We get part of it right when we’re developing editorial programs (“editorial engines”) to drive our corporate social media activities. We’re good at putting together strategic communications plans and building production processes.
Where we come up short is on the human side, a key reason companies struggle with social media. We have to develop important personal relationships in the early stages that will help drive this beast. We need to engage with key stakeholders. And we need to tell stories that will resonate with our audiences. One senior manager calls this last one the “magic pixie dust.”
This doesn’t happen at most companies. It’s like oil and water, left brain corporate strategists and storytellers don’t usually mix. Personal communications skills and strategies are often an afterthought. We’re still operating like it’s the 1990s, not the new social world, and we need to fix it.
First, start with what most companies do well. The high tech companies I work with are great with process and systems. Getting the trains to run on time. Producing a solid product, manufacturing and distribution. Check, check,check.
This works well with the front end when I’m setting up an editorial or content engine. That includes developing a framework, establishing goals, objectives, and eventually an editorial production process (including editorial calendars). Corporate folks are comfortable with the content production process-editorial meetings, assigning stories, meeting deadlines, etc. The trains are rolling.
Issues arise when you have to start dealing those messy humans.
First you have to get the key stakeholders on board. Often these are people who don’t share your agenda; they may even oppose it. You have to win them over.
I spent a lot of time on this front end work- meeting with top marketing people, and social media directors, finding out what made them tick. I conduct content audits and do test pilot programs. By the time we’re finished the stakeholders have a vested interest in the results, and getting on board.
Then there are the bloggers. This might be a product marketing manager, senior engineer or other “subject matter expert” or SME. The problem is most don’t have time or can’t write. They’re smart in their areas of expertise, but they’re not writers.
I’ve dealt with this issue several ways. I might have my team develop brief reports to provide them background info, links, themes, and suggested approaches to blog. You need a process to prime the pump. My team might sit down with them and work through the story line. Sometimes we’d help them write it.
BUT the key part is developing the relationship-understanding their subject matter and how they think (hint: an engineer thinks differently).
This is where journalists come in. I’m a huge fan of hiring journalists to edit and drive corporate blogs. I’ve tried it every way possible- hiring PR and marketing people, product people, well-meaning relatives. But no one beats a journalist –or ex journalist-when it comes to writing.
A good journalist knows how to research, which rocks to look under for the right material, and how to identify and shape a story. They know how to develop relationships and deal with people, how to interview and ask just the right questions to tease out the needed information- often that one little gold nugget that makes the story sing.
Of course, you’ll have to balance this against budgets and resources and figure out how to make the program scale. One model is to have each writer/journalist support three to four bloggers, and specializing in one area. You’re better off with a few trained journalists supporting a small number of “super bloggers” writing compelling posts than an army of employee bloggers cranking out material that no one’s reading.
My point is simple: don’t forget to address the human side of the editorial engine, and journalists can help you do that. It’s easier to teach a new journalist about the inner workings of your company than try to teach others how to write, and the tricks of the trade.
The One Thing You Must Get Right with an Editorial Engine