As a marketer, do you ever feel like you’re an island? You’re supposed to be the voice of your organization, but how do you represent all of the other people who work there — their perspectives, their stories, and their work?
That was the challenge that Megan Zink was up against. She’s the digital and content marketing manager at Fitness Formula Clubs, a fitness company with 11 locations in Chicago. She figured out a new way to collaborate with the company’s employees on content, including a blog that is jam-packed with fitness tips, must-sees in Chicago and inspiring member stories.
It didn’t happen overnight, though. Getting non-marketing employees involved in the content process is easier said than done. Megan took a new approach: She gets in front of employees during their very first week, leading a session at new employee onboarding. She teaches new employees — from physical trainers to housekeeping staff to lifeguards— how they can tell their stories through the company’s blog. That collaboration helps Megan create a better product, without doing all of the writing by herself on her proverbial Marketing Island.
If you’re looking to get your employees more involved in creating content, onboarding is a great place to start. Megan shared a few tips with me on how she gets the process going.
Reframe the Conversation About Writing
When addressing her onboarding groups, Megan makes sure that she confronts the elephant in the room: writing. “A lot of people don’t love to write,” she says. The idea of composing a blog post is overwhelming to a lot of the people in the room.
So Megan starts by teaching new employees a quick Marketing 101 lesson. What does “marketing” mean in people’s everyday lives? She asks the group to think about the research they do on the Internet before they buy products, explaining that Formula Fitness Clubs’s blog is actually something very similar. It’s an opportunity for people to interact with a brand before making a buying decision.
Similarly, Megan tells new employees not to think of a potential blog post as a writing exercise. Instead, she says, think of it is a marketing opportunity not just for their employer, but for themselves. “I focus on helping them understand that by creating content for our audience, they can actually build their personal brand,” she says.
Megan provides examples of past posts, and she shows how to share that content on social media, so that employees can promote their own services under the Fitness Formula Clubs umbrella.
Create a Process Employees Can Trust
Of course, positioning content as a marketing tool is one thing. But the actual writing itself? Well, that’s a different animal altogether.
To help ease employees through every stage of the writing process, Megan has created a streamlined process that encourages both collaboration and trust. To inspire employees, she shows examples of what a beautifully formatted, finished blog will look like. “I’ll talk to the fact that it came to me just as a simple Word Doc, but ‘look what it turned into’,” she says. “It turned into this very legitimate, beautiful piece that they can send people the link to.”
Employees get excited by the possibility of seeing their finished work, and Megan does everything she can to help them. She provides a template Word document to employees with guidelines and tips, emphasizing that she does not expect a finished piece. It’s Megan’s job to do the proofing and editing, so that she can turn it into that “beautiful piece” employees can be proud of.
“You don’t have to be a writer to be a published author,” she says in her blog guidelines. It’s a great reminder that we all have a story to tell.
Collaborate with Employee Contributors
The guidelines Megan provides to new employees are enormously helpful to creating quality work. But it’s not all up to the employee. Like all managing editors, Megan still has a responsibility to maintain standards and voice — and to steer away from potentially off-brand content.
She has run into the occasional snafu. Megan says that she tries to approach these moments with empathy, and she works with the author to get the piece into publishable shape. “I always try to give them some constructive criticism as to the direction we do want to go,” she says. Once, an employee submitted what was essentially a haiku. Rather than reject it, Megan worked with the author on maintaining the piece’s integrity, resulting in a successful collaboration.
“I’ve had some internal struggles,” Megan says. “But most of the time, people get it, which I’m really lucky for.”