Embrace Co-Creation and Diverse Voices — 3 Ways to Get More People Involved in Content Creation
— May 31st, 2022
The corporate newsroom isn't what it used to be.
Channels continue to multiply and decentralize, and people who have grown up on social media fully expect participatory channels. Personally, I’m happy to see the sun setting on the headquarters-based, command-and-control approach that I learned 20 years ago.
In the old days, if business units had their own channels, they kept them hidden from the corporate office. Today co-creation is more welcome, where people in various locations and business units produce and deploy content on their own, out in the open, and in parallel with us at headquarters.
Co-creation is a good thing because it gives us more –
more content, more authenticity, more inclusion.
Yet old-school message discipline still has its place. Leaving co-creators on their own without guidance and support encourages people to guess. With the best of intentions, dispersed co-creators can easily produce versions out of sync with the company's stated strategy.
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No sticks. Just carrots.
We can enable co-creation by providing tools, assets, and training that make adaptation easy and effective. What does an aspiring co-creator need from communicators at headquarters? Here are three foundational practices.
1) Establish real dialogue
Work to understand local creators' strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. Without knowing who those creators are, you can't tailor assets and briefings that are useful.
Which of them organize events, are taking classes in XML, or want to learn to edit video? You won’t know until you get acquainted. These conversations show them respect, bring them into the process, and help keep strategy top of mind.
2) Give them the basics for content planning
People working on content in various business units, geographies, or languages are often in isolation, without the experience, resources, or insight into strategy that those in headquarters have. Imagine yourself as a solo communicator, and help them out with some of the basics:
- A content strategy and calendar — People need some idea about what’s ahead so that they can plan localized or co-created content. Even if it's only penciled in, a heads-up gives them more thinking time.
- Key messages on frequent topics — They may be rote to communicators in the home office, but specific wording on key topics like target markets, industry segments, product offerings, and social goals are confidence building and greatly appreciated. Ideally, they are continually updated and in multiple languages.
- Creative briefings — If you need local support on a global campaign, brief them on the background. Just as any creative vendor or translator would need, co-creators should know what the campaign's purpose is, what outcomes it hopes to achieve, and how success will be measured.
- Visual assets — Very few in business have training in visual design, so they appreciate photos, graphics, and templates that enable them to assemble good-looking content, quickly and easily. Remember that images can be culturally inappropriate in some places, so these assets should be flexible enough that co-creators can adapt them to local language and culture.
3) Training on tools and best practice
One reason that the search function in so many intranets is completely useless is because users weren't trained in applying metadata to the content they post. Regardless of channel, user experience greatly improves if those producing content understand how to properly use the tools they're given.
Training in tools and best practice should be ongoing, not just for new communicators on your team, but also for aspiring co-creators in dispersed business units.
Some areas that should be regularly covered are:
- How to use a messaging brief — Your co-creating network needs to understand that messaging has a shelf-life, and that they should be looking for opportunities to weave in core ideas.
- How to depict the company's Health and Safety practices (H&S) — Or rather, how not to. Photos and videos that are otherwise ideal may get spiked if they show behaviors H&S is trying to eradicate.
- Video best practice — Not everyone with a phone is a videographer. Provide guidance on lighting, audio, and orientation so that they're useable across platforms.
- Legal use of images and music — Professional communicators are careful to check whether assets are acceptable for commercial use, but many others are unaware that something they copied from the web can get the company sued.
Break content into components for maximum reach and better curation
With diverse and multiplying channels, we need people outside of corporate headquarters who have the ability to shape and create content, monitor user experience, assess the relevance of “global” content, and remove what’s outdated, off message, or irrelevant.
Building a network of people who can do that curation can greatly improve collaboration between the regions and the corporate office. Open and ongoing dialogue about goals, tactics, and best practices is one way to achieve it.
At the same time, we in headquarters must learn to let go and trust because communication practices will vary somewhat across locations.
Full co-creation may not be feasible for every market, especially in the short term. But if we can enable greater possibilities for localization, once local ownership and accountability takes root, the evolution toward co-creation is inevitable.