On April 28th, I posted a short blog, How to effectively manage content across an organization. That blog was written from the perspective of an individual contributor working in an organization in which content planning and coordination may not be a key priority. I stressed that there are baby steps that we can take to drive a bottom-up movement.

A couple baby steps I mentioned:

  • Start by reaching out to others who are doing a similar job and understand what they are creating.
  • Compare notes on messaging and story framework with other content creators.
  • Find out business and marketing objectives and determine if the content we create ties to corporate objectives.

Erika Heald, Eric Wittlake and Christian De Neef provided the following suggestions, which are incredibly useful:

“Having a cross-company editorial committee, even as an informal best practices sharing group, is a great first step to creating a more consistent, integrated content approach.” —Erika Heald “One I would specifically call out is start by sharing what you are working on and offering to support others. If you show you want to share and contribute first, your request for information back will be seen more favorably.”— Eric Wittlake

“Many content management efforts start with enthusiasm but are rapidly abandoned. Grass roots may be a good start, but in my experience both a little discipline and a supporting technology facilitating content management are needed to achieve something.”— Christian De Neef

Eric’s comment focuses on helping them helping me. Erika’s comment aims to formalize content coordination by creating a cross-company editorial committee. Christian’s comment follows in the same vein aiming to find a way to maintain the traction which is built through grass-roots efforts. Christian is right that a bottom-up approach is hard to sustain in the long run. At some points, the bottom-up needs to be intersected by a top-down commitment in order to persevere in an organization.

In my opinion, the clear signal that a grass-roots effort gaining momentum is when the organization or senior management assigns an editor, a content strategist or a content lead.

If senior management is willing to utilize one headcount or half a headcount to lead, coordinate and monitor content efforts, it means either content is a mess that someone needs to clean up or content is so important that someone needs to be in charge. Either way, that’s great news!! This is particularly true if you want to scale content across different countries and coordinate between the headquarters and regions.

Cross-regional content planning requires leadership.

In general, most content production initiatives tend to start in an organic way with the headquarters and local working in parallel. Here’s one possible scenario for how to get things started: the corporate office starts creating product-related content to educate customers. Product-related content becomes ‘useful features and tips’ content for customers, and evolves into ‘how-to’ guides, product comparisons or even predictions and trends to showcase the company’s expertise. Eventually, different content is then created to educate customers at different stages of the purchase cycle and to facilitate the sales process. Since headquarters has produced content already, for the sake of efficiency it makes sense to leverage the content for other regions.

In reality, not all content translates or localizes well to other languages. The key differences between global content production vs. single country content production is to utilize your team at the local level and incorporate their input up-front.

In general, that’s the best way to do it, but the collaboration process can be lengthy and content creation becomes a consensus approach, which may impact the quality of results. Sometimes, you may need to reject certain local requests in order to maintain content quality. Or the local team may reject corporate assets and completely create their own content. In addition, not all countries’ content is created equally. If your company plans to penetrate specific countries, you need to weigh that in as part of the content creation process, which should be addressed in the global content planning process. I have noticed that headquarters’ teams from many companies continue to create content without much interaction with their local teams – they just share the result of their efforts with them.

This may work if the local teams have the resources and skills to then take the content list and determine which content to localize and translate. This model also works when the products are highly localized and the local team generates quite a lot of original content themselves. However, this may not be very efficient. There is always a trade-off between cost and efficiency for cross-regional content production. Regardless of the size of a company, content planning and coordination between different divisions or across countries can be challenging. Bottom-up and organic collaboration and planning can only take you so far. A top-down approach with management commitment is essential to sustain effective content planning and coordination between divisions and across regions.

Thanks to Erika, Christian, and Eric for sharing their thoughts!

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