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What is digital transformation?



What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of transitioning an organization’s operations to completely digital systems to better meet brand and customer needs. Throughout this process, digital technologies become infused throughout the brand’s core strategy, allowing marketing, sales, product, customer service, operations and finance teams to work together more effectively and provide more engaging products, services, and customer experiences.

It’s a strategy that has seen significant acceleration during the COVID-19 pandemic as homebound or socially distancing consumers became not only digital-first, but “digital-everywhere” too. Businesses have been forced to embrace digital transformation efforts and learn how to deliver value to customers who can only be reached online. In fact. many of the digital-first businesses that thrived during the pandemic offered seamless customer journeys despite the many fragmented channels that their customers use. 

Why we care. Marketers, in particular, need to align their strategies and operations with these transformation efforts to keep up with changing customer expectations and demands.

Marketing technologies are a key driver of digital transformation, empowering marketers to facilitate seamless digital interactions with customers. Yet this type of innovation is not easy to implement. Many companies struggle to put the right skills, structure, and processes in place to drive digital transformation success. Fortunately, the introduction of “low-code” tools, marketing technology replacements, and an increasing brand commitment to improved customer digital experiences has made this process more achievable.

In this piece, we’ll dive deep into digital transformation to answer the following questions: 

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

What’s driving digital transformation growth?

Customers are craving seamless, connected experiences more than ever before, forcing many brands to ditch older methods of marketing in favor of new tactics. But many factors make this transformation easier said than done. Changes in customer behavior due to the pandemic, the restrictions on third-party data collection, and rapidly evolving digital technologies make it difficult for some organizations to adapt.

Here are some of the other top drivers of digital transformation today.

Organizational changes. The pandemic shifted the way companies work. Many brands are rethinking their organizational structures; some are moving to remote-first cultures while others are changing the ways their marketing and sales teams conduct campaigns. To ensure these changes don’t interfere with customer experience or affect product/service quality, more companies are adopting digital platforms to consolidate tasks and better connect departments.

Changing customer expectations. COVID-19 and its repercussions have exacerbated the need to meet customer expectations. Customers have high standards for brands – they expect personalized online shopping options, customized email and text messages, product recommendations and more – and marketers need the digital tools to meet them.

Marketing automation. Increased demand for personalization has paved the way for higher levels of marketing automation platform adoption. These tools can provide marketers with key customer data insights while simultaneously deploying numerous marketing tasks at scale across all digital channels.

Given these trends, it’s clear that before the pandemic, digital transformation was a great way to improve customer engagement. Since the pandemic, it has become a necessity for any organization trying to stay competitive.

How does digital transformation start?

Digital transformation starts with a business strategy. Product, service, marketing, and sales goals provide the basic framework and necessary information to support the organization’s customer experience objectives. The executive team then sets the tone for creating alignment and an achievable digital transformation plan that can adapt quickly to changing marketing and technology trends.

Successful digital transformations happen because of two things: communication and involvement. Change does not succeed if it’s forced on people, so it is essential to get buy-in across the organization. Digital transformation needs to be rolled out with the support of the people operations — the employees who make things happen on a daily basis and are closest to the customers. Being clear about processes, roles and responsibilities is central to scaling digital activities. After all, managing data to enhance customer experiences is a lot of work.

Sometimes digital wins don’t come easily, and innovation often happens more slowly than expected. In the retail sector, for example, e-commerce sales in 2021 only accounted for 13.2% of total purchases. However, e-commerce has become the driving force for brand engagement with customers, innovating television advertising and in-store experiences across industries.

For these reasons, many organizations use an agile strategy to begin their digital transformation. Agile refers to the ability to create and respond to change. It is the way many companies are now approaching — and succeeding — in the uncertain business environment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Agile organizations stress collaboration over silos, which is an important element in managing data and creating new digital processes. Embracing change, setting priorities, and making adjustments on the fly are also critical to success. The pandemic has shown that plans change, so businesses must be flexible, rather than static or unchangeable. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that digital transformation is not a “one-and-done” type of initiative: there will never be that one moment when the organization can say it’s over.

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What skills are needed for digital transformation?

Executing digital transformation depends on having a staff with strong digital skills who can manage a marketing machine that is always on. For marketing leaders, that means a team that can deliver the organization’s end goal: a compelling and seamless customer experience.

Here are some of the skills marketers are expected to have.

Prioritize and target audiences. Too many campaigns waste hundreds of media dollars on the wrong audiences. Marketers today must be able to use digital transformation tools to generate data-based buyer personas and target audiences with the highest expected ROI.

Coordinate orchestration. With so many digital channels available, marketers need to employ innovative strategies to reach customers on each one. They’re required to coordinate marketing efforts with other digital initiatives to ensure these audiences enjoy seamless experiences.

Create data-driven content. Customers respond well to content that speaks to their needs, so marketers need an effective way to pull relevant data to aid their content creation efforts. It’s common to see more of these specialists well-versed with CDPs and other data collection tools.

Looking to take control of your data? Learn about trends and capabilities of customer data platforms in the latest edition of this MarTech Intelligence Report.

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On the marketing operations side, employees must be accountable for the smooth running of the marketing technology stack, including:

  • Designing and managing internal workflows and processes.
  • Operating marketing software (as administrators).
  • Running and implementing campaigns.
  • Researching and recommending marketing software tools.
  • Analytics and measurement.

Not every company has the internal resources to successfully manage digital transformation. If that is the case, an agency partner can provide the digital services needed to support the organization. 

There are also digital transformation specialists like Publicis Sapient, which re-evaluated its talent levels and approach to better assist clients in their digital transformation efforts. Its executives sought people with the right skills, as well as the right mindset and experience. According to CMO Teresa Barreira, the company was hiring for “diversity of thought, diversity of experience and – really important – diversity of background.” As a result, it expanded to 150 employees, with about 70% being new to the agency (two years or less).

These transformative efforts have the potential to improve brand performance in a variety of industries. The key is to work with specialists that can recognize digital opportunities and guide your organization toward actionable solutions.

What role does technology play in digital transformation?

Digital transformation strategies cannot be separated from the tools needed to execute them. Many organizations continually evaluate their technology stacks, given how rapidly the technology changes. According to The MarTech Replacement Survey 2021, 67% of marketers replaced a marketing technology application in the past 12 months. Most upgraded from one commercial solution to another, and the upgraded solutions were exactly the kinds of technologies needed to begin digital transformation during the pandemic. 

Empowered with more advanced toolsets, marketers are embracing innovative forms of advertising, including digital out-of-home (DOOH) programmatic that can be integrated into omnichannel strategies. Two-thirds of media decision-makers activated new DOOH campaigns in the past 18 months, and more than 80% will recommend DOOH for their media plans over the next 12 months.

But the combination of rising demand for digital capabilities and a shortage of developers with coding skills has created a huge need for applications that are accessible to marketing end-users. Many of the tools that businesses adopt during digital transformation are “low code” or “no code,” meaning they enable organizations to build sophisticated processes with little or no coding experience.

Data democratization

This “democratization of data” is one of the most important aspects of digital transformation because it makes data easily available to people who aren’t data scientists or in the IT department. It’s been especially popular following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: According to research from the Harris Poll and Salesforce, 71% of small and medium businesses reported they survived by turning to digital applications.

Digital transformation fuels data democratization by providing team members with the digital resources they need to address ever-changing customer needs. It also helps brands solve data challenges by bringing in more viewpoints and perspectives – not to mention additional hands available to tackle big projects.

Still, data access is the means to an end, and the goal is to use digital transformation to improve customer experiences and increase customer engagement. Viewed through this lens, the benefits of data democratization include the following:

  • Stronger ability to identify customer intent: Driven by AI-powered tools, data democratization provides a wider range of insights into customer intent. Multiple departments can analyze and leverage data, using different philosophies and approaches.
  • Greater operational efficiency: Data democratization backed by low-code or no-code tools allow businesses to house data in a single and accessible location. In addition to making data access more convenient, this approach facilitates compliance with data privacy regulations and data standardization, which increases accuracy and targeting relevance. 
  • Improved customer experience: The organization’s understanding of customer needs increases as more departments have access to data. Channel preferences, along with buying histories, enable sales and marketing teams to personalize messages and customer support. 

What are some of the benefits of digital transformation?

One of the main reasons organizations undertake digital transformation is the fear of falling behind their competitors. Digital transformation investments are forecast to reach $6.8 trillion by 2023 and grow at a 15.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), according to technology research firm International Data Corporation (IDC). At the same time, IDC projects that 75% of all global organizations will have a comprehensive digital transformation roadmap.

Organizations that have embraced digital transformation have experienced a number of tangible business benefits, including:

  • Greater operational efficiency.
  • Higher levels of revenue.
  • Improved new product quality.
  • Stronger network infrastructures.
  • Reduced costs.
  • Higher marketing ROI.

Each of these digital transformation benefits contributes to better data governance, as well as compliance with government regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, which are meant to safeguard consumer privacy. As organizations shift away from third-party data strategies and move toward using their first-party customer data more efficiently, many have also experienced an increase in customer trust and engagement.

For example, Domino’s is using digital to transform the brand from a pizza delivery company to an experience company. Domino’s original 30-minute delivery campaign opened the door to digital success via its “pizza tracker.” Customer insights are collected through social media, smart assistants, and wearables, then analyzed to provide enhanced customer personalization. The goal is to build brand loyalty by offering operational transparency, while also reducing real and perceived delivery times. 

AGI, a B2B food infrastructure company operating in 102 countries, found that going digital has completely transformed its customer relationships. The company historically employed field salespeople, as well as in-person meetings, training, and trade shows to market and sell its products. The COVID-19 pandemic put an end to those live events, forcing AGI to adopt webinars and online learning to connect with prospects and customers. Online engagement skyrocketed, and the company enlisted Apply Digital, a Vancouver-based digital agency, to help consolidate its branded digital properties and ramp up content development. Today, AGI’s marketing technology stack includes SalesforceOptimizelyBynder, and Hubilo.

What are some of the challenges to digital transformation?

Although the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many organizations’ digital transformations, it also created some obstacles. With changing customer preferences, marketers have been forced to focus on short-term acquisition goals, rather than long-term customer retention. In the process, data quality has emerged as a key issue. According to the  2021 Nielsen Marketing Report: Era of Adaptation, 41% of marketers at large companies view their data quality as a challenge. Data silos are another common problem in digital transformation because of the sheer volume of customer data that most organizations now gather and house. With more touchpoints in the average customer journey, it is nearly inevitable that every SaaS tool in the marketing technology stack is creating a new silo of data.

Not all companies are confident about their digital transformation efforts. It’s difficult to layer a digital transformation strategy on top of a complex marketing technology stack. Fortunately, low-cost SaaS solutions have made it easier to purchase and experiment with new tools, and marketing teams have deployed hundreds of software products across their organizations to acquire, engage and retain customers.

Yet digital transformation efforts that are underway don’t always create the unified customer experience that companies are seeking. To avoid setbacks, marketers must create objectives and develop a roadmap that will help their organizations meet digital transformation goals.

What is the future of digital transformation?

Digital transformation efforts aren’t a one-and-done undertaking – they’re vital for any brand’s hope of digital success going forward.

Here are some of our predictions for the future of digital transformation.

Responsible AI. AI solutions have been used to enhance marketing campaigns for years, but more brands are seeking responsible solutions to address the technologies’ issues. Companies such as Google and Microsoft are already leading the charge with calls for more AI regulations, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Bias and other unintended consequences can cause great harm to customers and brands, so more data scientists and developers will likely focus on creating more effective safeguards.

Low-code tools. Rather than relying solely on teams of technology specialists to transform their organizations, many brands are adopting low-code tools to empower their marketers. These allow team members to implement complex frameworks and solutions with little to no coding experience. These capabilities are helping low code pave the way for greater digital transformation.

Zero-trust security implementation. More and more companies are adopting remote-first work environments, which means there’s an even greater need for cyber security solutions. Enter zero-trust – a new security framework built on the principle that no user should be trusted by default. Instead, brands can grant permission based on user context and proper authentication, making their networks more secure and building trust in their infrastructure.

Virtual and augmented reality. The advent of VR and AR technologies – spurred on by major brands like Meta – has the potential to change the way brands interact with customers. Our world is more dependent on digital technologies than ever before, and the capabilities of VR and AR platforms – such as product showcases or work collaboration – make it a must-have for brands looking to take their campaigns to the next level.

Empathy as an engagement strategy. Increased consumer data privacy legislation, coupled with calls for greater personalization, means marketers need to make empathy a cornerstone of their campaigns. Customers want to interact with brands that understand their values and needs, and in our ever-changing world, failure to do so could lead to less engagement.

Rapidly evolving technologies, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a whole host of other forces affecting society have made digital transformation an imperative, not optional. By paying attention to customer needs and forecasting trends in behavior, marketers can stay ahead of the curve with informed digital transformation efforts.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Karen Burka, Senior Research Consultant, conducts research and provides analysis for Third Door Media’s Martech Intelligence Reports. She has worked as a digital marketer and industry analyst for more than 20 years at companies such as Peppers and Rogers Group, Cowles Business Media and Simon & Schuster.

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Five questions for our new CMO, Shafqat Islam



Five questions for our new CMO, Shafqat Islam

Alex Atzberger: Now that you’ve stepped into the CMO role, what are you looking forward to?   

Shafqat Islam: It’s amazing to take on this role at both a category creator and leader. How many brands can be a leader in almost every category–think Experimentation and CMS–that we play in?  

And we have so much to look forward to and build on. We have an exceptional team of marketing leaders and practitioners. They are fiercely intelligent, optimistic, and care deeply about what our products can *do* for our customers. Not just for the people who will encounter the marketing, retail, and product experiences that we support, but for the people who build them. As somebody who has both built products and been deeply immersed in marketing, I love the perspective that our team has.  

Alex Atzberger: What makes Optimizely unique?   

Shafqat Islam: First off, we’re category creators in experimentation and content management, both CMS and CMP. Marketers know this, and analysts know it, as something like 7 major analyst reports will tell you.  

Martech is a crowded field, so it’s true that there are a lot of firms whose territory overlaps with some of ours. But show me another company that can handle the entire content lifecycle like we can. Or show me another company that can do both feature flagging and experimentation.  

We also have a legendary legacy in the martech world. Before I joined, I knew that A/B testing and Optimizely were synonymous, and that the company’s roots go all the way back to the origins of the practice. And that’s something that is like common folklore in marketing and technology.  

And more than anything, the 1500 people who work here are world-class. 

Alex Atzberger: Being a CMO talking to other CMOs and marketing leaders is an advantage. You know the customer. But you’ve also built tech products. How does that affect your work now?  

Shafqat Islam: I’ve spent the majority of my adult life building products for marketers. So I’ve been lucky to spend so much time talking to CMOs and marketers in almost every type of company all over the world. As the founder/CEO of Welcome, my approach was to solve marketer challenges by building products. But now as CMO, I get to use the products we build.  

We’re practitioners of all of our own solutions, so in addition to the natural empathy I have for marketers, I am also close to the job’s unique challenges every day. There’s nothing like that to keep you sharp and keep you close to the customer.  

As a product builder, I knew we must always speak to business outcomes. But as CMO, I love that we aren’t just talking about the solutions – we’re living them, too.  

Because I was an entrepreneur for so long, I also bring another unique view – my willingness to take smart risks. I love to try things, even if (especially if?) the results are sometimes surprising. When it comes to experimentation, there are no failures, only learnings. 

Alex Atzberger: What are the biggest challenges you’re hearing from our customers, current and future?  

Shafqat Islam: Growth, especially given how tough it is out there for so many industries. The stakes are very high when it comes to creating experiences that will win and retain customers. That’s what all of our customers–especially the retail heavyweights-are thinking about.  

And marketing and technology leaders need to do this with leaner budgets. Efficiency matters a lot right now, and that means not only reducing the costs you can see, like the price tag attached to software, but also the costs you can’t see right away, like how much time and money it takes to manage a set of solutions. With that said, in tough times, I think the strongest brands can not just survive but also thrive. I also think when others are fearful, that may be the time to invest aggressively. 

And in the background of all this, there is still the ever-expanding list of customer touchpoints. This is simultaneously an exciting challenge for marketers and an exciting opportunity. More data means more effective storytelling– if you can use it right.

I also hear marketers when they say there’s a need for a shared space for collaboration among us. The role of the marketer is expansive, and it’s only getting more complicated. Building a community where we can come together and appreciate our shared goals is difficult, but I’m optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction.  

Alex Atzberger: What is next in our space? What will marketing and technology leaders be talking about six months from now?  

Shafqat Islam: Looking around now, it’s clear that 2023 will be the year that AI-generated content goes mainstream. We’re just starting to see the uses and the consequences of this. There’s already buzz about ChatGPT and its capabilities, and platforms are already making space to integrate AI functionality into their offerings. It could be an exciting way for users to become better equipped to create and share high-quality content.  

Customers also have gotten very used to personalization. Every screen they see daily is personalized, whether it’s their Netflix account or social feeds. So, when I see a site that isn’t personalized, I kind of scratch my head and wonder, why? With personalization now the norm, expectations for digital creators are sky-high.

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What to Consider When Choosing a Brand Ambassador for Your Social Media Campaign



What to Consider When Choosing a Brand Ambassador for Your Social Media Campaign

Want to maximize the potential of your social media campaign? Then you must ensure to choose the right brand ambassador for the job. Having a good ambassador will increase your social media reach and boost sales. But, selecting the best ambassador can be tricky.

This guide will show you the key steps to consider when selecting the perfect brand ambassador for your social media campaign. From assessing their influence to ensuring their content matches your brand’s mission. This guide will give you the insights you need to make the right decision.

Understanding the role of a brand ambassador

A brand ambassador acts as a company representative, promoting the brand’s products to a specific audience. They are selected for their influence and ability to communicate the brand’s message. Their primary goal is to increase brand awareness and engagement with the audience.

To achieve this, an ambassador shares the brand’s message and builds connections with the target audience. They help to establish trust and credibility for the brand by personally endorsing it through their own experiences. Also, they provide valuable feedback to the company, allowing for product improvements.

Tips for choosing the right ambassador for your social media campaign

1) Assess the credibility and influence of potential ambassadors.

One of the first steps is to ensure they have a very active social media presence. Make sure they have many followers and a high engagement rate. Check the number of followers they have and the type of posts they share. This will give you a good idea of the content they generate and let you know if they are a good fit for your campaign.

Make sure their posts are relevant and appropriate for your brand. If their content is not a good fit, you may want to reconsider hiring them for your campaign. This is important if your brand has a particular message you wish to convey to your audience. If their content is not in line with your brand’s values, it could have a negative effect on your brand’s image.

2) Analyze the compatibility between the ambassador’s content and your brand’s mission.

It’s common to think that a famous ambassador would be a good fit for your campaign. But if their content is not in line with your brand, they are not an option. You may want to go further and check the interaction between their posts and followers. If the interaction is very high and followers actively participate, this is a good indicator of the quality of the ambassador. This will show how much impact the ambassador has among their followers. The interaction of the followers with the ambassador’s posts is important, as it is a good way for them to get to know your brand better.

3) Make sure the ambassador is present on the right social networks.

If your brand uses more than one type of social media, you should ensure the ambassador is present on them. You can choose an ambassador who is active on most of the major social networks. But, you must ensure they have an appropriate presence on each platform.

For example, it may not be a good idea to select an ambassador who is primarily active on Instagram for a Facebook-centric campaign. Remember that followers on each platform are different, and it’s important to reach your desired audience. If the ambassador you choose is present on the right social media platform, it will be easier for them to reach your audience.

4) Set expectations and establish the terms of the partnership.

Once you have selected an ambassador and they have agreed to collaborate with your brand, set the terms of the collaboration. Set clear expectations and tell the ambassador precisely what you want them to do. This includes specifying the type of content that should be posted. It is also important to outline the kind of connection that should be fostered between their followers and your company.

Also, be sure to establish payment terms and any other essential partnership details. For example, if you want the ambassador to promote your brand at a specific event, let them know so they can prepare.

5) Consider brand ambassadors who have experience participating in events.

A brand ambassador with experience working at events and comfortable interacting with customers can be a valuable asset to your campaign. They will be able to promote your brand and products at events and help to build a positive image for your company.

Find a brand ambassador who is professional and comfortable in a high-energy environment. This will ensure they can effectively represent your brand and engage with customers at events. Hire an event staffing agency to ensure the event runs smoothly and let brand ambassadors focus on promoting the brand and connecting with the audience.

6) Complete the selection and onboarding process

Make sure you select an available ambassador with the right skills for your campaign. Verify that the ambassador’s availability matches your campaign schedule.

It’s a good idea to start interacting with the ambassador on social media. It will help you establish a strong relationship, making promoting your brand more accessible. Show the audience that they have rallied behind your brand and thank them for their support.

7) Follow-up and evaluation of the ambassador’s success

Once the campaign is over, follow up with the ambassador to test its success. Ask the ambassador if your promotion has been effective and get their feedback on the campaign. This is an excellent way to improve your campaign the next time you run it. It will also help you identify areas where you can improve your social media strategy.

You can test the success of your social media campaign by looking at three main factors: reach, engagement, and conversions. By considering these factors, you can determine the success of your social media campaign. Also, you can identify any areas that need improvement.


Brands use brand ambassadors to increase engagement and sales of their products. An ambassador has a large following and regularly interacts with your audience. When selecting an ambassador, consider factors such as their social media presence and the ability to communicate your brand’s message. Taking the time to choose the proper brand ambassador will ensure the success of your social media campaign.

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Content Operations Framework: How To Build One



Content Operations Framework: How To Build One

More and more marketers of all ilk – inbound, outbound, social, digital, content, brand – are asked to add content operations to their list of responsibilities.

You must get your arms around:

  • Who is involved (and, I mean, every who) in content creation
  • How content is created
  • What content is created by whom
  • Where content is conceived, created, and stored
  • When and how long it takes for content to happen
  • Why content is created (the driving forces behind content creation)
  • What kinds of content does the audience want
  • How to build a framework to bring order and structure to all of this

The evolving expectations mean content marketers can no longer focus only on the output of their efforts. They must now also consider, construct, implement, and administer the framework for content operations within their organizations.

#Content marketers can no longer focus solely on the output. It’s time to add content ops to the mix, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What exactly are content operations?

Content operations are the big-picture view of everything content-related within your organization, from strategy to creation, governance to effectiveness measurement, and ideation to content management. All too frequently at the companies – large and small – we consult with at The Content Advisory, content operations are left to evolve/happen in an organic fashion.

Teams say formal content operations aren’t necessary because “things are working just fine.”

Translation: Nobody wants the task of getting everyone aligned. No one wants to deal with multiple teams’ rationale for why the way they do things is the right/best/only way to do it. So, content teams just go on saying everything is fine.

News flash – it’s not.

It’s not just about who does what when with content.

Done right, content operations enable efficacy and efficiency of processes, people, technologies, and cost. Content ops are essential for strategic planning, creation, management, and analysis for all content types across all channels (paid, earned, owned) and across the enterprise from ideation to archive.

A formal, documented, enforced content operation framework powers and empowers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible customer experiences throughout the audiences’ journeys.

A documented, enforced #ContentOperations framework powers a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible experiences, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

It doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds.

What holds many content, administrative, and marketing teams back from embracing a formal content operations strategy and framework is one of the biggest, most challenging questions for anything new: “Where do we start?”

Here’s some help in high-level, easy-to-follow steps.

1. Articulate the purpose of content

Purpose is why the team does what it does. It’s the raison d’etre and inspiration for everything that follows. In terms of content, it drives all content efforts and should be the first question asked every time content is created or updated. Think of it as the guiding star for all content efforts.

In Start With Why, author Simon Sinek says it succinctly: “All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.”

All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year, says @SimonSinek via @CathyMcKnight and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

2. Define the content mission

Once the purpose of the teams’ content efforts is clear (and approved), it’s time to define your content mission. Is your content’s mission to attract recruits? Build brand advocacy? Deepen relationships with customers? Do you have buy-in from the organization, particularly the C-suite? This is not about identifying what assets will be created.

Can you talk about your mission with clarity? Have you created a unique voice or value proposition? Does it align with or directly support a higher, corporate-level objective and/or message? Hint: It should.

Answering all those questions solidifies your content mission.


The marketer’s field manual to content operations

A hands-on primer for marketers to upgrade their content production process – by completing a self-audit and following our step-by-step best practices. Get the e-book.

3. Set and monitor a few core objectives and key results

Once your content mission is in place, it is time to set out how to determine success.

Content assets are called assets for a reason; they possess real value and contribute to the profitability of your business. Accordingly, you need to measure their efficacy. One of the best ways is to set OKRs – objectives and key results. OKRs are an effective goal-setting and leadership tool for communicating objectives and milestones to achieve them.

OKRs typically identify the objective – an overall business goal to achieve – and three to five key quantifiable, objective, measurable outcomes. Finally, establish checkpoints to ensure the ultimate objective is reached.

Let’s say you set an objective to implement an enterprise content calendar and collaboration tool. Key results to track might include:

  • Documenting user and technical requirements
  • Researching, demonstrating, and selecting a tool
  • Implementing and rolling out the tool.

You would keep tabs on elements/initiatives, such as securing budget and approvals, defining requirements, working through procurement, and so on.

One more thing: Make sure OKRs are verifiable by defining the source and metric that will provide the quantifiable, measurable result.

Make sure objectives and key results are verifiable by defining source and metric, says @CathyMcKnight via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

4. Organize your content operations team

With the OKRs set, you need people to get the work done. What does the structure look like? Who reports to whom?

Will you use a centralized command-and-control approach, a decentralized but-supported structure, or something in between? The team structure and organization must work within the construct and culture of the larger organization.

Here’s a sample organizational chart we at TCA developed for a Fortune 50 firm. At the top is the content function before it diverges into two paths – one for brand communications and one for a content center of excellence.

Under brand communications is each brand or line of business followed by these jointly connected teams: content – marcom, social/digital content development and management, center of excellence content – creative leader, center of excellence PR/media relations, customer relationship management, and social advertising.

Under the content center of excellence is the director of content strategy, manager of content traffic, projects, and planning, digital asset operations manager, audience manager, social channel and content specialist, creative manager, content performance and agility specialist, and program specialist.

Click to enlarge

5. Formalize a governance model

No matter how the operational framework is built, you need a governance model. Governance ensures your content operations follow agreed-upon goals, objectives, and standards.

Get a senior-management advocate – ideally someone from the C-suite – to preside over setting up your governance structure. That’s the only way to get recognition and budget.

To stay connected to the organization and its content needs, you should have an editorial advisory group – also called an editorial board, content committee, or keeper of the content keys. This group should include representatives from all the functional groups in the business that use the content as well as those intricately involved in delivering the content. The group should provide input and oversight and act as touchpoints to the rest of the organization.

Pointing to Simon Sinek again for wisdom here: “Passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive, it needs structure. A why without how has little probability of success.”

6. Create efficient processes and workflows

Adherence to the governance model requires a line of sight into all content processes.

How is content generated from start to finish? You may find 27 ways of doing it today. Ideally, your goal would be to have the majority (70% or more) of your content – infographic, advertisement, speech for the CEO, etc. – created the same or in a similar way.

You may need to do some leg work to understand how many ways content is created and published today, including:

  • Who is involved (internal and external resources)
  • How progress is tracked
  • Who the doers and approvers are
  • What happens to the content after it’s completed

Once documented, you can streamline and align these processes into a core workflow, with allowances for outlier and ad-hoc content needs and requests.

This example of a simple approval process for social content (developed for a global, multi-brand CPG company) includes three tiers. The first tier covers the process for a social content request. Tier two shows the process for producing and scheduling the content, and tier three shows the storage and success measurement for that content:

Click to enlarge

7. Deploy the best-fit technology stack

How many tools are you using? Many organizations grow through acquisitions, so they inherit duplicate or overlapping functionality within their content stacks. There might be two or three content management systems (CMS) and several marketing automation platforms.

Do a technology audit, eliminate redundancies, and simplify where possible. Use the inherent capabilities within the content stack to automate where you can. For example, if you run a campaign on the first Monday of every month, deploy technology to automate that process.

The technology to support your content operations framework doesn’t have to be fancy. An Excel spreadsheet is an acceptable starting place and can be one of your most important tools.

The goal is to simplify how content happens. What that looks like can vary greatly between organizations or even between teams within an organization.

Adopting a robust content operations framework requires cultural, technological, and organizational changes. It requires sponsorship from the very top of the organization and adherence to corporate goals at all levels of the organization.

None of it is easy – but the payoff is more than worth it.

Updated from a November 2021 post.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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