Over the course of 18 months, Rachel Schickowski and Stan Miller implemented a content marketing platform – a hub for all the marketing content of Rockwell Automation – for a team of 600 marketers around the world.
Most of us wouldn’t have a clue how to accomplish such a feat. Luckily for us, Rachel and Stan shared their story at Content Marketing World, Implementing a CMS in Global B2B Organization.
(Note: While they used the term “CMS” in the title, they later clarified that the term “content marketing platform” better fits what they’re talking about.)
Why they did it
Rockwell Automation – a 100-year-old company with over 22,000 employees, the largest in the world dedicated to automation technology – generates a lot of marketing content. That content (white papers, videos, case studies, brochures, advertising, magazines, blog posts, and more) used to be scattered among servers and hard drives all over the world, and the content processes used to be disconnected and uncoordinated.
Editorial calendars, too, were all over the place, as Stan describes:
Our customer magazine’s editorial calendar sat on an intranet site. Our blog calendar sat on a shared drive in our U.K. office. Our case-study program was being managed on a SharePoint site run by our agency. Content calendars were managed by various business units on various shared drives and desktops.
When tools and processes are that fragmented, no one can get a strategic view of the enterprise marketing content, and the enterprise can’t fully realize the value of that content.
When tools & processes are fragmented, no one can get a strategic view of content. @stanmiller #CMWorld
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Rachel and Stan wanted a tool to manage all the content and processes for all the marketing teams, from idea to creation to distribution to governance to analytics. They wanted to know what content their marketing teams were creating, how well it was working, and whether they had enough of the right thing. They needed a digital way to hold all that content and all that information about the content.
They needed an enterprise content marketing platform.
A content marketing platform is a hub for planning, producing, distributing, and analyzing content. It works with all content formats, including video, HTML, PDF, and zipped source files.
Rachel and Stan describe it as “a huge filing cabinet in the cloud, giving everyone access with a real-time view of the latest content revision or workflow update.”
A #contentmarketing platform is like a huge filing cabinet in the cloud, says @legisnotbroken @stanmiller.
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How they did it
Rachel, who has played various content-related roles at Rockwell Automation, oversaw the platform’s implementation, developing the infrastructure and leading the effort. Stan, editorial lead for the company’s Global Customer Communications group, provided the content and developed the processes.
Here’s their approach to researching and implementing a new platform.
You need leadership support when you roll out a new #contentmarketing platform. @legisnotbroken @stanmiller
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Form a steering committee
“Find some friends,” they advise, and form a steering committee. Include stakeholders who bring a variety of content perspectives. Examples:
- People from various regions
- People who own budgets
- People responsible for content strategy
- Content creators
- Translation coordinators
Choose people who can poke holes and show what they would need in the tool, what gaps they see so that they can help you assess tools as you go through product demonstrations.
Get support from leadership early
Keep your company’s leadership apprised. You need their advocacy when you roll out the new platform.
Clarify your requirements
Find out what each team needs from a content management platform. “After you understand your requirements, you can be on a demo call for five minutes and know right away, ‘Nope, not the right one for us,’ and move on,” Rachel says.
If you aren’t clear on your requirements, you can waste a lot of time in the vetting process.
Determine how each platform would manage your campaigns, fit with your workflows (which vary from group to group), and integrate with your tech stack. How easy is it to use? “Find a platform that people will embrace,” Rachel says.
Decide which content to migrate
You can’t bring your whole content repository into a new platform. Consider using the platform, at least at first, for new content only. If you bring in legacy content, focus on your best content.
You can’t bring whole repository into a new platform. Focus on your best content. @legisnotbroken @stanmiller
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Learn from pilot projects
From the beginning – in tandem with your other activities – create pilot projects where the need is greatest in your organization.
For example, Rockwell teams in Asia Pacific and Latin America managed emails in Eloqua and wanted help. They created a pilot using the B2B content marketing platform Kapost, which supported them in dealing with translations, time zones, and their own vendors.
Since Kapost integrates with Eloqua, they could connect the process of creating content and the process of building email assets. (In this case, Eloqua emails were the content, and Kapost was the platform that managed that content.) Content owners also had access to analytics.
Stan suggests stress-testing a platform in multiple ways. His team followed on the heels of their colleagues in Latin America, doing a pilot project with the Rockwell Automation blog. “Integrating our processes and content development into the platform helped us refine our processes, find ways to save time, speed up reviews, and activate our content more quickly and efficiently,” he says.
Stan also did a pilot with Rockwell Automation’s long-running case-study program, which followed strict processes for internal review, customer review, and legal review. Bringing those processes into the platform helped the team confront its overly long workflow and revealed places where the user interface needed new fields (for example, one to capture reviewers’ feedback).
“Our pilot projects taught us a lot,” Stan says. “We fed back to Rachel what we learned so that she could engage the platform vendor and move us forward in refining the tool.”
During the pilots, Rachel and Stan figured out how to configure the platform, how to conduct training, and what kind of strategy they needed. “Some pilots overlapped with the start of training,” Rachel explains. “The pilots gave us about three months to get a deeper understanding of the platform and anticipate the questions content creators would ask.”
Configure the platform
Several factors go into configuring a content marketing platform:
If you don’t have documented personas and buyer’s journey stages for your company, start there – possibly with the help of your steering committee.
Consider your content types and taxonomy. If you’ll be integrating multiple repositories, you need to align your tagging and file naming, for example.
Consider your teams’ workflows. “Everyone has an opinion,” Rachel warns. “You may feel pressured to add steps, which can lead to overlong workflows that are hard on people using the platform.”
She says, “You don’t want to spend a lot of admin time checking off boxes and not doing the things that you enjoy doing. Limit the workflow to the hand-off points. If I’m creating a brochure, and someone’s reviewing it, those would be my two steps. You don’t need all of the details in between; otherwise, it becomes clunky.”
Work with your vendor to adapt the user interface, adding custom fields as needed.
Consider how existing technologies need to be integrated with your platform.
Lean on a reliable third party
Stakeholders often hold opposing points of view, which can take your research or your implementation, as Stan says, “off the rails or down a rat hole.” Bring in a third party – a rep from a vendor or an independent consultant – who can say, “Look guys, we hear everything you’re saying. We’ve been down this road before. Here are some best practices that may help you along your way.”
Plan for governance
As part of governance, create policy: Here’s how long content lives in the platform. Here’s the point at which we delete it.
Also determine your access policies (which will, among other things, enable you to estimate the number of licenses you need when you create a contract with your vendor):
- Who gets an account?
- What rights does each person or role have?
- When do we add and delete people?
- Which partnering agencies get access?
Finally, create policies for content development. Make it clear who submits ideas for a content type and who does not. You don’t want to create an environment for collaboration and then invite chaos.
Stan suggests setting up the platform so anyone who requests the creation of new content must include a strategy for the content, an audience for the content, a location for that content, and a call to action. Then, rather than seeing someone in an elevator and saying, “Hey, I want a brochure,” people must go into the platform and answer these questions before anyone creates that content. “Processes like that force us to be more strategic,” Stan says.
Any content request must include a strategy, audience, location, & call to action. @stanmiller #CMWorld
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Train people with care
Customize your training sessions according to the ways each group or role will use the platform. “Customization makes the information more ‘sticky’ and gets people into the tool faster,” Rachel says.
Train people in the functionality they will find valuable. For example, Stan says, “I can’t tell you the glory of centralized calendars. You can bring up your blog calendar for the entire year and overlay it with your magazine’s calendar for the entire year and your six e-newsletters that may be going out over the course of the year.”
Prepare training in a way that has people walking away excited about the things the platform enables them to do.
To reinforce your training, find internal champions – super-users – throughout the organization who can help answer people’s questions.
Consider setting up a series of lunch-and-learns, as Rachel did, inviting platform users to meet in person or call in, providing feedback on their experiences, and asking questions.
Collect and prioritize feedback
Be prepared for positive feedback as platform users see their productivity increase. For example, when all reviewers’ comments are centralized in the platform instead of lost in countless email chains, people save time on review cycles. Stan gives his own example of positive feedback when he says of Rachel, “I can’t heap enough praise upon this fabulous person next to me for how she made my job easier.”
And be prepared for criticism. No content marketing platform is perfect. Document and prioritize people’s criticisms. Have frank conversations with your vendor about how the system needs to evolve. Stan says, “You’re always going to have a wish list as you get more sophisticated in your content management.”
Here are some examples of criticisms people may have about a content marketing platform. Devise a system for documenting and prioritizing feedback like this:
Have top executives make it clear: Using the platform is not optional
When it was time to invite all marketers to use the new platform, Rachel and Stan had corporate leaders behind them, ready to explain why this platform was important to the business and that using it was not optional.
“We needed everyone in,” Rachel says. “If anyone’s not using the tool, it doesn’t work. You can’t have a global hub if only half of the people use it.”
Rachel underscores the importance of support from the top:
Our directive came from the VP of marketing. Her team was accountable to foster the change management. If it had been left to my (content operations) manager and me to drive the change, we would have failed.
Be realistic in the time you allow for this kind of project.
Be realistic in the time you allow for implementing a #contentmarketing platform. @legisnotbroken @stanmiller
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It took Rachel, Stan, and their team 18 months to research and implement a platform for Rockwell Automation’s global marketing teams. The timeline looked like this:
Rachel credits the content-ops and demand-gen teams with doing great research. They had to understand the need and the integration expectations. They had to get buy-in from stakeholders in all the regions. “We had heard that the average company takes three to six months to choose, so our timing might seem sleepy. But rolling out a tool to 22,000 people is a lot to ask,” Rachel says.
If your content marketing platform fits your company’s needs, “it’s worth all the work,” Stan says. “It’s a huge win. Your colleagues love you. You get a raise. A bonus. A promotion. Hands across the company.”
How about it? Have you seen your career take off after putting a platform in place? Or do you have stories with not-so-happy endings? Either way, please share your experience in a comment.
Here’s an excerpt from Rachel and Stan’s talk:
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
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