It’s fitting to start the first Pragmatic Content Marketing article of 2017 by reflecting on a trend we picked up on in the last months of 2016 that happens to be, well, very pragmatic! As 2016 wound down, we received a number of requests, ranging from a major Washington DC-based nonprofit to a nationwide insurance company, as well as a number of small businesses asking for what we think is best described as Content Marketing Coaching.
To elaborate, they weren’t necessarily looking for someone to create their content strategy, or to create content, or to build a website. And they weren’t just looking for the expert advice of a consultant. Rather, they were looking for someone to help them validate what they’re doing, to stay on track, and to be there to keep them emotionally vested in the work.
Here are some commonalities we saw, from the largest organization to the smallest business:
- They had spent time–in some cases years–pinballing from one failed attempt to another “to do content marketing,” or “to do social media”
- They had their own written content strategy (a great first step!), but then didn’t know what to do next or how to implement
- They had a need to get buy-in from others in the organization, or in the case of the small businesses, from partners
- They were seeking validation with work they’d already started, before investing more time and money into the project
In response to these inquiries, we found ourselves stepping more into a coaching role than anything else, and became naturally curious about what coaching truly means, as it pertains to content marketing.
Here’s what we’ve learned:
1. Accountability Means Meeting Commitments
Raise your hand if you find it hard to break a promise to yourself to get something done. Hmmm. You probably didn’t raise your hand. Now, raise your hand if you find it hard to break a promise to someone else. I’m betting you raised your hand. The universal truth is that we find it far harder to be accountable to ourselves, than to others. That’s why from sports to business, there’s a role for coaches.
Pragmatic Content Marketing Takeaway: Since content marketing requires getting content produced and distributed, on a calendar schedule, a Content Marketing Coach is the accountability partner that holds you to meeting deadlines.
2. You Need a Guidance Counselor
A good coach in anything, from life to sports to business, is somebody who has been around the track more than just a few times. They are the people who can literally and verifiably claim “been there, done that, got the t-shirt.” Someone who has seen it all before can hone in quickly on issues to provide guidance and solutions with laser-like precision. More often than not, this means telling you what not to do than what to do.
Pragmatic Content Marketing Takeaway: With so many moving parts to content marketing, and limits on human and financial resources, a Content Marketing Coach’s experience-driven guidance can be measured in time and money saved.
3. Provide a Safe Place to Explore Ideas
Important functions of a coach are to listen to ideas, to provide feedback and to provide judgment without being judgmental. This creates a safe environment for brainstorming ideas. For individuals, this can be reassuring and confidence building. For teams (as long as the coach is respected by the whole team), the coach’s input can be the arbiter of ideas for the group.
Pragmatic Content Marketing Takeaway: Particularly in the content strategy development phase a Content Marketing Coach’s input can help distill the full range of ideas down to priorities that all can agree upon.
4. A Source of Moral Support and Motivation
Sometimes, just having someone tell you “you’re doing a great job” is all it takes to run that extra mile or swim that extra lap.
Pragmatic Content Marketing Takeway: Whether it’s that self-critical little voice in your head or the cutting comment of a colleague, you can easily get derailed by even the slightest insecurity in your work. A Content Marketing Coach who nurtures you with positive reinforcement while making corrective adjustments along the way provides invaluable motivation to not only get the work done, but to reach beyond expectations.
5. What Coaches Don’t Do
Have you ever seen a football coach run laps for his team, or a track coach do jumps or throw the shot put for her athletes? Beyond demonstrating technique or skill, that doesn’t happen. The athlete has to do the work his or herself to develop endurance and skills.
Pragmatic Content Marketing Takeaway: A Content Marketing Coach can coach because he or she has considerable experience down in the ditches, planning and producing content. They’ve lived through the challenges, felt the pains and invested the time in their skills. Yet, their value to you is not doing the daily work, but staying out of the fray to provide the impartial guidance you need without being emotionally invested in the actual content being produced.
If you made it this far in this post, there’s a good chance it’s because the issues and challenges in content marketing that have been described ring with an element of truth. If that’s the case, consider working with a coach. It may be just the element you’re missing to keep your content marketing efforts on track for success.