Silos Aren’t Dead – How to Be a Content Bridge Builder

Covered Bridge

It’s inevitable that we hear surprising quotes at Content Marketing World. Some may even shock us. It might be a bombshell like Joe Pulizzi’s ultimatum: Go all in or all out on content marketing. Sometimes it’s more subtle or mixed in with other advice. But, they make me think. This case was the latter, and it made me think differently about silos.

Robert Rose led a panel discussion with Jenifer Walsh from Current, Stephanie Losee from Visa, and Raj Munusamy from Schneider Electric. They discussed change management in organizations with the implementation of content marketing. One specific quote by Walsh jumped out at me:

“Silos aren’t going away. You need to learn how to manage them.”

Wait, what? We’ve been talking about breaking down the silos for years. It’s one of the keys to content marketing success, isn’t it? Well, maybe it’s not. If you’re able to break down the silos in your company, more power to you. But, for most, I’m willing to bet this is still a goal that is beyond our control.

Removing silos sometimes requires a reorganization of the company. At the very least, it needs a ton of buy-in from department VPs and directors. While you can be a catalyst for that type of change, it takes a lot of time and effort.

An easier route is to build a bridge between silos. You understand that your priorities are different from other departments’. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get the support you need. You need to develop relationships with your subject matter experts. This leads to collaboration. Then, you can create the outstanding content that we all know exists inside each silo.

Robert Rose Panel at Content Marketing World 2016

We all know it’s not as easy as it sounds. The experts don’t always understand how or why they can help you. It takes work and time. Here are five suggestions that will help you start to build your bridges.

1. Solve a Problem

In the same session, Losee gave a great starting point: Offer to help solve their biggest problem. Work with them to create content that addresses this pain point. Track the results and show the impact it has. Once they see this success, they’ll be open to further content collaboration. Turn it into an internal case study to help get you in the door to other departments too.

2. Keep Them Informed and Involved

Keep your potential partners informed of your content strategy. Make sure they understand why you’re creating the content and how it will help them. Give them as much advance notice as you can so they can make time to get you what you need. 

Involve them in your planning. Ask for suggestions as they may have better ideas of what will be effective based on their expertise. They’re more invested in the outcome if they know you’re using their ideas.

3. Listen

More than getting their suggestions, listen to what the experts have to say. Even though you may have your thoughts on what content you need, be open-minded. You’re asking for their expertise, so use it.

Be flexible in your plans so you can use their advice. Go the extra mile when reporting your results and show them the effects of their contributions. Success (and knowing you listened!) will make them more eager to help you again.

4. Make It Easy For Them

Make it as easy as possible for others to help you. The following are some roadblocks to keep in mind with ways to help out your experts.

  • They’re not good writers. You’ll need to edit their writing for them. Another option is to interview them. Then transcribe their answers or use the information to craft your content.
  • Too much tech-speak. Your experts may be used to speaking to their peers while using their technical jargon. Explain your audience and the need to express their expertise in layman’s terms. If that proves difficult, you may need to translate it for them. Have them double-check that you don’t change the meaning of the information in your version.
  • Long-winded explanations. Some experts will give you more information than you need, or some may not know what info you need. Frame the context to help them know what information is relevant. Or, give them a template to fill in specific parts or give them questions to answer.

5. Offer training

Once you’ve got a few departments onboard, a training session or two can be an efficient way to teach many at one time. Be sure to include the department heads. They need to understand what their employees are spending time on and why.

Start with the big picture of how content marketing can help the entire organization reach its business goals. Teach them the basics and why it works. Explain how their input will make the content more relevant and effective. Show examples of companies that are successful with content.

With these suggestions, you’ll be on your way building bridges across silos. Don’t forget that it’s a two-way bridge! Be just as helpful when they need something from you.

Have you tried to develop relationships within your company? What other tips would you offer that are successful? Tell us in the comments below.

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Main image via Kirt Edblom

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