Content creation is one of those tasks that business leaders rarely find time to do.
Time is our scarcest resource. We’re all guilty of having shelves that aren’t a top priority, and that’s what makes extracting content ideas from executives and in-house experts a huge challenge for just about any marketing department.
Executives work an average of 9.7 hours per weekday and do business 79% of weekend days and an average of 70% of vacation days. This is evident from research by the Harvard Business School. 72% of their working time is spent in meetings and 32% of their meetings last an hour (38% are even longer).
With that in mind, even if they value your efforts, it’s difficult for CMOs and corporate content teams to extract knowledge from in-house experts – and it’s almost impossible if they don’t!
For years I’ve watched internal marketing teams struggle to develop high quality, original content for their organization that was written by their executives and targeted towards their customers. CMOs and content teams often resort to begging (“I’ll take you to lunch!”) Or threats (“Our customers are desperate for instructions!”) Back to post even a single blog post.
The result of such a compulsion looks something like this: The CEO, product manager or employee at EPP level burns the midnight oil after he has put his “real work” to rest and then arrives with pages and pages at the CMO’s desk in the morning of incoherent prose of the stream of consciousness.
With so much technology and better communication and visibility than ever before, our marketing teams can and should achieve better results. We can find a way to produce regular streams of high quality content authored by in-house expert sources.
Here are six best practices for extracting content from your executives and internal experts.
1. Abstract day
Depending on the size of your company and the amount of content you need to generate, Abstract Day is one of the most effective ways to extract content from your subject matter experts (SMB).
Think of it as speed dating. Pick a day and schedule internal experts every 30 minutes. During their time window, the experts come into a conference room – or jump to an ongoing Zoom meeting – to present an idea in terms of content or to first make themselves available for an interview about their current project, customer problem / challenge, an industry. or other relevant news. During the interview, gather the expert’s best practices, a timely tick, and any other information you need to start writing the post or article. Repeat this monthly, semi-annually, and annually – regardless of the frequency that makes the most sense for your needs.
Tip: The Abstract Day method is most successful when the result (article summary, blog, white paper) is emailed to the manager for approval prior to publication. Give the SME full rights to make changes (via revision tracking of course so you can see them). Let SMEs know in advance when they sign up for Abstract Day so that there is no concern.
2. Adaptive reuse
Take a PowerPoint from the sales or customer presentation of an SME. Turn it into a post or article. Always send your content to the expert for approval. Request and publish changes via revision tracking.
3. Calls already planned
Chances are, your in-house experts and leadership team will switch from call to call with clients, prospects, or even news or specialist media throughout the day. Call or go to a presentation / sale with them where they are likely to showcase their best customer driven content and capture it!
Do you have a topic in mind? Do the necessary background research. Find out what your competitors have to say on the matter and send your SMB a list of five targeted questions highlighting your company’s approach, best practices, or unique tips. Schedule a call with the relevant SME for just 15 minutes and then write the content.
5. The voice memo
For that manager or expert who can’t disturb you or your team for even 15 minutes, suggest the voice memo. (This idea came from my friend John Bonini, Marketing Director at Databox and the author of the Some Good Content blog.) Email your SMBs with the same five targeted questions from point 4 and ask them to record their answers as they answer them recording I’m on the train or in the car on the way to or from the office. Voila! They have their original ideas – in their own words.
6. Writing workshop Lunch & Study
For adventurous executives who want to write their own content but aren’t sure how or if they need more guidance, offer a 30-minute writing workshop and meal (the latter is crucial!).
Have your freelance writers or in-house content team give a crash course on writing articles or blog posts in trade magazines (use graphics to keep them awake). Outline how 2021’s content will be different from a college newspaper (the last time many of you wrote something) and start with an outline for the post / article surrounding your idea.
Present examples of content that your company has published in the last year or two. outline each individual’s success and ROI.
Tip: I find the writing workshop most successful when it is followed by a 15 to 30 minute session where the expert can share a draft with you or your team before starting the writing. This avoids the painful redirection of executives after they’ve already spent time writing – or you have to post something that scares you.
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Like everything else in life, the tactics outlined in this article require time to fly. At some point, your executives and SMBs will get used to the marketing team on the phone, and they will remember Abstract Day from the advertisement it gave them last time.
Who knows? Perhaps you will eventually “teach” the executive team to think like a marketer.
OK Good. It’s a bit ambitious.