Every time I meet with new digital teams, although each is different, I’ve started to notice they all share a similar trend of challenges.

Surprisingly it isn’t always what you’d expect, it’s simply the ability to have everyone working together towards an aligned goal to get things done.

I’ve trained a number of enterprise level in-house teams recently and they all have individuals responsible for content, social media, PR and organic/paid search and as soon they get large enough they break into smaller siloed teams

This makes sense from a structural perspective, but interestingly, it’s also common in smaller teams - where you may be very strong in one area, but lack focus in other channels to miss the bigger picture and digital strategy (or maybe you have the strategy, but lack the execution).

One brand recently explained to me how content is run entirely from the SEO department, with no involvement from the social or PR teams.

They aren’t the only one of course, and the reason for this is because it allows them to get things done quicker. I can see the logic here, especially when it’s their own work that they want to realise. 

Yet, there’s so much more that can be done if rather than thinking of additional channels as an afterthought, you bring it all together instead.

1. Psychological mindset: shared ownership

The challenge = getting everyone to remember we’re all on the same team!

 

Once brands get large enough that they have silos within teams there can be a lack of visibility over what's been done in each team and it almost becomes internally competitive about it.

This is rarely a conscious decision and a bit of friendly competition can sometimes be a good thing, but it becomes damaging when this leads to a lack of time for communication and sharing across different teams. 

Obviously that's not good for anyone. What you want to do is avoid the us vs them mindset. Psychologically, you want to make it clear you're all on the same team and working towards the same end result.

Try to make them look good

Even as a small agency we’ve faced this challenge ourselves - and I’ve often advised clients on their internal team structure, as it’s vital towards making sure that you’re setup in the best way to get success.

It can be difficult to fix when it’s your own team and by positioning myself as an external consultant, I’ve found this helps to add enough distance away to take a clearer view without any preconceived ideas.

This way I'm seen as just being there to help them. I'm not concerned with who gets credit longer-term in their team, all I'm focused on is giving them the right knowledge and way of thinking to understand the importance of getting everyone working and sharing together.

Internal credit becomes irrelevant if the results can speak for themselves.

You also want to make the other key stakeholders look good. e.g. "I want to show you what content I'm working on in SEO, I think it could help you in social media/PR - happy to share with you if you’d like?" - this is much better than saying "I'm getting much better results than the PR team and that's not even my responsibility!" - even if it is true, it misses the point of what’s best for the business.

Hopefully this isn't the case in your organisation - but quite often it is, so it needs to be approached carefully in order to ensure you get full buy-in both at the top-level and across each digital team.

2. Process: how to make it happen

Hold regular internal knowledge shares 

If you've learned something new, or tested a new idea then share the results with everyone else. 

I find this is the best way in, if you share with them first it's much more likely to go both ways. But make sure you set this up as a recurring session where you can get everyone's input.

We do this ourselves as a monthly agency session, if you struggle to find time to get everyone together try doing this as a lunch and learn - nothing entices people quite like sandwiches and cookies!

This can be very effective towards keeping everyone on the same page - that way you can all learn new things together as a team.

Team structure: think about the content lifecycle

This is how we've structured our own team internally, and find this is a much more efficient model of getting results, because it puts everyone into the role that they are best at: 

Digital Marketing Team Structure

Most importantly from this it starts to remove the silos and gets everyone working on campaigns together as a team.

Of course it's not always easy to change ​into this model straight away, but I would suggest thinking about who has overall responsibility/accountability over each key area - for the purpose of this I'm going to focus on content (otherwise it's a new blog post in itself if everything is covered!):

  • Digital Strategy. You need to ensure there is a single digital marketing plan for your business which your goals are aligned with. For content, the starting point here is often agreeing on a single editoral calendar.
  • Production & Implemention. You need to execute on the ideas, allowing you to centralise resources which makes the projects more efficient and cost-effective across teams.
  • Digital PR & Social Promotion. This is likely to require a mix of skills and backgrounds, including SEO/outreach, PR/media partnerships and social media. Ideally you will have a promotions team with a combination of those skill-sets/relationships. 
  • Paid Media & Amplification. Try getting your paid search/display team involved in social amplification (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Stumbleupon) and content distribution (Outbrain, Taboola etc) to give campaigns an extra push with allocated budget.

    There's huge re-targeting opportunities via content which often aren't considered, so this can  be a good way to get the PPC team involved, which again adds a more strategic angle and makes sure you’re considering conversion. 

  • Reporting & Insight. Of course, you need to measure it all and make sure you're adding clear value. Benchmark everything before you start and agree on the metrics of success and KPIs to prove that your campaign has been a success.

Even if you only work this way on a small trial campaign at first - if you can align everyone working together towards a common goal you'll find it will get better results. This way content strategy gets thought of from all angles and it becomes as much about PR and social media straight away as it is SEO (or vice versa). 

Buy-in

You’ll find there's much more buy-in from the start, because it’s a much more efficient way of managing resource and each team can still measure vs their own KPIs, but it’s now linked more closely together with the wider business goals. 

If all channels are working together, this makes the marketing director/CMO look much better and it's more likely to get their attention/involvement - as it doesn't spread their time in too thin, it's focused on a single campaign from all angles. 

This way they're more likely to get this noticed at board level - which again helps to get buy-in for future campaigns.

Run content strategy training workshops

The way I've approached this for clients has been to run training workshops. I've ran a number of these for brands and large media agencies - the challenges are always similar and in many cases the bigger teams will often not always know each other when they walk into the room.

I do find that being external to the business helps in this case, as I can use this to share my knowledge on the process behind creating great content. Explaining the model of how we manage our agency team between strategy, production, promotion and amplification.

The key thing is to keep it interactive by running activities. This way it gets people thinking and they have a chance to implement the ideas which have been shared straight away.

Measure everything

Finally, make sure you measure everything. In the content strategy session you want to make sure the campaign goals are well aligned with your business goals. Plus each team can closely measure vs their own internal KPIs - this is always interesting to compare vs previous results.

I’ve always found this model works is because it allows focus. This may sound obvious but getting everyone to do the parts of the job they do the best and freeing up the time away from the areas they’re not so strong at, by replacing with specialists for each key area, really starts to take your content up a level.

Next steps - make a start, walk over to the desks of the other digital team members and ask what they’re working on today.

Kevin Gibbons

Published 2 March, 2015 by Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons is CEO at SEO and content marketing agency BlueGlass, he can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

103 more posts from this author

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Comments (4)

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Holly Dewsbury, Agency Lead at Twitter

Good outline on Search,Social and PR! The vital lynch pin - the fact that Social-Search is far deeper than simply sharing content, what about paid media variants rather than a one size fits all approach or content setting specifically per platform to ensure the content shared is distributed in the right way in order to encourage both engagement, traffic and lift? With Social signals having more weight within google even promoted trends would provide relevant brand conversation online if actioned correctly in order for a brand to potentially seem authortative within Google and other SE's.

over 2 years ago

Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons, UK Managing Director at BlueGlass

Holly - absolutely agree, the lines are so blurred now that you have to consider the range of ways people can interact and engage with your content across different mediums and platforms.

Plus if you can capture people in different ways - they find you find search, see you mentioned socially, read about you on a publisher - that's going to have a positive impact to conversions which is very important to measure more closely.

over 2 years ago

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Holly Dewsbury, Agency Lead at Twitter

Hi Kevin, thanks for your reply - Conversion tracking from Social needs to be kept front of mind. I used to see significant uplifts in brand or brand and product term searches after a social only campaign had been run but usually SEO gets the full credit so it's great to see the viewpoint that's in support of shared results (both ways). Social can of course natrually generate links too which are a little more hard and fast; for example , if you target blogger bios on Twitter with special release or "preview" content, natrually this becomes a new form of targeted outreach, as bloggers may choose to write and link to the content or at least Tweet out some buzz to thier followers - something of which a more traditional outreach team may have taken longer to do via email/phone. Theres never been a more justified time for guiding clients into full multi channel attribution models for recording these efforts.

over 2 years ago

Ben Potter

Ben Potter, Director at Ben Potter - new business mentor

Great article Kevin. This pretty much mirrors a number of conversations I have had with brands in recent weeks. They have people internally all doing (in the main) great stuff. However, the activity is not aligned and therefore working towards overall business objectives (or even towards more granular SEO goals).

The structure you describe is interesting as we made a similar change around 5 years ago. Silos are the enemy of an integrated strategy so we now have small, multi-disciplined teams.

More broadly, I think your article highlights something that I am increasingly seeing - the changing role of the agency. Brands with in-house teams (in-sourcing is a definite trend) are not looking for agencies to execute. Instead, they are looking for strategic input i.e. putting in place the necessary direction, structure, processes and guidelines to align and maximise the impact of in-house content, social and PR activity. I think this is particularly true where SEO is concerned.

Of course, I am not saying that in-house teams are set up to do everything themselves. There will always be gaps. But in a lot of cases clients are not looking for a fully outsourced solution in the traditional sense. They require a partner that can be flexible according to in-house resource and expertise.

over 2 years ago

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