In marketing, and especially in content, we often work in a team or group that is in the same physical space and are constantly involved in real-life meetings. That was until a global pandemic made video calls with noisy toddlers and meow cats into new normal.
But this time can also be an opportunity to redesign the way we work together as remote teams in a productive and meaningful way. Stephanie King, former director of global content marketing at American Express, has worked and led remote content teams for nearly a decade. Her hard-won lessons are instructive for anyone who wants to increase their team's productivity, regardless of where everyone is.
# 1 – Strategy is a must for successful remote content teams …
All content marketers can tell you that the lack of a clear strategy affects your success. Studies by the Content Marketing Institute highlight this link. 65% of the most successful content programs work according to a documented strategy, compared to only 14% of the least successful.
As one of the world's leading content providers for American Express, Stephanie confirms the important role that the strategy plays in focusing powerful remote teams on the audience. "It is important to get to a place where you have this guide," she says. "We reduced it to identifying five key audience needs that were essentially the backbone of our editorial content strategy."
# 2 – … but not all teams need the same strategy
While a strategy is important to prioritize your content efforts, it is not important to have a strategy for the entire company. Some companies need this more than others, but according to Stephanie, it depends on the “strategic role that content plays within that organization”.
She notes that at American Express, strategies have been developed globally for each business area to ensure unified global coverage of key audiences without creating impractical rules that parts of the business could not or did not have to adhere to. "We didn't have a single global plan or program," says Stephanie. "We have worked towards a single global content strategy within our business unit … a central view that we would represent in all of our priority regions and markets."
# 3 – Bake flexibility in your approach
While the need to stick to the right strategy is clear, Stephanie also believes that a degree of flexibility in your approach improves your remote team's chances of success. Your approach or strategy should be prepared to "have enough flexibility so that you don't switch from quarter to quarter and year to year," she says.
Flexibility and consistency seem to be competing priorities, but Stephanie reports that preparing for flexibility at American Express was an important reason that content was seen as an integral part of doing business. "What I've seen over the years is that you have to be very clear and aware that you are this strategic partner, rather than being a service arm for the organization," she says.
# 4 – Simplify the technology your remote team uses
With only 16% of companies having the right technology to manage their content programs (according to a study by the Content Marketing Institute in 2019), Stephanie is unequivocally aware of the need for a conscious, simplified approach to tech.
In her experience, it has played an important role in the success of the remote content teams she worked with: "Technology has been a game changer for us at American Express, and especially for the content team."
Many remote content teams spent the first half of 2020 cobbling technology together without having a clear plan to scale and maintain this approach. Stephanie's experience with "lots of different processes, lots of email, lots of spreadsheets" has enabled her to understand that without a more holistic approach to choosing and using technology, it is very difficult to grow remotely or maintain any success for content teams .
# 5 – Take the first step to work with other teams
Content is often described as a common thread that runs through many of the company's marketing, communication and customer initiatives. If you're part of a remote content team, it's even more important to understand this principle and turn to these other teams to ensure success and a productive working relationship.
Together with the rest of American Express's global content team, Stephanie spent much of her time talking to and working with other teams to ensure that the content met the needs of the entire company. She says this is one of the key roles and the most enjoyable part of working in a remote content team. A rather unique and fascinating space to operate in. "
This article was developed from the advice and knowledge Stephanie shared during a July 2020 webinar hosted by Storyation and NewsCred. Send us an email to view the webinar and we'll send you a copy.
Originally published August 5, 2020 at 4:04 p.m.