One of the most important mandates of a marketing team is to ensure the delivery of on-message content across channels and stages of the buyer’s journey. Those strategic messaging themes dreamed up by marketing VPs and directors aren’t merely ideas—they’re developed to serve as a foundation for every piece of content the team produces, from high-level assets like eBooks down to everyday content like blogs and social media posts.
We in the marketing world have a nice, shiny word for this: alignment.
Unfortunately, our research shows that content creators routinely fail to get the resources they need to produce aligned content in the first place.
In fact, we found that just 40% of content creators had visibility into how their content aligned with organizational priorities. This means—allow me to do some very fancy math here—that significantly more than half have no idea whether their content delivers a coherent message to consumers. And if you have no visibility into whether your content is aligned, I’ll hazard a guess that it isn’t.
The problem here isn’t that content creators aren’t thinking strategically or don’t care about the big picture. The issue is a communication breakdown between those crafting high-level messaging and those doing the heavy lifting of creating the content itself.
Why aren’t leaders communicating effectively? Because they don’t see alignment as a problem to be solved. When asked, marketing leaders ranked “Lack of Horizontal or Vertical Alignment” as the least important barrier to the success of the six options provided.
Content creators ranked it number one.
Lack of alignment is negative on an organizational level, of course. But it also has implications for the lives of content creators. If you don’t have coherent messaging, it’s impossible to effectively plan an editorial calendar you can count on.
The result? Last-minute requests for ad hoc assets, uncertainty about daily workloads, and content produced in silos rather than with an eye to larger, thematic messages.
Creating Strategic Alignment for Your Content Operation
How can we shift from this stressful and unproductive ad hoc strategy to a content operation that supports strategic alignment? There are a few key practices you’ll need to put in place.
Create Derivative Content
You shouldn’t need to go back to the drawing board every time you create. Instead of seeing each piece of content as a stand-alone asset, focus your limited time and resources on creating a few larger pieces of content from which smaller ones can be extracted.
Spend a quarter, for example, working on an original eBook—one that tells a story your organization wants to prioritize. Once you’re done, you’re left with a gift that will keep on giving. Not only will you be free from the time you would have spent wracking your brain for new content ideas, you’ll also feel confident that people interacting with multiple pieces of content will receive a coherent message that reinforces your key objectives.
Don’t believe me? This very blog post was inspired by just two pages of our recent eBook: B2B Content Strategy & Operations Benchmark. See? We practice what we preach.
Make Visibility a Priority
Alignment isn’t just getting together every quarter and debriefing on goals. True alignment is lived every day, and it hinges on a single word: visibility.
How will you know how everyone’s content works together if you can’t even see what your coworkers are working on?
Visibility must go beyond just the marketing department, too. After all, no one who becomes a customer will interact with your department and your department only. Nor will they expect the messaging they see to shift dramatically as they advance through the buying cycle. “Ah, I’ve just been passed from marketing to sales, no wonder I’m hearing a completely different explanation of the issues facing my industry,” said no prospect ever.
From the first blog a prospective buyer reads to a conversation with an implementation specialist after purchasing, a buyer should never get the impression that they are being handed off between siloed departments. Whether it be the way you talk about your industry or the way you describe your product and the problem it solves, there must be a consistent, easy-to-follow message.
That’s why it’s important that everyone can see content, initiatives, conversations, and workflows—in a single, accessible place. That way, you’ll know how everyone’s disparate projects fit together (or don’t) to tell the story of your brand.
Tag Content and Conduct Regular Audits
I can’t stress this one enough. Tagging and taxonomy are critical to making sure your content is organized and findable.
First, determine the kinds of categories that matter to your organization. Maybe your content varies depending on geographic region, the seniority of your audience, or the size of your target company. However you model your target audiences and content types, document it and make sure every asset is tagged based on its unique attributes. And remember, everything should be tagged by funnel stage.
Side note: Being unable to answer what context an asset was created for is a surefire way to know your content isn’t properly aligned. If you don’t know why or for whom your content is produced, you’ll need to go back to the strategic drawing board.
A content taxonomy is the only way to get a scaleable bird’s-eye view of your content coverage. It will allow you to quickly identify gaps in your current coverage based on persona, buying stage, etc. and prioritize filling them. Gaps are a big deal because they mean your customers’ buyer’s journeys aren’t as seamless as they could be.
Talk to Your Executive About the Importance of a Content Operation
At the end of the day, the only way to achieve alignment is by implementing a robust content operation. A content operation encompasses the people, technologies, and processes you need to cover the entire content lifecycle—strategic planning, efficient production, effective distribution, and the gathering of actionable insights.
When every step of your efforts is housed in a single source of truth, teams can ensure they’re achieving not only their own goals, but those of the organization as a whole.
If you need guidance pitching a content operation to a superior, check out our latest eBook, Building a Business Case for a Content Operation. We’ve taken the time to write out entire scripts (complete with the questions you’re bound to get) for every executive you may need to get on board.
Alignment isn’t just part of an effective content operation—it’s the heart and soul of one. When everyone is on the same page and producing content that works in tandem to tell a coherent story, your hard work yields real results. When every asset serves as a piece of a larger puzzle, you can shed the days of an ad hoc confusion in favor of an effective, well-planned editorial calendar everyone can be proud of—and stick to.