The Importance of Open Creative and Collaborative Spaces in Digital Marketing
I Hated the Open-Office Concept; Now I Love It and Live It
We often talk about the necessity of being agile and fast as it relates to digital marketing.
In traditional marketing, the process is oftentimes different. It can be slower and not as time-sensitive. I say this with a huge caveat: the work produced in a creative agency (like Britton Marketing & Design Group) that has perfected visual branding and imagery with an emphasis on large-scale photo shoots and catalog creation in mind.
You have to have a functional understanding of content creation and user experience in order to work on a digital team.
Traditional content creation isn’t as immediate, because once it’s delivered, that’s it. On to the next one. There’s also the fact that digital content creation has a much greater volume than most traditional projects. On any given day, the digital team here at BMDG will publish anywhere from 10 to 20 pieces of content for one client. For one project. And we have many projects and a healthy inventory of awesome clients.
Back on track.
Quantity and the ever-changing landscape of social and digital marketing require brands to be very agile and to act fast. How is this scaled and how is everything coordinated for an omnichannel branded presence?
Well, let’s look at our workspace, The Observatory.
A Digital Command Center
Now, I am the first to say that I have always been skeptical of open-office spaces. Do away with cubes, they said. Let’s all collaborate because there are no physical barriers, they said. While this all sounds great in theory, in practice, it isn’t always the case.
The Observatory is a collaborative space. It is a hub for real-time social media management and monitoring. It’s where we manage the online reputation for our clients. It’s where we churn out a massive amount of on-brand creative content. And we do it together. As a team.
And although the open-office concept isn’t always ideal, it does seem to be tailored to a digital marketing team approach. Quick interactions and communication so that people are on the same page are common occurrences (those, paired with Slack FTW!) and most of the space doesn’t get too noisy or distracting.
We do have instances where we use the space for training purposes and meetings as well. We produce a monthly video live-stream program, called Content Exploration, which centers on all things content marketing, and we do demos, training, and an occasional soccer match on these same screens.
Of course, when people need to be extra-focused, ear buds go in, which equates to the DND sign being turned on.
Open Space, Open Communication
The residents of The Observatory wear many hats. But we’re also highly specialized. You have to have a functional understanding of content creation and user experience in order to work on a digital team.
You have to have a fundamental understanding that every little piece of content that you create and share has two primary audiences: the reader and the search engine/algorithm. The sooner you come to terms with this, the sooner your content will reach more and more people.
This following is how our different team members work individually, and in unison, to ensure the effectiveness of our clients’ content marketing and digital strategies.
Digital Media Buyer
We have a digital media buyer making sure that we optimize our reach and amplify our organic-content creation with paid media. The media buyer also monitors the effectiveness of all paid media. Whether we are doing a keyword campaign, digital display ads, retargeting, social campaign or other, the media buyer works with our digital strategist to guide the paid media toward the overall objectives and goals.
Social Media Manager
We have a social media manager who focuses on aggregating the right content for curation, while also creating a ton (technical term) of social posts that marry the voice of the brand with the tone needed for that specific channel. And then the posts are optimized for channel-specific features to ensure maximum organic reach, because, ultimately, we want all of our beautiful content to be seen by as many people as possible.
Digital Content Editor
The digital content editor is the brand voice and messaging navigator. She guides the omnichannel-content-creation process and keeps the curation and sharing on the correct path. This person can be likened to the equivalent of a maestro directing a large orchestra to its vibrant crescendo. Of course, it’s way more complex than that.
Digital Strategist and Analyst
This person points the ship in the right direction. He makes sure that the ship is always on the swiftest and most direct path to its goal. He makes sure that when storms and barriers arise that the brand messaging is on point and is present on the appropriate channels and medium. He analyzes and strategizes. He dives into the metrics to unearth anomalies and patterns that help formulate changes in direction and path. OK, enough of the nautical references. Just kidding, NEVER!
So we have to have someplace to host the content, right? Someplace that we own and that we can control. Someplace to direct all the users. That’s where the digital developer comes in handy. He creates the user interface that informs the user experience of the digital property. He works hand in hand with the digital designer to make sure that the beautiful form follows digital function and best practices.
Digital is one of the toughest and most challenging positions for today’s designers. There are many restrictions to user-interface design. These are especially prevalent on digital channels and properties. In order to be a successful digital designer you have to have a firm grasp on user experience and be a user advocate. Nowadays mobile-first is taking a backseat to content-first. Balancing and navigating business objectives and user needs can be one of the most challenging aspects of any design practice. Successful digital design is hard, y’all. Because it is best when the user doesn’t even notice the user interface, but intuitively navigates it without any hesitation.
The content strategist is the person who lays the foundation for all content creation, curation, and sharing. This person creates frameworks, processes, templates, guidelines, best practices, communication, and workflows that enhance every piece of content created. He also creates consistency and unison in all facets of production and strategy. He’s the person who will continually ask ”But why?” or ”But what is the benefit for the user?” or “Where is my spreadsheet?” Content strategists in general are heavily involved in the planning and strategy phases of projects, but not necessarily in the implementation phases—unless they can double as a copywriter. Which most do because we love to write.
VP / CMO / Digital Manager / Digital Director
We minions call this person the big boss. The person who keeps the ship afloat. The captain. Without this person advocating for the other positions and people, the ship will be torn apart by various natural elements—multiple times. A ship is only as good as its captain, and if you have a less-than-average-performing captain, you will soon find yourself with a mutiny on your hands.
Structured Workflow and Collaboration
Sorry about all the nautical references. They just keep coming. They’ve probably become unbearable at this point. Anyway, if you are able to push through the metaphorical nonsense and cut to the purpose of this article, you should by now have gleaned that collaboration is key in relation to digital content creation.
But collaboration is only part of the puzzle. We talk about effective, consistent collaboration and content creation (welcome to the alliterative phase of this article). For us to be consistent when creating content we need structure. We need templates, and we need to be able to scale them.
We currently use GatherContent for our digital content creation for those single aspects. It allows us to create structured templates that can be repurposed and reused—templates that have concise and useful microcopy that steer the content creator to create the best experience for the reader and the search engine or algorithm at all times.
GatherContent also employs a highly customizable workflow that can be color-coded and completely tailored to your team, your processes, and your workflow. Sounds great, right? Well, we like to think so.
After all, becoming efficient and proficient in something is all about experience. The more you do something (correctly) the faster and better you become. It’s muscle memory, and your muscle (at work) is your brain.
A Side Benefit of Finding and Sharing Timely Content
Like I mentioned earlier, we produce a lot of content for various clients. Content marketing and social media strategy are right in our wheelhouse because we’re natural brand-centered content creators and storytellers.
So we create a ton of content. We have a machine. Our scientific formula. A content marketing engine fueled by a robust and strategically developed content strategy. We call it Content Cartography. Content Cartography allows for an unprecedented amount of high-quality branded content to be aggregated and shared. It’s our secret sauce.
This machine is constantly going at a predetermined cadence and publishing schedule, which allows for us to be acutely aware of real-time opportunities for our brands. We don’t have to worry about finding the next piece of content to share, or inefficiently scouring feeds and timelines just so that we can post something. Instead we can focus on what can be even more important for brands: online reputation management, outreach, monitoring, and engagement.
But of course, this wouldn’t work smoothly and consistently if we all worked in different siloed departments or spaces. But we don’t. We work in The Observatory.
There are also some more organic benefits of working closely together. Proximity literally brings employees together. Bringing employees closer together can also affect other intangibles and reverberate in many facets. Like increased collaboration and innovation, greater communication, and other intangible benefits that transcend productivity and internal office-related metrics.
We’ve also started music-video Fridays, and another daily occurrence, which started out as a goof but has turned into something kind of interesting and unique, is giving every member of the team a slow clap, both when they arrive at and leave work. Fun. Part of our culture now. Part of #GreatBritton.