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Building a Cross-Functional Content Strategy [+ workshop templates]

Published on Feb 3, 2021

Building a Cross-Functional Content Strategy [+ workshop templates]
studioID Industry Dive

Content marketers like to talk to other content marketers. There is a shared language among those who craft stories around audience personas, plotting articles and case studies along the marketing funnel, and a mutual appreciation for thought leadership. But when it comes time to communicate the value of this work to other members of the team, there is often a language barrier.

In (often siloed) marketing organizations, each team has its own ideas, goals, and best practices. Some use content as a part of their overall strategy; some don’t. This lack of understanding makes it difficult to receive buy-in around a content marketing strategy, impacting everything from planning to budgeting.

By bringing other key teams into the content strategy process, marketers can not only prevent some of these gaps in communication but also better express the value of their team.

Here’s why you should be developing your content frameworks with other teams, and how a cross-functional strategy can empower you to deliver content better aligned to your business goals and improve cross-team collaboration.

Benefits of a cross-functional content strategy

While content marketing continues to grow in popularity, many marketers still lack a dedicated content strategy tied to business goals. High production value content, like videos or interactive pages, might get attention, but hide the strategic framework on which they are built. This makes it challenging to show ROI. Getting other teams involved in the planning process communicates the value of content marketing by helping other teams better understand the process.

The knowledge-transfer goes both ways. By having experts from other sides of the marketing team — from product to sales and customer success — you will unlock insights around your own brand that the content team might have missed on their own. This deepens your existing strategy and fosters greater representation of different perspectives in your content. Having different stakeholders in the room across multiple teams also helps content marketers better understand the larger KPIs important to their business. These objectives might otherwise not be known within the department.

Vocalizing these goals and baking them into your strategy helps continue to validate the need for content across the organization.

This level of collaboration fosters trust and a spirit of partnership among siloed marketing teams. Rather than competing with each other to tell a better story, you will be more likely to work together in the future to tell the best story for driving business results. And each team will walk away with a higher level of empathy for each other’s processes.

Workshopping your content strategy as a team

Workshops are one of the best ways to quickly develop a fundamental content strategy and actively involve experts on your team. They allow other teams the opportunity to bring new ideas to the table and help validate some of the assumptions and insights you have assembled around your messaging. 

The content marketers should take charge of organizing the meeting. Curate a group of representatives of various teams with whom you want to improve collaboration and learn from.

Ahead of the meeting, identify the key focus areas for the session, whether it is better understanding your audience or mapping persona pain points across the marketing funnel — all of which should ladder up to your content marketing planning. Send attendees a detailed agenda of the workshop and the purpose behind each activity. You should also include several pre-session questions for each workshop designed to have people come prepared with insights, comments, and recommendations. 

During the meeting, use physical tools like whiteboards, index cards, and post-it notes. These keep people active and make ideas more tangible. Designate a member of the content marketing team to act as a moderator for the session. They’ll need to ask follow-up questions, pressure-test assumptions, and keep the conversation going. Document your work throughout the meeting. Afterward, be sure to send a thank-you email to your participants including all of their great insights and letting them know how exactly they’ve informed your content marketing planning.

Workshop examples for cross-team collaboration

Here are a few examples of workshops you can use to gain insights from people outside of your direct team:

Culture, competitor, customer, company (45 minutes)

Culture Customer Competitor Company Workshop

Activity: Create a four-column chart, with a column for Culture (the conversation your brand wants to own), Competitor, Customer, and Company (your brand). Using culture as a guide, write down topics, questions, and pain points that come to mind related to each category. At the end of the brainstorming session, circle the topics that are similar across all four columns.

Purpose: To better understand how your brand fits into a larger conversation within your industry, and how existing messaging lines up with public sentiment, which will help to inform your content strategy. This is a great way to unite several teams under one consistent vision, as well as validate any preexisting assumptions. 

Prework: Send a list of questions ahead of time for each category and ask participants to come prepared with answers.

Categorizing your customers’ use cases (45 minutes)

Activity: Whiteboard each customer profile, making sure to note any key adjectives, descriptions, and pain points. Do this for four to five examples. Once listed, ask your participants if they can spot any recurring themes among certain customers. If you can, summarize these groups with a name and a high-level goal that unites their journey. 

Purpose: To use actual company research and use cases to build a more accurate profile of the personas your content strategy should be targeting. This helps show that content marketing decisions don’t happen in silos, but are instead rooted in customer and company insights. Using customer examples to build personas also helps non-marketers feel involved in the strategic process from the ground up.

Prework: Ask each participant to come to the session with several customer profiles they wish to discuss during the workshop.

Understanding your persona (one hour)

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Activity: For each persona, draw out four boxes: one for motivations and interests; another for pain points: one for goals; and a final section around content consumption habits. Work with the group to fill out each section.

Purpose: Knowing what your persona cares about forms the basis for how you create a content strategy that is engaging and ultimately drives conversions for the business. This session helps validate those assumptions and allows non-content marketers to offer additional insights that could otherwise be missed. 

Prework: A developed persona(s).

If you have time, end with a content ideation session. Using the personas you develop and the high-level questions you raise around your pain points, have your participants brainstorm content ideas. By letting non-content marketers participate in an ideation session, you are validating their perspectives and making it easier to receive buy-in on content projects because they’ll feel a sense of ownership.

Laying the foundation for integrated marketing through content marketing

One workshopping session will not solve the problem of siloed marketing teams, but it will plant the seeds for how the organization can (and should) take a more integrated approach when it comes to marketing. In time, it can be the spark needed to unite an entire organization under a shared language for working better together.