Scaling content marketing to a global level
How do you create a global content marketing strategy? It's a daunting task. But columnist Rebecca Lieb offers some tips to help you meet the needs of each region, country and locality.
Enterprises are only just starting to incorporate content marketing as a discipline into the mix, and as a result, they’re quickly realizing content must permeate the entire organization. This applies globally just as much as it does regionally. Yet scaling content up to a global level brings with it a host of challenges.
Creating a global content marketing strategy is absolutely essential, but at the same time, it’s exponentially challenging. One large global organization asked me to help develop a global strategy, but to do so with two separate teams and in two separate client engagements that effectively bisected the globe (and as a result, the strategy) in two separate meridians.
It was a start.
I just worked with a major global non-profit to develop a content marketing strategy road map that will be applied across no fewer than 31 countries as diverse as South Sudan, Guatemala, the Philippines, the US and the UK.
Without a conscious effort at orchestration, time and money are wasted, employees become frustrated, efforts are duplicative and customer experience suffers, not to mention consistency in brand and messaging.
The need for content is universal, but each region, country and locality in which a brand operates has specific needs that are unique to their language and culture, and often other requirements, such as legal. You can divide these needs into three buckets that are core components of any content marketing strategy:
Teams: Structure your global teams for centralized leadership and local autonomy
Creating content marketing teams and governance is essential. Content marketing requires centralized leadership, but also a substantial degree of local authority and autonomy.
If there’s a parallel editorial model, it would be that of a major international news organization. The New York Times, CNN, the BBC and their ilk maintain bureaus in major regions and capitals across the world.
How leadership is appropriated, however, varies greatly. Very few organizations have formal content marketing departments or divisions. This is no less true of global enterprises which often assign content duties to marketing teams, social media groups or communications and PR staff.
My research has identified six real-world content governance models, all of which are as relevant to global content management as they are to running content strictly on a local or national basis.
Content is a team sport, and, as I’ve stated previously, coordinating content on a global scale is sort of like running the Olympic games. Each regional needs to have teams, those teams must have captains, and they must have training, knowledge of the universal rules of the game and the equipment needed to play it.
At the same time, each team will always fly its own flag and proudly wear its own colors.
Tools: Choose compatible tools that serve a global team
The content marketing software landscape is rapidly evolving and shifting. Selecting tools comes with additional considerations and concerns when they must serve global teams.
Does the tool support multiple languages? Diverse alphabets? Can it handle country- or region-specific barriers, such as firewalls or local privacy and data-protection regulations? Will licenses differ on a country-by-country basis? How easy (or difficult) will it be to train and onboard far-flung users? Can it be integrated with other marketing and enterprise software already in use (or planned for deployment) on a global or regional level?
Research on the content software landscape I recently conducted finds 40 percent of marketers say a lack of interdepartmental coordination is leading to investment in disparate, incompatible toolsets — and that’s just on a domestic level. Global requirements demand sharing, collaboration and efficiency.
In 2013, Unilever invested in a single tool to consolidate and coordinate content creation and publishing efforts across just three brands in the dozens of countries in which it operates (not to mention use and collaboration by hundreds of internal and external content stakeholders: staff, agency and vendor partners). The brand realized $10 million in savings in just one year. If that’s not an argument to pay close attention to the efficiency the right tools can create, I don’t know what is.
Channels: Use location-appropriate content and channels
What content should be created? Where should it be published, in what form and for which audience? Publishing on Facebook simply isn’t the same as engaging with social audiences on VK.com, Line, Mixi or Weibo.
Then there are various regional holidays to consider, local sporting events (in most of the rest of the world, “football” means “soccer”), festivals, superstitions, political and news events. If you ignore these differences, you’re an outsider, not a potential partner or a credible source of information.
Local input, knowledge and culture are essential. It’s not enough to translate content into a local language or to push content created at headquarters out to regional divisions.
In fact, often, local content surfaced in far-flung markets can bubble up and be expanded into fodder for headquarters or other markets.
Every organization committed to effectively using content in the marketing mix (and after all, there can be no marketing without content) must consider how to scale efforts, as well as how to establish governance, staffing, tools and technology to create compelling content in the right channels to deliver desired results. This is no small task for even a local mom and pop.
On a global scale, the complexities of creating a global content strategy can often seem daunting. A strategic approach, combined with a step-by-step process, will lead to content that’s effective globally, regionally and locally.