Pulling Teeth Could Be More Fun (But We've Made It Easy)
Our agency blogs. Every week. Including holidays and during our busiest times of the year (which seems to be always). It is the primary way how we approach inbound marketing. We've been doing it since 2012, and it's gotten us a lot of client leads and business.
But does that mean it is easy? And that everyone on our team rushes to turn in their blogs so we have a ton of content? I wish. In fact, getting blogs written is always a bit of a struggle, but we've finally managed to make it so core to the culture of our company, that it is a task that everyone participates in. Literally everyone, except the office dogs, blog. From the CEO of our company, through all of our employee team members to even our interns blogs are written. In this blog, Hollywood Branded explains how to get your team to blog, and the importance of doing so for marketing your company.
Getting Your Team To Write
I will be the absolute first to say... getting your team to be willing to write for your brand or agency as an added duty is no easy task. Most people are not natural writers, and having a blog assignment sends them back to the terrors of high school English assignments, and they rebel by simply... not writing. Or writing with no heart. And that is exactly what you don't want to have, because no one is interested in reading blog content that has no personality to it.
So don't expect your office to be lining up enthusiastically turning in 800 + word count blogs without making it a must-do versus I'd-like-you-to-do-it job duty.
I hear from other agency owners and brand execs that the task of creating a weekly blog is absolutely impossible. But we are proof that it is not. In fact, we've written over 700 blogs. Yep. That is a lot of blogs. Some are GREAT, and some are just OK. And it's not always the blogs that I think will be the most popular that get thousands of reads every month. But they are consistently read, and I hear from people all the time, unsolicited, that they appreciate the educational value it brings to them.
How We Began Blogging
We started writing back in 2012 as I mentioned... but were lucky that we got out 1 blog per week. And I wrote almost all of them as I had no idea how to get buy in from the rest of our team. 2013 and 2014 pretty much played out the same way, as I'd bring up the idea and get it swatted down. That was before I realized I was in enough of a power position that my requests were turned into requirements. (Hey, it can be a turning point for business stakeholders to realize that they truly run the coop and can make demands for things their team might be resistant to... as it was for me.)
So my next parlay into trying to get other team members to write was by creating it as part of their job description when hired. And that worked a little better. And eventually... a lot better. So we started writing 2 to 3 blogs a week consistently. I still had weeks where my husband watched me madly write at the 11th hour past midnight on Sundays to make sure our blog newsletter that we also started sending out every Monday had content in it to read.
And then... we managed to get to that magic number of 4 to 5 blogs per week.
Triumph!!!! We now consistently hit that number and I'm no longer banging my head against the table to quite the same degree as I was before, as we built an incentive program, that works, and gets blogs written! I still have my weeks where my mad dash Sunday writing happens... but overall, we've created a solution to get everyone to write, which I'll talk a little more about below.
The Amount Of Blogs You Write Matters
Why 4 or 5 blogs a week? Isn't that a crazy number to try to achieve? I mean come on... that is over TWO HUNDRED blogs a year.
But that's what Google research was saying we needed to do a couple of years ago to truly get traction. At least 16 blogs a month. And I will tell you... it worked. With each blog written, our viewership impressions would rise. And not simply by the number of blogs written. But by some tricky math formula where we were seeing doubling, tripling or more of views. The more we wrote, the higher that incremental return would be. And our views went from the hundreds every month to over 15,000... and still is growing.
Google liked that we wrote consistently, and now typically positions our content on the first page for key search terms. We've made ourselves a recognized and validated contributor to all things influencer and entertainment marketing driven on the internet. And in today's world of preference to inbound marketing versus outbound advertising strategies... that has made a world of difference.
But there was still resistance from others on the team to join in on writing. So I kept upping the stakes from pleading and begging, to finding a reward system that actually works.
Why We Write - A Deeper Look
In our office, I mandate that everyone writes. It is how I see the potential for our business to continue to grow and survive. I've watched many of our competitors go out of business, and I know that our writing is helping keep us in business. It not only gets us new business through clients who read our blogs and then reach out, but even more importantly, it makes our team continue to learn.
In order to write, you either need to know the subject matter already, or to be able to do research, pulling together ideas and making a plan. And with how fast technology and the social world is changing things, keeping abreast of new trends, marketing tactics and advertising means having better solutions and knowledge to help our clients continue to grow their own companies.
So when our team is challenged with a subject and not sure how to provide something even close to an expertise viewpoint, or strongly stated point of view of a marketing strategy, they figure it out. And teaching your team to figure things out, to do research, to come up with new ideas, keeps us energized and at the ready to help clients in even more ways.
It's actually that - figuring things out - that the whole educational school system has evolved to, which is what the fundamentals of Common Core are all about. It's not about memorizing facts and stats... but having the ability to find the information, and make it understandable to yourself and others.
Plus, our team's own communication via email and even conversations improves, because through blog writing they begin to think in a more ordered fashion, providing the set up, the facts, and a take away conclusion.
And that's why I don't just say screw it and go and outsource 3rd party writers, which I could do, and which financially might be a smarter move, as the hours it can take for a team member to write, when I figure in the cost of their hourly salary, can be quite high. I am actually investing in my team by making them write (even if they don't see it!) because it is improving them as individuals, and improving their capabilities for their current - and future - career.
But hiring 3rd party writers IS an option for brands and agencies to consider. And is quite frankly, a great way to start a blog programming so that you know you absolutely will have content to post. It's one of the reasons brands hire us!
The Incentive Program
I realize that writing blogs is not an easy pill for everyone to swallow. But the thing is... I have yet to meet anyone who is not (or cannot be helped to be) a good writer, if they can find a topic they feel passionately about.
So what IS this magic system we've created that gets everyone to write, consistently, month in and month out? It was one born from a day that I was fed up and bluntly looked at everyone and said "I pay you. Why won't you write?"
And we had a conversation.
It turned out that their paycheck, or the implication that it was part of their job to write, just wasn't going to hack it. One team member suggested I dock their pay if the team didn't write. Well... California law, as well as federal law... doesn't really allow that to happen legally. So that wasn't a solution, and it wasn't a solution I would have felt good doing either.
Another team member said, why don't I give them something if they wrote, whether that was money or a tangible object. And of course as a business owner I sat there thinking "I'm already paying you!" So that wasn't going to cut it either. But it did start me to think about other solutions.
Any agency or brand owner, or executive who has been working these last 20 years can tell you, the world we live in today is not what we entered the workplace with. We killed ourselves in overtime. We put work as the first priority. We eyed that potential higher paycheck as the golden prize along with career advancement. And that, simply, isn't what the workforce today is comprised of.
So what is that special sauce that gets people to go beyond and to do what is needed? Honestly - peer pressure.
How It Works
My goal with Hollywood Branded has always been to create a team environment where we help one another out, and we help our clients out. Positive reinforcement versus negative. We grow as a company, we grow as a team, you grow as an individual. With perks that support that.
And that is a core value that if an employee doesn't have, they can guarantee themselves that they will not be an employee for long. It's my expectation, a boundary I won't allow crossed, and it took a long time to get there.
So going back to that statement of "Peer Pressure"... what I mean by that is, I realized that while some people will always drive themselves to do their part, others don't have that drive. And they need a little help, or push, to get them to that other side.
So our incentive program to write blogs is really simple.
- Determine How Many Blogs Per Individual
- We have a set number of blogs each person has to write. Most people have 2 blogs a month, others who might have tremendous other responsibilities that are of great value to the company, only 1.
- Create A Check Off List
- We have a form for each month, with everyone's name on it, that provides a box that can be checked off when each blog is written. And it is on the wall in a center location in our office that everyone can visit. Every time a person turns in their blog, they can check off that they have done so. Very publicly. With a big fat red marker.
- Set Due Dates
- When we started this incentive system, the due date was 'last day of the month'. Which meant that if the month was on a Sunday, I had people turning in blogs that Sunday afternoon. And it also meant that some people kinda forgot over the weekend... so now we have a date in the middle of the month and just prior to the end of the month. Because in all honesty, your team is made up primarily of procrastinators. Everyone is. And that last day means the whole day will be spent writing ALL of their blogs at once otherwise.
- Assign Topic Idea Starters
- Don't just let your team come up with their own topic to start. Because you will (I promise you) get some things written on topics that are quite surprising. You can keep a list of topics that you update from articles you read or ideas you have, and post them to a shareable document.
- Write Example Blogs
- You need to set up a layout that everyone is going to follow. Obviously you want an intro, at least several supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. But what else do you want? How do you want titles to be formatted? Where do you want line breaks to occur? And what about natural locations for other blogs your team has written to be re-introduced in the conversation and called out? Plus call-to-action graphics (CTAs) and well... so much more. If you can get your team to write and create the headers and format in such a way as you will be publishing, it makes it a lot easier to have a consistent brand style. It's the same as a brand style guide. Figure out how you want everything to look.
- Set The Blog Tone
- You need to set the tone of your blogs. While everyone can be credited with being the writer of their blogs, they do need to speak the voice of the company overall. You can't have one blog that says "XYZ" is great, and another that "XYZ" is bad... and you also need everyone to know that the voice of their writing directly impacts what people think of the company as a whole - beyond what people will think of them.
- And then CELEBRATE when EVERYONE turns in a blog.
- Yep. That's our incentive program. When (not if) everyone turns in a blog... we celebrate by having a team lunch bought for everyone. And I'm not saying it has to be a grandiose lunch. We had Shake Shack the other day. It's the fact that everyone is getting to be a part of the team lunch. And that maybe it is a little bad for you and a lot yummy...
- The Peer Pressure Aspect
- I mentioned it before - I was relying a lot on peer pressure to get these blogs written. My goal was to have everyone see who had not yet turned in their blogs... and have the team poke them, prod them, catcall them... whatever it took so it was not ME poking them... to write their blog.
But that last part had a flaw that had to be fixed.
Remember We Are A Team
Being a team, performing as a team, growing as a team... all core values to Hollywood Branded. So the missing ingredient, the flaw that had to be fixed... was bringing in that TEAM component.
And when I say celebrate when EVERYONE turns in a blog, that is the magic part of this whole thing. Because when we first launched this... someone STILL didn't turn in a blog. Despite everyone else doing so. And it was an intern.
And I was faced with a decision. Do I penalize EVERYONE or just that one person. That would have been just mean and not constructive to building a team environment.
So this is what I came up with. And it is quite simple.
When we have a client project that is due, and for whatever reason someone doesn't pull their weight on it, we still have to do the project. We still have to submit it. And our team does step up and do that.
So why would an internal project be any different? It's not. Because we have made Hollywood Branded our client. Our focus in getting the agency's required tasks done is just as important as getting our client's tasks done.
There is not an option to lose. We do not fail. And we do write every last one of those blogs that were assigned to be written. The entire team is responsible for doing their pokes and prods and learning how to better poke and prod - including Interns. Which helps them grow their own management skills. And if that individual - whether employee or intern fails - then the weight of finishing that task is still up to the team to do.
And I had to say that, out loud, for everyone to get it. And for me to get it too.
Which means that now, if someone, anyone, doesn't write their required blogs - then someone else is absolutely responsible for picking up the ball and getting it down the field, into the goal. They can be the hero, as long as the entire team wins.
And it is working. We have a blog lunch every month, I am much less stressed about how to accomplish it, and am now getting more sleep on Sunday nights. Which in turn likely makes my employees happier to be around me on Monday mornings. And my family too.
Our Blog Goal
All of our content marketing has one goal: To teach, solve problems and provide information that no one else does. And we do it in great abundance. In our case, we want to provide someone with the knowledge on how they are going to be spending their marketing dollars, and that they know our agency guarantee stands true: that by working with us they will save more and get more out of the campaign (that they would never know to ask for), with us than without us.
Make sure you check out our blog on blogging! 7 Reasons Why We Blog Besides The Sales Results We Get
Really, blogging is just brand-owned content. And while I certainly believe every brand, whether targeting consumers or businesses, should have an active voice, what really matters is that the brand has any voice. So if your brand isn't ready to start blogging and creating content, think about ways you can leverage 3rd party voices - like influencers and other content creators, and find ways to create brilliant product placement programs where your brand becomes interwoven into their social posts, TV shows, music lyrics or feature films.
So check out some of our other agency blogs that talk about best marketing practices for product placement and brand integration partnerships:
- 4 Common Myths About Product Placement Debunked
- 10 Surprising Reasons Why Brands Do Product Placement
- 8 Ways To Use Product Placement Assets To Amplify Your Brand Into Sales
- 3 Important Steps In Planning Product Placement Strategy
- Thinking Product Placement Cost Is High (It Isn't!)
To learn more about influencer marketing, check out these five blogs we've written that dive more deeply into how you can successfully create an influencer marketing campaign:
- 3 Insights To Create Affordable Influencer Marketing Campaigns
- 3 Things Brands Need To Understand About FTC Guidelines On Influencers
- 3 Tips To Make Your Brand Appealing To Top Social Media Influencers
- 5 Signs Your Brand Should Invest in Influencer Marketing
- 8 Step Guide On How Much To Spend On Social Influencer Marketing
- Why An Influencer Isn't Responding To Your Inquiries
And take a moment to read about how you can best partner with influencers in our Only Guide To Social Media Influencers You Need!