complained about them.

Today, content must show ROI of some kind. So how do we get there or at least have a chance to? My 5 pillars of a content performance cultures can help teams be on the right path. The pillars are:

  • A content performance culture
  • Innovation by all
  • Next play mentality
  • Right players in the right seats
  • Ongoing evaluation


I dive deeper into each in the podcast below. Or you can just keep reading. I also discuss the topic in my latest book “Content Performance Culture.



An embraced content performance culture

Content performs when content teams know their personas, the best syndication channels and keep producing content that the target audience wants to consume.

Content only can perform when you know what the goal should be. This could range from:

  • Communication success for internal communications measured by feedback
  • Pageviews for content publishers
  • New and more users for product sites
  • Content that drives SEO to get product pages to rank

At the very least leadership and teams need to be clear what the goals are and to be able to brainstorm on ways to reach them.

And then the teams go after their goals on the right interval. For example, in digital that may be daily. With a monthly newsletter, it’s monthly and so on.

Of course, with digital analytics, we can look constantly.

Did they go up?

No.

Now?

10 more minutes.

It can even be obsessive. I love the mobile WordPress app stats function that buzzes me when an unusual spike is occurring. That way I know when something is really taking off.

Innovation by all

Innovation comes in many forms and really every role on a team can be innovative on its own level.

Front line staff can catch workflow things that need to be updated with a new strategy in mind. i’m still thankful to this day when a front line employee told me about an issue with a stated strategy. It was something I would’ve never known without getting the word from somebody who was working on it daily.

Managers can keep looking for bottlenecks and other issues in implementation of a strategy as well.

Executive sponsors can push new innovative technologies and allow team members to try new things. And of course they can be as clear as possible about a stated strategy and open to questions.

Of course, strategies don’t just come from the top in a truly matrixed innovative model.

Everyone can share ideas AND build on each other. Pixar and Disney have called this plussing.

  • Idea is presented
  • Others build on it. Or at least try.

Not all ideas are good ones and some initial ideas that are terrible turn into winners once they are verbalized and plussed.

Read next: How to be creative [includes podcasts]

Sure, innovation should happen within an overarching strategy and framework, but everyone can participate.

Share what you think can help a content and marketing team move forward and drive content performance.

Unfortunately, miscommunication on even the best teams can happen. This episode with Jim Mayhew dives into that topic with me on this podcast episode.

Read next: Internal communication strategies that actually work!

The trick is to build the relationships, trust each other and communicate openly. That also includes asking follow up questions and comments at the right intervals.

  • Did you mean this?
  • Here’s how I understood that
  • What about this…
  • Here’s what we agreed to do next.

Carla Johnson, who wrote a book on this topic, joined me on a livestream to discuss this topic and how everyone should consider being innovative as part of their job.

Next play mentality

This definitely came from my decade of playing competitive football in Europe and the United States.

What do players do?

  • They run a play
  • Something good happens on that play. Or something bad.
  • Either way, they are running the next play in a moment.

Content teams need this as well. Something works now. And then something changes. An algorithm updates. A social media strategy changes. No matter what. Try strategies. Share good stories and use the current tools to push them to people.

I know some expert say “would people miss your content if it wasn’t there?” The real problem is they may not even realize it for a while.

There’s just too much content and too many channels for any consumer to keep track. Even myself as a marketer who likes to believe he has the finger on the pulse it’s easy to miss content being pushed at me from all these channels.

Read next: How to maximize organic social media

I also want people to miss my content, but I’m probably just one of 250 emails today. That’s why it’s important to keep trying new things, building audience and keep going.

Next play also means that we give teammates the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they didn’t mean to do that. Or they didn’t realize that created unnecessary work for a teammate. Communication matters here.

Next play also means to not fret on mistakes … too long. Sure, see if there’s something that can be learned and applied to the next play that’s good. Then run the next play.

Right players in the right seats

Certainly there are some standard roles that content teams should have. Every team needs people who can write and who write the right kind of content. Even when a team focuses heavily on podcasts and livestreams, they still need to write headlines, teaser text and show notes.

Related: And who should be the digital analyst? Answer revealed here.

As they say, great teams are made up of members that complement – and sometimes compliment – each other. All kidding aside, great content teams compliment each other frequently.

  • Great story.
  • Great angle.
  • Super info graphic
  • Etc.

Public compliments can be even better within a company. Consider posting a weekly shoutout to highlight some of the great things employees have done in the previous week.

Leaders can participate, too.

In addition to the basic storytelling skills, I find these useful on teams:

  • Fast and clear communicators
  • Can-do attitude
  • Interest in learning new things, like virtual reality video
  • Tester mentality – let’s see if this strategy will help me reach my goal faster

Complementing comes into play when you have a team of five and three are really good writers and one is a really good video shooter/ editor and one is a really good distribution strategist.

Sometimes, teams have the right people but they aren’t always in the right seats or positions.

Marketing ops

Marketing ops is a relatively new field, but one that’s needed. Cristina Saunders of cs2marketing.com shared why we need marketing operations team members on this episode of the podcast. In a nutshell, technology, automation and related areas are getting more advanced and like anything we need somebody on the team to run those areas. That’s where marketing ops comes in.

Which role should be the digital analyst?

The question came up when I was speaking at a conference. My talk was about creating a data-driven culture and of course to be data-driven we have to have data. More importantly we have to be able to analyze it.

That’s where the role of digital analyst comes in. Who on the team should do that?

“Everyone,” several attendees chimed in.

Okay. Not necessarily incorrect. Everyone should look at the numbers. I do too, but I’m not necessarily an analyst.

But can everyone be an analyst?

Can everyone be everything? Obviously, no. Slashes in job descriptions potentially set people up to spread themselves too thin. You can’t be good at everything.

I asked my question differently:

“Who on the team should play the role of writer?”

Almost in perfect unison: “The writer.”

Exactly. There’s no question that the writer should be doing the writing – especially when it’s highly technical or in a brand voice.

Many people can write or blog in their own voice. Not everyone can write in another brand’s voice.

Potential difference: The role of writer has been around. The analyst role is newer for many teams. And many don’t have one.

In a truly integrated marketing team approach everyone can look at the data. There likely is a Data Studio Dashboard or similar tool that’s set up to quickly glance at.

But to really dive in we need an analyst.

  • What does that mean?
  • How do we build on it?
  • Etc.

That’s what analysts do. They dive into the data and get us insights that we can use.

Digital analysts are needed on content and marketing teams. Just like writers are. Neither should be gatekeepers or bottlenecks, but they should help the team move forward toward a common business goal.

Diversity

Part of the right players also includes have the right diversity on the team. Michelle Ngome of the African-American Marketing Association talked with me about how to build diverse teams on this episode of the podcast.

I told her that I live in Iowa and diversity can be hard to come by. Her response: Hire remote team members. Great point and having distributed teams can help you build a diverse team, find the right players and get them in the right seats.

Read next: Remote work: How to make working remote for the first time a success

Ongoing evaluation

The set it and forget it strategy is not something I would recommend here. Content distribution is so dependent on other companies nowadays. Think Google with search, social media with shrinking organic reach and even podcast distribution. Video platforms, too. Our content rises and falls based on what those other companies decide. Of course, we can pay for paid promotions but even those fall under those rules.

How to set goals that can actually be achieved!

To evaluate, we have to start with the right mindset and expectations.

Setting unrealistic goals might be one of the latest marketing diseases out there:

  • This blog post will generate $5 million in revenue.
  • Everyone that comes to our website will convert.
  • Can we run this 6-month program in two days?

Life is full of pressures. I have them too. But let’s be realistic.

Chief marketing officers also didn’t rise to that rank in two days or even six months. Usually.

I used to suffer from this disease early on in my career, too. I was cured by two seasoned senior executives. They prescribed some common sense to me, and I try to stay on the prescription.

The first time, I set some highly aggressive (and unrealistic) goals of customer acquisition through blogging. Now, customers are acquired through blogging, but it’s not a one-month campaign.

Be realistic

A fantastic senior exec said this: “If at the end of this short time period, your and my jobs will depend on these goals, will we have jobs?”

“Likely not.”

“I prefer to keep my job. So maybe let’s set some realistic – yet good – goals?”

Not because it doesn’t work, but because the time frame is too condensed and the goal too optimistic.

Maybe this is also the reason many CMOs stay in jobs now relatively short time periods.

In another case, I had a board of directors push back and say that they are seeing progress and appreciate the movement, but that the goal likely was too aggressive. So that goal was changed, too!

Thanks to the smart people in my life!

Another time, I was again preparing an aggressive content marketing plan of implementation and results. I was forecasting some aggressive results in six months. I hadn’t learned my lesson, yet.

This time was different. The senior executive said: “Nice plan, but can we see results earlier?”

Nope. I was already highly optimistic with this forecast.

That was the end of that discussion, which was probably good.

So how do we actually set realistic (content) marketing goals? Here’s my list:

  • What is the goal?
  • Why is that the goal?
  • Define the goal. Be crystal clear and make sure people agree. It’s hard to reach a goal without knowing what it is.
  • Run this by somebody who has done this before and see if they think it’s possible.
  • Have an idea of how to actually reach it.
  • Go after it daily.
  • Measure it daily.
  • Adjust daily.

Set expectations

Unrealistic expectations + uncoordinated, urgent implementation = failure

BUT:

Realistic expectations + coordinated, urgent implementation AND daily adjustment = success

The way to make it work is to educate executives on the current best practices and what actually works currently. Remember, many tactics might work today, but tomorrow they are outdated.

Related read: Why many social media conference talks are useless

Then we need rapid implementation. That means to make a high-level strategy and go and start. And adjust on the fly toward that plan’s high-level goals.

I’ve seen months and months of planning. By the time the plan was done, the people who came up with it had moved on. Something about not showing results quickly enough. <Smacks forehead.>

I love goals and have goals, but let’s be realistic and then aggressively go after them.

Somebody asked me: “And what happens when we reach these goals quicker?”

Read next: How to measure SEO results

Workflows, etc.

Workflows are an ever evolving piece, too. What worked 10 years ago and may have been the best way then may not be the best way today.

Let’s take podcasts. Back in the day, they were recorded in studios. That’s fine and still happens today. But there are also ways to record them with one app, even with remote people, edit and publish.

Writing can happen on computers, phones and iPads now. You may be typing on a screen, voice dictating or swiping. I’m not a fan of the swiping yet, but let’s give it some time.

And let’s not forget about picking the right technology. These two podcast episodes discuss that topic:

Article: Can content intelligence take the chaos out of content creation?

Article: Should we bundle software to be more efficient?


We may not love all new workflows and technologies but some end up sticking – usually the ones that help with content performance. And of course when we continuously evaluate things we can find new ways to be more efficient with our time and efforts and drive more results quicker. Without driving ourselves crazy.

So there are my pillars to marketing and content projects and organization. Like anything in our field, they are subject to evolve, but can help us set ourselves up to be more successful.



Don’t miss my new book

Move your content from happening to performing. The 2020 textbook: