Encourage Internal Storytelling by Building an In-House Gig Economy
Creativity Marketing Transformation

Your Organization Is Full of Content Creators—You Just Need to Give Them a Platform

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What if some of your most valuable employees are suffering from an identity crisis?

“The engineer in me wants to focus on science, while the musician in me wants to focus on my culture and my art,” writes Brandon Tory, level five senior Google (formerly Apple) engineer. “The human in me just wants to be accepted.”

By day, Tory is a firmware design patent holder whose scientific coding has earned him the respect of fellow tech experts. By night, he’s revered in the music industry and creative community as a prolific, Timbaland-signed hip-hop artist.

Tap the creative internal storytelling potential within your own team members by taking cues from the freelance community.

Image attribution: Austin Neill

In his conflicted status, Tory’s not alone.

  • Brian Rowland is an attorney by day, voice over artist (for hire) by night.
  • Iamdele, an off-the-corporate-clock artist whose most recent EP Barnhouse is worth a listen, works at IBM as a developer.
  • Ian Paget, creative director at Advansys, is a podcaster and logo designer after hours.
  • Theresa Vu, senior vice president of engineering at AT&T’s AppNexus is—when not at her “job”—part of Magnetic North & Taiyo Na, the group whose hit song “Home:Word” sits impressively at number two on Japanese hip-hop charts.

Some of the most creative people in every company are clocking out at night and going to work on their craft. Meanwhile, those organizations are searching elsewhere for more and more creative on-demand talent for marketing collaborations.

Consumers versus Creators

Many director-level marketing practitioners may think to themselves, “Bah, employees have always had hobbies.”

But this is different. These people are working. There’s a huge distinction between hobbies and creative outlets that produce something valuable. For example, Sandy Lerner, co-founder of Cisco Systems, is known to joust in her free time. That’s a hobby. However, she’s also written a novel. Both activities may be pleasurable pursuits, but one endeavor ends up producing a revenue-generating content asset for her personal brand.

Your favorite researcher may be an avid video gamer in his free time. That’s a hobby. But if he amasses a loyal audience on Twitch and grows it into a thriving, connected group, he has moved from consumer to creator. He is a community host. He has produced something of marketing value.

corporate creative talent

Image attribution: Jallen Fosati

When business leaders mistake producers for mere hobbyists, they miss the opportunity to invest in that internal storyteller, become their number-one corporate super fan, and reap the benefits. No one loves a company more than a budding artist, philanthropist, author, or athlete who has just signed that company on as a first-time sponsor.

A World Beyond Employment

A brand can take one of three routes when they realize employees are creating content outside of their regular business roles.

Do nothing

Many business leaders simply view these additional pursuits as activities strictly meant for “after hours” and hope the creative personality doesn’t embarrass the brand by sporting swag with the company logo while “expressing himself.”

Accommodate

PwC recently released a well-produced video promoting their accommodation of internal tech consultant Karlo Siriban’s underutilized talent in dramatic performance. He is so gifted, in fact, that he was called back for eleven rounds of auditions for the famous musical Hamilton. When he began to burn out (pursuing both work and entertaining), instead of fueling his acting dreams, his superiors approached Siriban as an employee who needed better work-life balance. “More flexibility” was their solution. In other words, they offered him more space to “do his thing” offline.

What if the PwC team saw Siriban’s after-hours achievements as an opportunity to co-create? What if they had used that talent in their own video campaigns or presentations? What if they had asked this employee to help them brainstorm the scripts or story arcs of insightfully educating branded films?

Siriban is thankful for the new lenient hours, of course, but an astute strategist would wonder whether there’s a more profitable win-win to explore.

Engage them as consultants

“There is a treasure trove of hidden talent inside our organizations,” writes Dan Pontefract for Forbes.

Tap the creative internal storytelling potential within your own team members by taking cues from the freelance community.

Image attribution: Aaron Mello

“If we were to tap into it through an internal ‘Gig Economy’ platform—giving employees the chance to dedicate 10-20% of their time toward in-house gigs—I am certain you would see improvements in factors such as absenteeism, retention, internal networks, job satisfaction, psychological commitment, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.”

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The variety alone would wake workers up. And the chance of hitting a home run outside of normal duties would spark the imagination, igniting even more innovative marketing collaboration.

For larger organizations producing content at scale who want to utilize the talent of these creative internal storytellers, content marketing software that allows anyone in the organization to browse needs, suggest ideas, and submit content can greatly diminish the administrative burden of managing ideation. The right internal resources make it easy for marketing teams to review and evaluate ideas and ensure they are in line with your brand’s content strategy.

Think of internal storytellers as future influencer marketing agents—co-creators to support. Take a tip from music labels, established news outlets, niche publications, and film studios by incentivizing internal creative employees to continue producing. No, they won’t all turn out to be icons of Steven Spielberg’s caliber, but the would-be stars you nurture will bring with them a growing, loyal audience. Plus, you may trade their conflicting loyalties for an undying gratitude after being discovered as diamonds in the rough.

Skyword360 technology allows internal and external creators across all departments to create and develop content to tell your brand’s story. Learn more.

Featured image attribution: Andrew Neel

Bethany Johnson is a multiple award-winning content marketing writer and speaker. Her work empowers marketers to ditch interrupt advertising in favor of original content that converts passive readers into active followers. Thriving brands like Tom's of Maine, MasterCard, ADP, Fidelity and Philips currently rely on Bethany's fresh style to connect with audiences daily. As a consultant, she combines simple change management principles with her insider knowledge of freelancing to show traditional marketing teams how to flourish in today's wild gig economy. For more, visit bethanyjohnson.com.

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