The problem with global marketing campaigns is (almost) the same problem NASA has with space missions: once the whole operation is up and running, you only have so much control over it.
Fortunately, for chief storytellers and mission directors alike, there’s a solution: proactivity—in the form of a well-planned content strategy.
If you’ve decided to launch a global content strategy, you probably have a lot of questions about what, exactly, that planning entails. I spoke to Karen Guglielmo, content marketing manager at Iron Mountain, about her experience in preparing for the new global initiative the company is about to launch. She explained how to plan a launch so that the central content team can achieve the optimal balance with the geographies—what Pam Didner calls a relation of “servant leadership.”
We became a global marketing organization probably two years ago. We had a Western Europe team and also a North American team and it wasn’t working separately, so the decision was to shift to a global model.
On the content marketing side, we came up with a plan to look differently at what we were doing. We wanted to work together—and it really started to take off when we moved to the planning stage the following year, so instead of working on separate plans we worked on a cohesive program. We created a joint content marketing plan for a year, and then is was just a matter of deciding which team would originate the content and which team would localize.
For example: if we had to create something very specific for IT, some IT advanced solutions, we would say, “Okay, this will serve the needs of both the Western Europe and North American regions, but we have a bigger audience in North America, so let’s create it here and then have it localized and customized.”
In marketing there’s a lot of planning and project management involved. We are a global content marketing group, and we create global content but one of the problems that you have is that you forget that in the UK they have perhaps specific needs we don’t have in North America. You have to be careful not to do a one-size-fits-all methodology.
When we first went global, it was more like trying to fill the needs of everyone, but like I said, we took a step back and thought, “Okay, in some places we can be global with what we are sending out, but we really have to focus more on the needs of those regions, not just delivering more global content all the time.” I think we learned that you do need people dedicated to those regions—you need to let the people in Western Europe create assets that are more customizable to their market.
The best-case scenario is that you have someone local to those areas. We have someone in the UK who supports France, Spain, Belgium and the Western European countries, and someone here in North America who supports Canada and the US. It would not work if we were all in North America supporting the needs of all the other countries, because we’re not there and we’re not talking to the people in the country, so we don’t understand all the nuances.
We quickly realized that some roles could be global within the team, and some could not. For instance, social media. We realized we couldn’t have one person overseeing all social media globally because there are too many nuances and specifications in the different countries for someone either in Europe or North America to completely understand and be able to use to speak to all our audiences. There is a person in charge of social media in the UK, [another person in charge of] Western Europe, and someone in North America.
We also have kind of a head of content marketing in both groups because we knew we needed someone to oversee the strategy and to be in regular communications on both sides. And then we tried to have some specialists in different roles who were doing [this] from the execution level, so they were communicating as well, managing calendars, understanding what was going on, producing the content, editing it, and making sure it’s shared with the other groups.
In this way, we’re looking at it globally, but we still meet the needs of the local regions.
Across marketing we have a number of group calendars where people [can] put initiatives and the content they’re sharing. We also use the Skyword Marketing calendar to communicate and share, and actually we’re starting to do these content bazaars (content events) where we’re sharing the content that’s getting created and the content that’s coming down the pipeline with others.
Because that’s the other issue: Even if we’re here in North America, sometimes we’ll hear from the team in Canada “I don’t know what’s going on,
or “I need more content.” There’s always something to improve in order to make communication more effective.
We have a lot of different tools and processes, but it’s important to make sure that everyone is going to the same place to get the same story.
You may not realize how long the translation process will take, and that can become a bump in the road. We would have a suggested plan on when we were going to roll our assets, but we’d have to add up to six weeks, depending on the size of the asset, to get it translated for the different countries.
Again, good communication is of the essence—just making sure we communicate on a regular basis. Even the way you work varies in different regions. In one region you may have a review process that involves different teams, in another location you may have a review process where you don’t have to get anyone to review it, you can publish it directly.
I think having a consistent process for reviewing and publishing content, that is the same in the different regions, makes things a lot easier.
We’re definitely moving toward storytelling. What we realized is we’ve kind of hit a wall in terms of how much we can engage with our customers in the way we create content now. We identified the problem and talked about how our organization can help solve the problem, but we realized we need to reach out to our public in a more engaging way—and storytelling does that.
We need to take the product pitch or the sales pitch out of the puzzle and really focus on the customers’ day-to-day lives, as well as what would resonate with them. The stories around what they do, what’s important to them, and the people they engage with on a personal or professional level is really what’s going to resonate with them.
We have a big initiative under way to do more of this in the March time frame, and we’re confident that’s going to be the next level in engaging with our customers. If we want to do a better job engaging with them and keeping them coming back, I think storytelling would do that.