No matter how you slice it, marketing boils down to communication. It doesn’t matter if the role is articulating the value of your product, demonstrating the intelligence of your team, or broadcasting the success of current customers. All of these jobs hinge on communication.
But something funny happened as the marketing landscape fragmented.
Individuals and teams became highly specialized. The result: one group is “responsible” for communications, but, actually, every team in the company is doing it.
Corporate communications. The very phrase can strike fear into the hearts of some marketers.
The individual or group running corporate comms is often the shaper of the brand, the liaison between internal and external stakeholders, the keeper of guidelines and approvals. And if you’re in another marketing group, particularly if you need to release an asset to bring in some valuable leads, they can feel like an obstacle.
It doesn’t need to feel this way.
The role of corporate communications is an essential one—but it also needs to be an evolving one.
The department needs to evolve because both the means of communicating and marketing as a function of business are rapidly evolving.
For one, the number of places to communicate our businesses’ value and identity is expanding. It’s not all Super Bowl ads and brochures anymore. The fast growth of digital and social media means more outposts for sharing a brand’s message. Commanding attention across a widening number of channels is proving more difficult.
Simultaneously, the responsibilities marketing bears is growing. It’s not only about the crafting and deployment of messaging, but also ensuring the success of that messaging in driving leads through every stage of the buying journey. So naturally, marketing teams have split into tribes, each responsible for the continued movement of prospects through individual stages of the brand’s pipeline.
To reach buyers across all these channels and propel them forward, marketers need content. Content serves as the connective tissue between the buyer and the seller. At most organizations, a corporate communications team should be leading this charge, providing a unique messaging skill-set with brand know-how to empower teams to create compelling content for every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Sadly, at many companies corporate comms is seen more like a strict cop, touting “brand guidelines,” than an enabler of original, imaginative content.
But this perception can be shifted. Corporate communications could become the overseers of a content factory within their enterprise.
Loosen the Grip, Get Better Results
It’s not a question of whether content is released without approval or “off message,” it’s a question of how much and where.
If corporate communications teams want to get a better hold on these situations, they need to loosen their grip—not tighten it. 47% of B2B marketers, for instance, create content to fill up the channels they manage, according to Forrester Research.
When you’re charged with managing a channel or executing a particular tactic, you’re going to need content as fuel. And brand guidelines be damned.
47% of B2B marketers create content to fill up the channels they manage
Doubling down on governance is not the answer, though. The key is to acknowledge the needs of all the various stakeholders and bring them into the process. They need the content, so it’s not about saying “no”; it’s about saying “yes” in a strategic way.
You need to make it possible to develop content that fits various needs all the way through the customer lifecycle—from the awareness stage through customer support—and consistently meets with the organizational identity and key themes.
This is where corporate comms plays point.
Gather Stakeholders to Identify Needs
Now, I’m not saying just hand all your marketers a set of brand guidelines and set ’em loose. That turns one problem (filling up channels) into another (a disorganized, disorienting buyer’s journey).
The key to providing consistent content for teams across marketing is gathering all the constituencies together to identify the main pain points and come up with a plan. We encourage the creation of a content board, a cross-functional group that meets regularly to pinpoint key themes and priorities for content production. By assembling such a group, you’ll start to see patterns of key needs or themes emerge.
Once you have these, you can come up with integrated content campaigns that provide much-needed content to these teams, address buyer concerns at all stages of the customer lifecycle, and remain true to your brand.
Then everyone is stocked with the content they need, and the buyer isn’t served up discordant messaging.
Perform an Audit to Identify Outdated Messaging
No matter what role you play in marketing, this step is critical. But it’s probably most important to the success of a corporate communications team.
I’m betting most marketers feel like they don’t have enough content. More likely, your organization has lots of content that’s going unused. (SiriusDecisions estimates as much as 70% of B2B content goes unused.) Much of that content is outdated. Plenty of it still lives on your website.
Before creating more content, run a content audit to find out what you have, what is still useful, and what can be retired. This will ensure your content operation is only producing relevant assets and addressing real gaps, not assumed gaps.
Create Workflows to Establish Clear Approval and Release Structures
Staying “on message” can’t depend solely on a set of guidelines and approvals. You should have these, and they should be clear and accessible. But you can’t assume everyone in your organization will follow them for every asset they create.
You need to establish workflows for every type of asset, delineating a clear path for how ideas are gathered and which steps content needs to go through to get made. These workflows should include the enforcement of targeting buyer personas and specific sales stages, and they should include the people who will give the necessary approvals to get your content out the door.
Without such workflows, guidelines are an afterthought. Putting them into a repeatable and visible process means they can’t be ignored.
Marketers are adapting to a landscape where buyer-centric content is crucial to meeting organizational goals. That makes corporate communications teams more important than ever. But if they want to be relevant, they need to enable collaboration around content, not stand in the way of it.
Corporate communications must shift in mindset from protector of the brand to facilitator of the buyer’s journey.