How to Create a Culture of Content in Your Organization

Want to make an impact to your bottom line? Maybe you’re a non-profit and need more donors; a government organization looking for more community engagement; or a business looking to build a brand. No matter which type of organization you are, embracing a Culture of Content will have a significant positive impact on the way you work.

What is Content?

If we went around the room and asked, chances are, we’d get as many answers as there are opinions. Let’s face it. Content is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days, but we don’t have a solid definition for exactly what it means. “Blogs,” one person might answer. “Social Media,” another would say. While these terms are definitely aspects of content, they don’t represent this complex topic completely. So, I propose we start thinking of content like this:

Content is any piece of communication, in print, digital, or verbal form, that is created with a purpose. > (Tweet this.)

Content is the lifeblood of your organization. Just as our body pumps blood from our heart to our limbs, businesses, non-profits, and government organizations have content that flows from their core vision to the extremities of execution. You can often judge the health of an organization based on how content flows, because content is synonymous with intentional communications.

What is Culture?

Similar to content, culture is a business buzzword that gets thrown around. But what does it mean? Culture is a shared set of beliefs and behaviors. It’s not a mission statement that sits on a shelf. It’s not a retreat where memories fade. It’s present in every decision of every person every day.

Culture can make or break a company, and it all starts with people. In their book, Scaling Up Excellence, Stanford professors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao share that, “plenty of evidence shows that who an organization hires has deep and enduring effects on culture and performance.”

When you think of people in an organization, you likely think of a traditional hierarchical organizational chart. But when we think of people and culture, a more accurate metaphor may be wagon wheel.

If your organization is going to go anywhere, it needs to overcome the friction in the marketplace. There are many forces working against you: competition, environment, legal, market awareness, etc. Your people, specifically their shared beliefs and actions, or culture, are the key to moving forward.

Visionary Team: The Culture Hub

At the center is your visionary team, your wellspring of culture. These people create the framework of a culture and they are at the center of it all. They’re the hub, and without them, there is nothing to connect to.

Managers & Supervisors: The Culture Spokes

It’s easy to overlook the importance of middle management, but they are essential to culture. Managers and supervisors are culture ambassadors. They help make sure the vision of the core team makes it out to the rest of the organization. They motivate staff and keep the mission alive in day-to-day operations.

Worker Bees: The Culture Rim

On the outside of our culture wheel are the worker bees: which are people performing specific functions to keep the organization moving. This is the largest part of the organization.

Language: The Culture Banding

Finally, we have the thing that holds it all together. On a wagon wheel, this is typically metal banding. For our culture wheel, documentation holds our culture together. It’s impossible for the visionary team to be present at every possible interaction, so having clear and memorable language keeps a culture working as a cohesive unit. These are the soundbites we hear as we interact with our co-workers; the shared vernacular that keeps a culture alive.

What is a Culture of Content?

We have a good grasp of culture and a firm understanding of content. What happens when we put them together? Magic. Culture and Content go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Each is fantastic on their own, but when they’re combined, it takes things to a whole new level.

A Culture of Content occurs when leaders:

  1. recognize the importance that communication plays in every facet of their organization, and
  2. actively work to align their people, prose and process to improve the bottom line.

People

People are at the heart of every brand. Organizations that embrace a Culture of Content actively scout and screen for people who will naturally fit into their organization’s culture. They provide training to help every employee, no matter their role, use language to become an ambassador of the brand. Everyone embraces a shared understanding of the importance of effective communication.

Prose

Language ties our culture together, so it’s no surprise that organizations with a strong Culture of Content have clear, repeatable language that everyone in their organization can consistently use. They arm their workforce with the words they need to achieve a vision. They look for opportunities to connect in every corner of their communications. They look for opportunities to put their brand voice into every nook and cranny. And they know that clear communication is just as important in the legal department as it is in marketing.

Process

Content flows through an organization like blood courses through our veins. And just like our complex circulatory system, any kink in the plumbing, no matter how small, can have devastating effects. Organizations with a Culture of Content create workflows that keep content pumping throughout their organization. They’ve worked hard to provide tools that enable collaboration and can secure approvals quickly. They can produce content quickly and react to opportunities in real-time because they understand the critical role process plays in producing quality communications.

So what organizations have a Culture of Content? The ones where it’s a pleasure to interact with in any touch point. For me, that’s Buffer, JetBlue, Zappos, MailChimp, Copyblogger, and of course, The Goulet Pen Company (Full disclosure: Goulet Pens is a client and owned by my brother. They're small, but still kick most large company’s you-know-what when it comes to content marketing.)

What about you? What brands am I missing? I’m currently looking for examples for my book and would really value your feedback.

Oh, and if you like this post, head over to cultureofcontent.com to sign up to be the first to know when the book is released and get all sorts of goodies along the way. Right now, that’s scheduled for early 2015.