I recently attended a conference hosted by the Chicago chapter of the Business Marketing Association. There was a great lineup of speakers, including representatives from LinkedIn and Rightpoint. But by far the most interesting speaker was Michael Eisenreich, the global head of content and digital marketing at Bloomberg.
Eisenreich talked about how Bloomberg is now using content marketing to support the company’s growth and stay constantly engaged with clients and prospects around the globe. Bloomberg’s marketing department is relatively young; it wasn’t created until 2009. Eisenreich talked about the challenges that his group has faced in starting the department from scratch and creating an internal agency that is capable of creating and managing vast amounts of content on a multi-channel platform.
While Bloomberg’s marketing department operates as an internal agency and prefers to handle as much in-house as possible, it uses outside partners to supplement content creation efforts, particularly when it comes to blogging. I was somewhat surprised to learn that Bloomberg uses outsourced financial writers (a.k.a., financial ghostwriters or freelance writers). In the financial media, Bloomberg is renowned for its rigorous editorial standards. Even though Eisenreich’s marketing department is completely separate from the editorial side of Bloomberg, it’s all one big brand. Clearly, Bloomberg won’t allow content from the marketing department to tarnish or dilute the company’s well-earned reputation for accuracy and precision in any way.
During the Q&A session, I asked Eisenreich how Bloomberg was able to ensure that the quality of the content created by outside writers lived up to Bloomberg’s impeccable standards.
Eisenreich said that there are two key elements that have been vital to the success that they’ve had in working with outside writers: process and risk assumption.
Eisenreich said that his group has created a rigorous editorial process that covers every step from idea generation to copy editing to design to uploading. Given the speed and volume of Bloomberg’s marketing content, he said that creating air-tight processes is absolutely essential to maintain quality and reduce the risk of typos, conflicting messages, or other quality-control issues.
Eisenreich was then quick to point out that the goal is risk reduction, not risk elimination. He said that before they could significantly ramp up the volume of content they were creating, they needed to get agreement among their team and across their internal partners that there was always going to be some element of risk they would need to assume—no matter how strong their quality-control processes were. And this would be the case whether they produced all of the content internally or whether they used outside partners. Bloomberg needed to be comfortable assuming some level of risk or else the project would be doomed to fail.
I was glad to hear Eisenreich say this because an improper understanding of risk impairs some financial services firms’ content marketing and thought-leadership efforts. And this can play out in a few different ways.
- “What if we say something that turns out to be wrong?”
The fear of being wrong can paralyze people and prevent them from staking out a distinct point of view on a topic. But if you are writing a white paper or other piece of thought leadership that shares your analysis of complex, evolving market situations, you need to realize that there is always going to be a chance that your analysis could turn out to be incorrect. You also need to realize that your readers aren’t looking to you for guarantees, they are looking to you for insight.
- “How do we avoid saying something that someone internally objects to?”
Far too often, the internal review process is where good insights go to die. Often, one or two people will serve as the lead authors or subject-matter experts on an article, and they will work hard to create a draft that articulates their insights. But before the piece can be published, it gets passed around to numerous people who have only limited knowledge of or involvement with the topic of the article. But because the article landed on their desks for review, those people are going to add their two cents and point out any concerns they have. And the more times this happens, the more likely that the most interesting and thought-provoking aspects of the article get watered down or eliminated altogether. It is valuable to have an internal review process, but that process should be guided by two rules: 1) aside from editors and compliance, only people who have a significant, vested interest in the exact topic being covered by the article should be allowed to edit the article, and 2) the number of people involved in the review process should be as small as possible.
- “How can we make sure there is never an error or typo?”
Typos and incorrect facts are terrible; even minor mistakes can significantly hurt a brand’s credibility. Marketing teams need to be zealous in their pursuit of accuracy. As Eisenreich pointed out, creating—and adhering to—structured editorial processes is a critical part of content creation. But these processes should be built with the understanding that a 0% error rate is not an achievable goal, no matter how good your processes are. You need to be willing to accept some minimal level of error risk, and you need to understand the concept of diminishing marginal returns. If you are thinking about adding an additional round of review to your editorial process, you should ask whether the marginal benefit of that extra round of edits (i.e., degree to which the error rate would go down) exceeds the marginal cost (i.e., the expense of paying the editor and the time by which the editing would delay the publication).
Risk is a fact of life. Every investor knows this, and every content marketer should too. Having a rock-solid editorial process in place can go a long way in minimizing the risk involved in content marketing and thought leadership. But processes can’t eliminate risk. That’s why you need to understand what level of risk you are comfortable assuming before launching any content marketing effort.
About the Author
Scott Wentworth is the founder and head writer of Wentworth Financial Communications. Scott and the team of writers and editors at WFC help professionals across the financial services industry build their brands by creating investment-grade white papers, bylined articles, newsletters, blogs, social media posts, and other forms of content marketing.