What content marketing can teach us about employee experience
We knew this was coming
Peter Hinssen visited San Francisco twice with a group of business leaders to tackle the question: what IS the future of work? Here are some, yet not all of the signals and questions we brought home:
- Purpose is king
- Employee experience requires just as much attention as customer experience
- How can technology and the human touch win together?
- Leadership requires some fundamental shifts.
- How to change internal communication in a constantly changing world that is shifting from top-bottom leadership to networked decision making?
As interesting as each of these subjects are, today I’d like to focus on one example in particular: internal communications. Just as we invested massively in content marketing for customers to build our brands, I believe we need to do the same efforts for our teams.
Internal Content marketing
I don’t like the word marketing here, as you don’t ‘sell’ your culture to your employees. Yet ‘content marketing’ is not about directly selling something either. It’s about building a relationship of shared ideas and values with your customer. Change and marketing consultancy agency Callebaut Collective also voices this in their latest book ‘Act Human’: Marketing is about building relationships. That’s where you create true value exchange. Don’t we need this internally within our teams as well to be successful?
Content marketing emerged as soon as we arrived in a multichannel world. The opportunity was evident: more channels to engage with your customers means more customer touchpoints to make them love you. The result was a need for curation, and relevance. As we learned a while ago from the take-aways of ‘2018 Medialaan’s Fuel Conference:
- Connect: multiple channels allow to build conversations rather than monologues.
- Trust: how can we build trust in a multichannel world
- Hustle: how do you organize in an always-on world? It requires work, discipline and strategy.
- Relevance: whatever channel strategy you use, think first what story you’d like to tell.
Content marketing has shown how impactful investing in communication can be, but also how crucial it is to stand out in a world of constant messaging. As a company, you need to make sure that your teams love your brand, your purpose, your strategy, your goals. A big kick-off conference at the start of the year is still fun, engaging and a great start but it won’t be enough anymore to stand out every single day. It wasn’t enough in an office-led world, it is devastating in a world where work is no longer strictly linked to the office.
Why not investing in internal content marketing might lead to burn-out
Another reason why we owe it to our teams to invest in employee marketing, is their very own well-being. As this HBR article points out: ‘burnout is more than just an employee problem; it’s an organizational problem that requires an organizational solution’. Christina Maslach of the University of California, Berkeley, Susan E. Jackson of Rutgers, and Michael Leiter of Deakin University, point to six main causes of burn-out:
- Unsustainable workload
- Perceived lack of control
- Insufficient rewards for effort
- Lack of a supportive community
- Lack of fairness
- Mismatched values and skills
Many of these causes can be linked to a lack of enough context for people. Context means communication, means connections, means conversations. So instead of investing in yoga sessions or meditation apps, we might try improving our internal communication plan first?
Nevertheless, even that won’t be a silver bullet solution, but more a continuous investment. We can share all the content and context we want and listen as much as we can; we won’t be able to change the simple fact that change is not a one-time event that happens every 5 years, but rather a continuous description of the situation. But we like how April Rinne guides us into that new world of flux in which she advocates for a flux mindset: ‘A flux mindset is your compass for change, your barometer for being, your telescope to see and show up fully in a world of flux.’ Read more about how she invites you to look at that here.
What can we learn from content marketing for customers?
Let’s not try and reinvent the wheel but look at how content marketeers have built their discipline throughout the years. I like how nexxworks thought leader Steven Van Belleghem puts it: ‘I believe in the combination of common sense, new technologies, an empathic human touch, playing the long-term game and taking your social responsibility to win the hearts and business of customers over and over again.’. If we change the word ‘customers’ to ‘employees’ we have a good starting point.
Following Wikipedia’s definition of content marketing: this is about creating, publishing and distributing content for a certain goal. It’s recommended for attracting attention, increasing awareness (about your strategy and goals) and to engage your (employee) community towards your goals.
Content marketing runs on one fuel: data. Which is another building block to pursue. As you’ve built customer data, invested in ‘KYC’ (Know Your Customer), are you building the same capabilities and systems regarding managing employee data? Do you know your people? It’s needed to think about your employee data management as it’s the fuel for a personalized employee experience, as well as to manage your employee marketing strategy effectively. If there’s one thing we know about technology, is that in only runs on data. Innovation in this landscape is not far away, with start-ups like Huapii in Belgium or large companies like OC Tanner or Microsoft building their culture through data, or building the systems for you to use. In 2020 our programs showed an increased interest in internal network mapping where experts like Greg Satell, Rob Cross and Stan McChrystal help map the internal networks that are actually driving impact and relationships within a company. It often shows how it’s not so much the organization chart that does matter, but that it is certain people, certain micro-networks that decide whether an idea becomes success.
Above is just merely scratching the surface of ideas we can build on to build a powerful internal communication strategy. As we’ve seen in marketing: you won’t succeed if you put only your marketing team in charge of this. Just as leadership, sales and marketing need to speak with one voice to provide successful content marketing for customers, so does HR need to work together with business leaders and top leadership. The necessary investments in data, tooling and process have to made on the level of the organization. One leader alone won’t be able to pull off a large-scale movement, it requires a holistic strategy and operation.
As one executive on one of those future of work trip voiced: ‘those CEOs at Airbnb and Google, they’re actually performers. They are the ones on stage. The leaders of tomorrow not only require vision, they need to make sure they actually have a strategy to manage the fan-base’.
I’m curious how you are building your Employee Content Strategy! Don’t be a stranger, reach out with your story to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s have a chat on how we can share and learn from each other.