One of the most powerful TED talks on leadership is by Rosabeth Moss Kantor: “Six Keys to Leading Positive Change”. It’s a concise but also a deep talk about what it takes to be a change agent (or as you will: a leader). And while it’s uplifting, it doesn’t neglect the manifold challenges, bottlenecks and botherations that always occur in the wake of change.
Kantor boils down the concept of leadership to this mantra:
Show up. Speak up. Look up. Team up. Never give up. Lift others up.
I have been mulling these over for a few months now, and as far as ‘leadership in a nutshell’ concepts go, this is the one that resonates with me the strongest. It’s concrete, it’s simple, it’s catchy and super easy to remember. You can write it on a post-it note and stick it on your mirror as a daily reminder (as I did. I recommend it).
So how does this apply to content marketing?
When it is your job to introduce content marketing to organizations that have always relied on outbound to bring home the bacon, you are a game changer. Challenging the status quo – even when ‘business as usual’ stopped working – is tricky business. And when the results of whatever you’re trying to achieve are not immediate or at least short-term – as they never are in content marketing – people can get sceptical and uncooperative real quick.
Kantor’s mantra helps you deal with that, and even avoid it, up to a certain point.
Let’s see how this works.
Show up + Speak up
Woody Allen once famously said: “80% of success is showing up”. Now, showing up (and speaking up) can mean many things. Show up at your desk every single day (or wherever you work) and do the work. Don’t just talk, walk your talk. Show your face. Be available (as Kantor says).
All of these apply, but in the case of content marketing, it first and foremost means: doing the rounds. Today, content marketing is still largely misunderstood (I write about the biggest myth in content marketing here). A lot of marketing people still struggle with it. So how can we expect non-marketers to automatically ‘get’ it in all its complexity? This means that, as a content marketer, you’ll have to show up and explain your craft almost constantly.
So yes, it is your duty to abandon the safety of your desk and ‘work the room’. Not just the marketing room, but also the business departments. You have to evangelize far and wide. You can’t just make a fancy slide deck and then expect your Marketing Director to do the evangelizing for you (this does not work). You’ll have to go out and talk with and confront people yourself.
Daunting as this may seem, it has many benefits. People will get know your face. You’ll experience their gut-feel reactions firsthand (and yes, some of these might be ugly). You’ll know what preconceptions and misconceptions they have. You’ll get the lot: feedback, questions, criticism, ideas, bored looks and yes … enthusiasm. All of this is stuff you can and should work with.
The enthusiasm will help you get a foot in the door, especially in large organizations. If you find one single department or business unit that is receptive to your story, and willing to invest time and money in it, you are on your way. I guarantee you: if things work out well, and they will if you do the work, the rest will follow. Some people just need to see the cake, before they decide they want a slice too.
So here’s a to-do for 2019
If you don’t already have them on your radar (and to be honest, you should), find out who your stakeholders are. Who in your organization needs to be convinced (enough) in order for you to be able to move on? Go out and schedule talks with them. Ask a lot questions, so you can get a first-hand idea of how they think and feel about marketing in the organization. Don’t try to impress them with jargon, don’t judge, don’t try to immediately fix. Then go back to your desk and draft a marketing plan that proves you have a vision, you listened to them and you care.
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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash