Employee Advocacy: How to Empower Internal Experts to Create Content and Build Their Personal Brands
When working with a team of highly talented, skilled and knowledgeable people, it can be an uphill battle getting them to contribute their expertise to your content marketing efforts.
So, how do you encourage a culture of content creation at your company? How can you bring the expert voices of your customer success, product and leadership teams to life?
It’s hard to quash ingrained beliefs that non-marketers often have about creating content; it’s difficult and time-consuming. Meanwhile you enviously glance at the blogs of Slack, Wistia, and Shopify that are spilling with cross-team content contributions.
“This feeling of inertia in writing comes from two distinct places. To overcome it, you need to increase the perceived benefit of contributing (by providing motivation) and decrease the perceived cost (by making it easy). These are the pull and the push, respectively.”
– Gregory Ciotti, Content Marketing at Shopify
In this guide, you’ll learn how to incentive and encourage other teams to contribute their voices and expertise to your content creation efforts.
1. Reward teams for their contribution
One way to incentivise teams to write is through gamification of the writing process. I spoke to Chris Newton, Klaviyo’s Inbound Marketing Manager, who told me all about the company-wide award scheme he introduced to praise content creation.
It’s seen non-product employees not only create their own content, but actually produce some of the company’s most highly converting posts:
Incentivise with a monetary reward and trophy
Do you use in-house writers to create content at Klaviyo?
“We like to crowdsource content throughout the organisation. We have the philosophy that, whether you’re on the sales team or the product team or any team not directly responsible for content, if you have an idea, you can get involved with content creation.
A couple of months ago I put together an awards program to add more company-wide awareness to how vital content is to the business. It’s a monthly award we give out to whoever writes the best performing content. Every month, the person who creates the best performing content will get a trophy and a $50 gift card to spend with one of our customers.
The ‘best performing content’ is based on a weighted scale combining page views, organic entrances to the site as well as leads generated based on attribution from that article. If somebody looks at the piece of content at any point before they convert, then we consider that an attribution.”
What impact has the award scheme had? Are teams getting more involved in content creation?
“We just had the third award this past month. So far, one winner was from the marketing team, but the other two were from different teams – which is pretty interesting to see! One was a post from a sales rep who wrote about “The real cost of Mailchimp”.
The other, who won most recently, was a product manager who wrote a post about best practices with form creation. That was actually published in April 2018, but it’s been a great evergreen post for us. It performs consistently well month-over-month and, in May, it was the best performing post.”
Showcase top-performing content across the entire organisation
That’s a great incentive you’ve created there to get other team members involved in content creation. I know it’s something a lot of people struggle with!
“It’s great to get that awareness across the entire company. We’re really focused around making sure our customers are successful at Klaviyo.
Every Friday, we have a company-wide meeting where we talk about wins and how our customers are doing. Several team members stand up to present and that’s where we give out the content award, in front of the entire company.
It’s cool to see people not directly on the marketing team creating such great content that converts well, gets us a good number of leads and customers, as well as continuously driving organic traffic to the site.”
As you can see, there are several ways to incentivise internal content creation. Not just by rewarding them with some form of prize, but with recognition from their peers, as well as the impact they make to the business and your customers.
2. Quash fears and imposter syndrome
A common barrier for non-marketers when it comes to writing is the fear that they can’t write.
They don’t know what to do. They imagine a scary white screen and drawing a total blank.
Which is why it’s important to dedicate time upfront for 1:1 conversations to alleviate these fears, lay out what the process will be and that you’ll be on hand throughout if they get stuck.
Stephen Alemar, Content Marketing Manager at Duda, explains how he does this:
“When I start working with a team member on their writing project, it’s useful to walk through what the process will look like. Let’s say I’m working with a sales rep. I’ll basically say:
‘Okay, this is a two-week process working with me. On the first Monday, we’re going to sit down, brainstorm and figure out which subject to cover. We’re then going to collect mind vomit from you! Once we’ve chosen a topic, you take everything you can think of on this subject and just throw it onto a page.’
Once we’ve done that have done, I normally give them a timeline to create the first draft (based off of their existing workload more than anything else).
I then go in and make notes on the document (as opposed to restructuring and rewriting it). I use this part of the process as a teaching moment. It tends to only take one or two drafts and one more meeting. Normally we can wrap it up in under two weeks without really screwing around with anyone else’s workload and throwing things out of whack!”
– Stephen Alemar, Content Marketing Manager at Duda
To turn this into a repeatable process, follow these steps:
- Step 1: Find people who are open to contributing their voice to your content marketing strategy
- Step 2: Outline the process and what will be expected of them. Tell them you’ll be there to help every step of the way
- Step 3: Sit down for your first brainstorming session to figure out the topic they’ll be writing about
- Step 4: Encourage the other party to, as Stephen calls it, put “mind vomit” onto the page
- Step 5: Take what they’ve written and run it through your editorial processes
You can read more about developing an editorial process here.
3. Reduce friction by framing a conversation
Have you got a knowledgeable but time-poor colleague who you think would add value to your audience?
Instead of asking them to sit down and write, schedule 30-minutes of their time and record them talking about a topic they know inside-out. You can then re-purpose this into various formats and snippets across your blog and social platforms.
Here’s a method I’ve successfully used to gather expertise from busy C-Suite executives:
- Build a case: If you’re looking to record a busy C-Suite-er for content, succinctly outline the benefits their voice and expertise will bring to the company. Explain exactly what’s required from them, and how much of their time will be required.
- Schedule a 30-minute session: Send a structured outline of the discussion in the calendar invite.
- Agree the topic in advance: Both parties should know exactly what the purpose of the content is
- Transcribe the interview: You could transcribe this yourself or, to save time, use a transcription service like Rev.
- Repurpose the transcription into content: Once you have the transcription, there are multiple ways to transform it into content:
– Polish it as-is into a Q&A, journalistic-style interview format
– Reword the bulk of the interview into a prose thought-leadership piece
– Split it into different topics that you can inject into future pieces of content
For example, they may have talked about choosing company-wide goals and this is perhaps not enough material for a whole post. However, if down the line you write a post on this topic, you’ll have an influential quote to include. Use the recording (either in its entirety or as snippets) as a snippet of audio content.
When publishing this content, encourage the other party to share it on their own social platforms. Not only will this help your content spread, but it has the added benefit of building their personal brand, too.
4. Make the career benefits crystal clear
Another way to encourage content contribution is to highlight, on a 1:1 basis, how creating content can help with personal career goals.
Stephen explains how he encourages teams to see writing as a way to shape their personal brand:
“When it comes to getting employees involved with content creation, I find it’s a far more engaging process if people feel internally motivated and find some interest in the subject matter.
I explain this is going to be good not just for Duda’s brand image, but your own personal brand if you’re looking for a job down the line.
Let’s say you’re a developer and you’ve contributed heavily to an eBook about the latest React framework that Facebook put out. Having that, in addition to all your other body of work, will show a future employer how you think and your topic interests. You can really communicate to that stakeholder that you’re an expert in certain subject areas.
I help every step of the way as they create content, and once it’s done they’ll have this really refined, nice looking piece that they can take wherever they go.”
– Stephen Alemar, Content Marketing Manager at Duda
This notion of empowering your employees and advancing their careers is one of the best incentives for internal content creation.
5. Be strict with deadlines
Once you have contributors onboard, keeping them deadlines can be tricky – especially if writing is way outside their typical day-to-day activity. Don’t take this personally and don’t be afraid to send some polite reminders.
Or as my old colleague, Ramy from Page Flows, politely framed my methods, ‘persistent nagging’:
Here are a few ways to prepare for expected content delivery delays:
- Set a deadline for a draft of 8-12 weeks in advance. Or 4 weeks more than you’d usually expect a draft.
- Have four weeks of filler content lined up to allow for delayed deadlines or no shows.
- Send a reminder message 2-3 weeks before the draft and offer to chat to alleviate any blockers and extend the deadline.
- If you’ve sent a few reminders and you’ve not received a draft, don’t sweat it or hold it against them! This is super common with non-marketers who have other priorities. Just make sure you have filler content ready to go for this common scenario
To inspire a culture of writing, these are the 3 main areas to proactively plan for:
- Plan how you will structure the writing process for non-marketers (from brainstorming, editing, writing, publishing, contact time)
- Plan how you will alleviate fears about writing
- Plan how you will reward the efforts of contributors (reward schemes, company-wide praise etc.)
One of the most effective incentives is showing the impact their content will have on the company, your customers and, most importantly, their career. Show them that this content isn’t just something that will help grow their business, but their future career as well.