How I’ve begged, bribed and cried, but finally got my colleagues to contribute to the Axonn blog

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When I first started at Axonn over a year ago, the main focus of my job description was to write and manage the content of the Axonn blog.

It seemed easy enough - keep my eye on the latest developments in content marketing, look out for national holidays we could relate to content marketing (personal favourites include “content marketing lessons from national curry week” and how we tried to make egg week happen) and write a list of potential ideas for content which I would then email to the whole company, begging them to write for the Axonn blog. If anyone had their own unique idea they wanted to write about I would jump on them, no matter how relevant - or not - their content was to our audience.

The good thing about working for a content marketing agency in this context is that at least the majority of the people at Axonn are strong writers, which I know is not necessarily something that every company has access to. So every week I had a steady flow of content.

The problem was a lot of this was merely content for content’s sake. I was posting content daily, on topics that might have been fun and relevant to content marketing, but we weren’t posting enough content that really demonstrated our knowledge and expertise. It often felt like we were giving the same advice over and over, only sometimes it was through comparing content marketing to a Madras or Pulp Fiction.

So it was time to change. It was time to step back and let our in-house experts talk about what was relevant to them, not just squeezing their knowledge into the shape of “content marketing lessons from horror films”.

The first thing we did was to address our strategy and user journey. What kinds of content do we need on our site? What does our overall strategy look like? Being just one person who - while knowledgeable in my area of content creation - didn’t have the experience to write the higher-level content we needed for some of our personas, I needed help.

The next change we had to make was to say "no" to daily content in favour of choosing quality over quantity. We decided to cut down from 4-5 pieces of content per week to just 2-3 pieces of high-quality content. So how did we get that high-quality content?

Instead of trying to get everyone at Axonn to write, we wrote a list of the people we would most like to contribute, and whom we thought might be the most likely to want to contribute to the blog. This included the CEO, the MD, the majority of the heads of departments and specialist writers who we knew would have a unique knowledge of their sector that we might have previously ignored.

Then we wrote them a really flattering email (the subject line might have been “we need your expertise!” and we might have repeatedly referred to them as experts. And used roughly one exclamation mark every ten words) explaining that we would like them to contribute one piece of content every six to eight weeks, and asking whether they would like to get involved.

Once the majority of people had said yes, I created a spreadsheet of everyone who agreed and scheduled each of their pieces of content. People are busy, so I scheduled in at least three pieces of content every week, with the intention of posting two.

Then to ensure people didn’t forget, I emailed everyone three weeks before their content was due asking for an idea. I attached our persona guide and also our content checklist, made sure they understood our strategy and user journey, but otherwise gave them complete freedom to write on whatever they wanted. I put reminders in their calendars for both their ideas and their content and warned them that I would mither them senseless if they were late.

By getting ideas in early it gave both parties plenty of time to think around their topics - what graphics might this need? Could we collaborate? Would this work better as an interview? Which persona is this aimed at? Where are they in the user journey? As I said, we have a lot of strong writers here at Axonn, but we also have a lot of busy people, so in some cases it was easier for me to give someone a call and interview them rather than them spending their precious time writing something up for me. It also gives me time, if necessary, to get people to elaborate, develop or change their content, but thankfully, I rarely have to do this.

To make this process as smooth as possible, I send out constant reminders and I try to make myself constantly available to our team of contributors. It isn’t perfect, but it’s working. Some weeks all the content comes in on time, other weeks I’m chasing people constantly, but by planning ahead I always have at least two pieces of high-quality content per week.

Key Takeaways

1. Make it easy for people to contribute

Give them the freedom to contribute as much or as little as they like, and help them with clear deadlines and as much support as possible.

2. Take advantage of the amazing resources you already have

I’m sure you have some real experts in your company, so take advantage of them! Flatter them with an email that expresses how much you need their knowledge and encourage them to write about what they know and what they’re interested in - not just what you think they’re interested in.

3. Hand-pick your contributors

By asking everyone in the company every month to contribute we were getting nowhere. Even if people were initially excited about getting involved, asking everyone every month to write meant there was a general lethargy of “someone else will do it”. By asking a specific group of people, and outlining early on what was expected of them, people were much more bought-in.

4. Give them some guidance

Make sure everyone who contributes understands your personas, your strategy, your user journey and what you are trying to get out of your content. Getting content is great, but if it doesn’t fit your tone, personas or journey it won’t be genuinely useful.

5. Be impossible to ignore

If someone has agreed to a deadline with you, stay on their case! Offer all the support you can, be available, offer to do an interview if they don’t have time to write, and make sure they are constantly aware of their own deadlines. Get stuff done!

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