by Ellen Gomez
Whether you’re fresh on the job— getting the lay of the land, or you’re a veteran at your organization, as a content marketer you probably face the constant challenge of delivering interesting, valuable, and relevant content at the pace that your organization demands. And while part of that problem can be solved with a bit of internal education around delivering value over volume, some of the need for fresh content will still exist.
There are many different ways to create the content you need in order to publish at the cadence that your audience and organization requires—freelancers, repurposing assets, and curation, just to name a few. But this blog will cover one incredibly productive content source that will not only help you provide value to your audience, and hit your objectives by publishing at the pace you need but will help shine a spotlight on content internally at your organization. That source? Your own employees.
Why Create A Guest Blogging Program?
As a content marketer at Marketo, I’m responsible for making sure a blog goes live five days a week that is informative, entertaining and offers value to our audience (based on a detailed matrix of topics and audiences). As a lean team, doing this alone is an impossible task and, quite frankly, sounds scary. And that’s a feeling that it seems other marketers also have, because one of the most frequent questions I get asked when I am at an event, talking to a prospect or customer, or speaking is, “How do you scale your content?” Consistently, my answer is to be savvy about the resources you have at your disposal. Similar to repurposing content, I invite other marketers to ask themselves, “how can you get the most out of what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t?”
One of the best ways to get the most out of the resources at your disposal is to broaden your view of what counts as a resource. If your resources are limited to already published blogs, and other assets (like whitepapers, ebooks, datasheets, and infographics), you can definitely find ways to create new content by repurposing, which will help you produce a few more pieces of content. But, if you shift your focus to include your human resources—across the organization—you have successfully found a content jackpot. Think about it for a second. If you have 1,000 employees and you are able to get even 1% of them (10 people) to blog for you, you’re already ahead of the game (vs. repurposing). If those authors, or even half of them, write a second post, you will have knocked it out of the park.
Build Your Program
Ok, so let’s talk about how you actually make this happen. Guest content, specifically guest blogs, sounds amazing until you consider that you’re going to have to do the editing. To prevent a guest blogging program from descending into unmanageable chaos, you’re going to want to start with a few foundational elements:
Content Style Guide: Your content style guide, or style guide, usually spans all content created for your brand, whether that’s technical documentation, public-facing copy, or sales training. It will include everything from capitalization and hyphenation (is it Internet or internet?), to your boilerplate, personas, and brand voice/tone guidelines.
Program Guidelines: Program guidelines detail how your program specifically works. If an employee is interested, what do they have to do to get started? Document your workflow for internal submissions, reviews, feedback, and publication. Clear expectations that are established early make everyone more successful.
Executive Buy-In: Never underestimate the power of executive buy-in. In fact, for a program that you want to span your whole organization and stand the test of time, you need an executive who not only believes in your idea but will champion it at the executive level. Change needs to happen from both the top down and the bottom up. Ask you sponsor to socialize the program with their peers. More specifically, if you can, have your sponsor ask their peers to give their teams time to participate and positively recognize those that participate.
Just to recap., don’t launch your program without those three elements in place. They. Are. Critical.
Once you have the foundation of your program, it’s time to add some important details. You will want your program guidelines to not only include the editiorial expectations like I covered above, but the rewards (who doesn’t love a prize?), resources to get started, and examples. Basically, your program guidelines, whether they are on an internal wiki, a landing page, in an ebook, or part of an internally shareable slide deck, need to tell your audience what’s in it for them, how they can get started, what to expect, and the expectations. Here’s a deeper look at some of the elements you may want to include:
Rewards: A reward doesn’t always have to be monetary, but, let’s be honest, cash doesn’t hurt. What I’ve found to be successful is a combination of prizes like gift cards and electronics for different levels of submissions in addition to sharing the career benefits. That way, not only does your contributor get a physical reward, but they are building their personal brand. Worried about the cost of prizes? You get to set the reward amounts—so do what works for your budget. If you have to argue for budget to fund the prizes, share an example that uses how much it costs for a freelancer to write an article vs. an internal article, and that outsourced article also doesn’t have built-in brand/product knowledge, or build loyalty in your employee base.
Resources: Writing can be incredibly scary for someone who doesn’t do it as a core part of their job, day in and day out. Give your participants resources on how to get started. Think about what you could offer that would remove some of the barriers to participation. For example, are you available for “office hours” to coach them once a week? Do you have a blog template that you can share?
Examples: As much as you can explain what you’re looking for and how your participants can get there, not much can beat an example. Here are a couple types of examples that you can share: do you have an ideal blog that you can share with your participants with notes about what makes it work? Or, can you share other blogs, either in your industry or out of it that capture the tone or topic range that you’re looking for?
Launch Your Guest Blogging Program
So you created an awesome program that’s going to generate a crazy-amazing amount of content for your organization, but that’s only true if you share your program with your organization and get people excited. At this stage, you will want to come up with a launch plan. Launch plans will be unique to each organization, but you may want to consider some of these activities to launch it.
Communication from your executive sponsor to the organization announcing the program and encouraging people to join (could be an email, an all-hands mention, etc.)
Incorporating it into your Employee Advocacy program. If you already have a channel that rewards employees for engaging with and sharing company news and announcements, make sure you’re sharing your program there.
Internal Wiki. If you have an internal site that your company uses to share information, it probably makes sense to post your program guidelines or at least a link to them.
Food. Let’s face it, people love donuts, pizza, coffee, boba…[insert name of delicious snack here]. Use food, specifically a meal, to launch your program to a captive audience (because you bribed them with food).
Signage. Sure, a plain, old-fashioned poster or even flyer is not super trendy, but in the context of an office environment, they work. Think about where people would take a moment to read something—by the coffee, maybe on the bathroom mirror—and leave a flyer there with a few details and a memorable short URL or chat channel for them to learn more.
Effectively launching your program internally has many variations and ultimately you need to understand your audience, and company culture and craft a launch strategy that will get people engaged and keep them engaged.
Make Your Blogging Program Sustainable
Launching your program is just the beginning! The real key to success is to make this program sustainable. There are a few things you can do to ensure it’s ongoing success, like:
Incorporate it into new-hire training: New hire training/onboarding today is more than figuring out your health insurance and getting an office tour. Many organizations provide a good amount of information in new hire training and go over things like their social media policy, products, and social events. Talk your HR team to see how you can get your program incorporated into the onboarding process.
Reward internal referrals: If you have bloggers who act as program advocates for you by sharing the program with others in the organization, formally or informally, reward them! This word-of-mouth recruitment will not only help you by delivering more content, but it will probably help save time because your advocate is likely to coach their referral toward success.
Thank your top bloggers: Of course you’re already rewarding your bloggers, but there are always going to be a few that go above and beyond. How can you thank them publicly? Think about what motivates them and what makes sense for your organization. Maybe it’s a shout-out from their boss, or from your boss, or it might be a certificate you create that they can add to their LinkedIn profile.
I hope that this gave you some good ideas to go mine a new content source, or if you are already having employees blog, to create a program that’s more robust and scalable. This method could work for more than blogs, so don’t be afraid to brand out.