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Content marketing for internal communicators

Published Jun 04, 2019 – By Martin MacConnol


It’s easy to think of content marketing as a very different discipline to internal communications. Easy but wrong.

In fact, as time goes by, we at Wardour become more and more aware of how many of the lessons we have learned in content marketing are really useful in internal communications.

This is because, content marketing at its heart does something unique. Disciplines like PR, advertising and marketing are focused on selling a product or promoting a corporate message. Content marketing by contrast, is focused on the audience. As Theodore Levitt, a Harvard Economics professor, once put it: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter inch-hole.”

This ‘quarter-inch hole’ is the focus for every content marketer, because they know that when you focus on what the audience wants, not on the company product or message, you get a different and (maybe) deeper reaction in the audience. At some level they are grateful for the brand’s empathy with their challenges and that gratitude translates to trust. And trust, as everyone knows, is the bedrock for long-term engagement with a brand.

What we’ve seen over the years is that this brand engagement is far more wide ranging than just marketing a product. So, briefs we work on can be about higher audience retention rates, greater advocacy or stronger engagement with a corporate mission.

In fact, it’s to be regretted in some ways that content marketing has become the ubiquitous term it now is. It makes it feel like something on the other side of the fence to internal communications. It also makes it seem like an alternative discipline to marketing, advertising, PR and communications. In fact, it is simply an approach that has the power to enrich each and every one of them.

Which brings us back to internal comms, because content marketing has the ability to enrich this discipline too. We are not saying that every internal comms brief needs a content marketing angle, just as we would not claim that every advertising or PR brief needs one. But we would suggest that most internal comms briefs would be improved by a touch of content marketing.

So, what are the content marketing lessons that can be applied to internal comms? Well with 23 years of experience under our belt, there are layers and layers of granular insights we could share, but two core points strike us time and again.

First: don’t be top down with the corporate messaging. Obviously, there is a need for senior colleagues to set the strategy and to show leadership. But we find messages are better absorbed when that strategy is ‘owned’ by the front-line team, when they can see it in action and visualise how it makes a difference.

Second: what inspires every audience is an emotional connection. So, work hard to balance emotional as well as rational angles when you communicate with your colleagues.

Martin MacConnol is CEO of Wardour.  To discover more about how Wardour can help you with your content requirements, call us on +44 (0)20 7033 0999 or email hello@wardour.co.uk

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