Getting C-suite approval continues to be one of the biggest headaches for content marketers, but why? Steve Clarkson shares his ideas on how you can make the sign-off process much less painful.
You’ve probably heard that ‘content is king’. But before your blog post or how-to guide can take a seat on its proverbial throne and wear its jewel-encrusted crown, you’ll first need to organise its public coronation. What I mean is, for your content to go live and start bringing in results, you’ll more than likely need to secure the support of stakeholders from elsewhere in the business, be they in other departments, or in the C-suite.
You’ll need to prove the value of what you plan to create – how it will benefit the wider business, represent the brand and work towards your company’s core objectives. And an important part of that process will be running the review gauntlet along the way.
It’s not a unique challenge. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 23% of content marketers said that a lack of buy-in from higher-ups was one of their top challenges, and the issue of aligning various stakeholders and decision-makers continues to be a hot-button issue.
So how do we overcome these challenges? It starts with taking a much more robust approach to your content review process.
Demonstrate the value of your content
Is your content there to drive web traffic, raise brand awareness, or increase engagement? Before doing anything, make sure you know what you want your pages to achieve, and set some clear objectives.
When your stakeholders review your content plan, they’ll be questioning how your objectives align with theirs and the overall goals of the business, so you’ll need to show how your plan fits into the broader picture of your brand strategy. You’ll also need solid metrics to measure the success of your content plan. Without these, it becomes difficult to convince those who have to buy into your strategy that your decisions are based on sound reasoning and intentions.
A content plan that ticks these boxes will be focused, purposeful, and easier to sell in. It’ll also get everyone’s minds fixed on the same overall end goal when it comes to sign-off.
Set a timeline that works for everyone
Think long and hard about who in your business needs sight of your content plan. It may be that only one person, or a handful or people may be involved in the sign-off process, but it may equally be a large number of people spanning various different business functions. As a general rule, the bigger your organisation is, the more pairs of eyes you’ll have to run it past.
These could range from stakeholders in departments that work closely with yours, those responsible for managing the brand, the products, as well as those responsible for legal and compliance. In some cases, your content may go all the way up to the boardroom.
With so many people potentially involved in the process, you need to be realistic about the length of time it will take for your content or your ideas to go through that process.
Start by being clear in what you are asking other teams to buy into. Before you ask other departments to feed in to your content plan, make sure your team and manager are happy with it. Keep the plan simple and be aware of your audience so they can understand what will be covered in each piece and why it’s valuable.
When your content plan has been signed off by your team, be smart about how you’re going to deliver it to your stakeholders. Sending it to all of them at the same time will invite the views of many individuals at once. Instead, drip feed it across the business so that as your content moves up the business hierarchy, the version that people see is the one that reflects the needs of the stakeholders below them.
Encourage and manage cooperation
Don’t just ask your stakeholders for sign-off on your content plan – encourage it. Involving them from the outset will make sure your content plan represents your brand in the most comprehensive way. Including stakeholders at this stage is likely to ensure their buy-in to your approach, which is key to gaining their approval.
Think of it this way: you know your stuff, they know theirs. You’re all experts in your own areas, and by building your content plan together you have the chance to play to everyone’s strengths. That said, it’s important to manage stakeholder input by defining their roles, so you get the kind of input you need.
Brand might inject it with some inspiration.
Legal might bring some rationality to the table.
Product Managers might place the focus on your business offerings.
An effective content plan impacts your whole business, so it’s important everyone’s voice is heard. If you have to go around the houses for a little while to get input, so be it.
Make it both simple and comprehensive
Last but not least, keep your content plan simple. After all, you need your time-poor stakeholders to sign it off within a given time, so making it straightforward is in your interests as well as theirs. What’s more, a content plan that’s not easy to get your head around doesn’t bode well for the content itself. Keep your content plan concise, and make any actions as clear as possible.
But while it should be easy to read, take care to retain key details. It’s a good idea to include information such as the keywords you’re targeting and the search volume – it will help remind stakeholders of the value of your content.
It’s true that quality content can engage audiences and transform readers into loyal customers. But before you can reap those big benefits, you need to make sure it represents your brand in the most complete way. Doing that requires a systematic approach to gaining cross-business input and stakeholder sign-off.
That’s why content isn’t king – process is.