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:
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).
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.
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.