Guest post by Niki Vecsei Harrold and Laurel Nicholes

An increasing number of consumers no longer want to hear from one, authoritative voice. They don’t trust—or feel compelled to rely upon— your “official” communication channels. That’s because an increasing amount of your audience grew up online. They’re digital natives accustomed to digital content experiences. They want to feel connected to the content they consume and the brands with which they interact. They want content experiences that resonate with them; that adapt to the way they learn, live, and work.

In order to provide exceptional content experiences today, you’ll need to learn to share content in a social, community setting. To do so, you will likely need to expand the way you think about content and those who contribute it. This article explores the need for a new methodology we call Content Potluck—an approach we believe can help you craft engaging and valuable content experiences.

But, before we tackle the methodology, let’s answer this question: “How do you find the right content contributors?”

Team of creative professionals meeting in conference room
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest

Finding The Right Content Contributors

The best content is content that addresses the needs of your audience; content that helps them solve a problem or answers a question. This content is often difficult to locate. Far too often, it’s buried deep within organizational silos. Finding it—and using it to improve customer experiences—is the goal.

Today, nearly everyone in your organization is a potential content contributor. If your firm is like most, chances are your co-workers are creating:

  • social media posts
  • blogs and articles on LinkedIn
  • answers to questions asked in community forums
  • instructions in email and text messages
  • how-to videos and other user assistance materials

Leveraging existing content assets creates a win-win situation for all. You gain access to valuable content. Your teammates get the chance to broaden their sphere of influence and grow new skills. And, your prospects and customers benefit from improved content experiences.

How do you find the right type of content contributor? Start by identifying the profile of an ideal content contributor (regardless of their function, title, or seniority in the company).

The Right Profile

Communities benefit from a wide variety of content creators. While diversity is important, content contributors should share some essential characteristics:

  • A passion for connecting with customers in a social forum, whether it’s your platform or online community, or public channels like Twitter, Facebook or GitHub.
  • A deep interest in improving how your customers experience your products and services. These folks want to learn from others as much as they want to share information.
  • Empathy for customer problems and a desire to provide solutions. Contributors who publish content—but don’t care to respond to queries—aren’t as valuable as those who interact with prospects and customers and engage them in conversation.
  • An understanding of the importance of social community and its potential impact on customer experience. Helping one person online can lead to the deflection of hundreds—perhaps thousands—of similar or identical support cases.
  • A desire for career advancement and personal development. Managing and participating in community content development efforts can lead to additional career opportunities. Frequently, junior team members see the importance of  such projects. They are often eager to dedicate time to such initiatives, in addition to performing their regular duties. They understand they are building a personal brand; an online reputation as a subject matter expert. They realize that their influence grows as their network expands.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest

Getting Them to the Table

So, how do you get others to contribute? How do you manage the potential chaos that may occur when you involve so many different voices? This is where Content Potluck comes into play.

Content Potluck is an approach designed to help you organize—and bring together—representatives from various content creation teams. Potlucks require an organizer (or two) to lead the initiative. Ideal organizers include community managers (who should already have relationships in place with other content producing departments) and technical writers and other content creators with deep product knowledge and an interest in broadening their skill set.

The next step is to schedule a recurring potluck—a gathering (preferably over lunch or breakfast) at which you will discuss:

  • Current content projects (by team)
  • Existing content types (being produced today)
  • New content types (to be produced in the future; derived from discussions with support staff, as well as from interactions in community forums)
  • Publication dates (to ensure the production of a steady stream of content)
  • Customer feedback from social media, communities, and content portals

Productive potlucks are facilitated sessions led by an organizer. To help your team focus on actionable outcomes, create an agenda and follow it. Nominate someone whose role will be to take notes for the group. Capturing tasks, deadlines, goals, and other meeting details—and sharing them with the team—is critical to success.

Invite members from all customer-facing content-producing teams. Interested participants can be found in nearly every department. Make sure to include content creators in marketing, documentation, support, training, engineering, product management, sales, professional services and beyond.

Next Steps

What do you do once you have your participants at the table, the discussion flowing, and notes captured? The next steps include identifying common tools, creating a universal editorial calendar, assigning action items, creating social media marketing campaigns to promote your content, and sustaining the group for long-term growth. Each of these subjects deserves its own blog post.

You can learn more about Content Potlucks—and find sample templates—here. Plan to attend our upcoming webinar during The Content Wrangler’s Virtual Summit on Advanced Practices in Technical Communication, December 7, 2016 at 3pm PT. You’ll hear real-life case studies and be able to ask questions of the presenters.