Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists.

The Client Hired Us But Won’t Listen to Our Ideas!

Dear Content Therapist: Our company just started working with a company that needed to change its whole approach to content marketing. This company is well-known for its products and has a solid audience. The problem is that their content could be much better, but they put it on the back burner in favor of more traditional marketing efforts. We’ve had multiple meetings with the client and developed a great plan to begin the transformation process. However, their head of marketing seems a bit resistant to the change. We’ve sent updated blog posts and social content, but the content is reverted to their old style each time. Having this client is a huge deal for our firm, but right now, I feel like I’m fighting against a brick wall to implement the changes the rest of their leadership team wants. How should I proceed in this transformation process without damaging the relationship with this client? — THE CONTENT TRANSFORMER

Paul Chaney:  By “brick wall,” you mean the head of marketing. From what you say, it sounds like he is the impediment to progress. If that’s the case, there are several tactics you can try.  

Have a Conversation

I have said many times in this column that change often begins with talking, and my advice here is no different. Have you met with the marketing head previously, or just other members of the team? Regardless, it sounds like a meeting with him is in order. When you meet, try to understand his reasons for rejecting your content plan, then match your argument in favor of the plan with his objections.

Perhaps he’s just stuck in his ways: Traditional marketing is his comfort zone, and digital is not. Or maybe he needs to see numbers supporting your claim that transformation gets results. Whatever it is, understanding his position is the first step toward breaking down the wall.

Start With a Story

Stories have been used for thousands of years to create emotional connection. There’s also plenty of scientific evidence to support the idea that stories activate parts of the brain that allow listeners to turn the story into their own ideas and experiences. If you’re a content marketer, it stands to reason that you are a storyteller. Brainstorm story ideas with your team, and choose one that’s compelling.

Let the Client Know You Have Their Best Interests at Heart

You said your agency just started working with the client. Likely, trust has yet to be established. Continue to communicate to the marketing head that you have the company’s best interests at heart and will do everything possible to promote the brand and represent it well.  

Talk to the Client’s Marketing Team

You said the marketing team wants to see the transformation. Have you picked their brains regarding ways to approach the marketing head? What’s their relationship with him like? If it’s congenial, maybe they will go to bat for you.

Wish for a Mile; Be Glad for an Inch

Change takes time, and most people resist it until they see the benefit. Be patient, celebrate small victories, and continue fostering the relationship. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to win someone over.

The Office Is Calling, But I Don’t Want to Pick Up

Dear Content Therapist: To be honest, office life seems like a distant memory to me. Unfortunately, my company is making it mandatory for everyone to return to the office, and I’m against that. Had this been pre-pandemic, I would have been one of the first people to get back in there. I enjoyed the office life and the ability to leave work there, even though I did check in afterward. However, since going remote, my life has shifted, and I feel a better balance between work and personal life. I’ve been with the company for over five years and built the entire content marketing team. I believe in the company and what they do, but going back to the office full-time is no longer an option for me. And if people don’t return, then there will be layoffs. Should I suck it up and go back into the office, or should I brush up on my resume and start looking for something new? — THE HAPPILY REMOTE MARKETER

Paul Chaney: It seems that the answer is clear in your case. You have two options: Go back to the office or look for another position (assuming it’s with a remote-friendly company).

You stated matter of factly that returning to the office full-time is no longer an option. You also said that you value the life balance you achieved by working remotely.

If you can’t convince your boss to allow you to work out a hybrid arrangement — three days remote and two in the office, for example — it’s time to pack your bags.

One caveat: How devoted are you to the content marketing team you built? Do you owe them a measure of loyalty that would necessitate staying?

I don’t mean to confuse the issue (as I said, your decision seems clear-cut), but those are questions worth wrestling with. Consider that, and let your convictions guide you — either into the office or out the door.

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.