Why it’s so helpful to know the history before diving into any (content) marketing change management project

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Some of us change agents in content marketing and digital transformation, of course, love to jump in and get stuff done. And that is actually needed to a degree but the one thing we don’t want to forget is to learn the history of as many things as possible related to our project.

For example, it’s so helpful to know what previously did work and didn’t work and then to dive in to find out why something didn’t work.

Looking at the past can also uncover if we’re just trying to do the same thing over and over again. For example, in journalism this comes to mind: can journalists do multiple-channel – so digital, print, tv, for example – coverage at the same time and live?

The answer, of course, is like is often the case in digital marketing: it depends.

Can a TV reporter go on TV, tweet before going on TV and right after and also file a short article for the website? The answer is that many can but the more channels we add the more complex it can get. So the reason I mention this example is that if the problem is how do we get content and optimize workflows for all these different channels the answer can’t always be the same thing with different people. It certainly isn’t to tell people to work harder and just figure out a way.

The same applies to basically any change management, Content marketing and even software projects.

It’s hard to move toward the desired future state without knowing the basics of the past. Now, the danger is course to over do it. We can spend uncovering the past for months and by the end of those months might get asked what the progress has been and we’re still uncovering the past issues-which of course are often vastly known.

But there is value in mapping the current and past state. And in one of my first change management projects we actually took out a piece of paper and tried to draw out the current state. Here is what is currently being done, in this order and here’s why. Of course, the why is highly important but also actually understanding what is being done really can help us move forward even quicker.

It’s very similar to what many content marketing teams do in their content analysis. We look at what’s currently being done, what’s working and what’s not working. And then we try to make educated guesses on improvements to set ourselves up for more success in the immediate future. It’s really no different in change management content marketing.

First, knowing what is being done is helpful to understand what the process actually looks like. And then realizing whether or not that’s working or not is of course the next step. Finally, we should use what we’ve learned to inform our next step.

Somebody once said that it’s highly ridiculous to expect different results while continuing to do the same things. I mean I won’t lose weight if I don’t change my diet.

The same of course is true in digital marketing. But just like in dieting – if I don’t realize how many calories are in a particular food- I might not even realize what is being done that is wrong. Or maybe it’s the status quo and we know how hard the status quo is to change in some organizations and teams.

So here is my proposed checklist for these kind of projects:

  • Determine and document high-level goal
  • Examine the current state quickly
  • Identify issues and misalignments
  • Question why they exist and why they repeatedly exist as the case maybe
  • Make a quick high-level plan on how to move forward
  • Move forward quickly and identify short-term wins and longer-term wins
  • Continuously evaluate and adjust to continue to go for the overarching goal

The biggest advantage with a version of this approach is that we don’t necessarily have to learn all the mistakes over again ourselves.

If somebody else already tried something and it didn’t work, it’s super useful to understand why it didn’t work and what they actually tried. Just trying the same thing in incrementally better ways might not be the answer to solve a problem and we may have to try a completely different approach.

While I am a fan of learning, I’m also a fan of doing things that are based on what we’ve already learned. This approach has helped me and the teams I have worked with to impact change while trying to minimize a repeat of mistakes.