Centralized marketing: Why (and how) to do it successfully

Centralized marketing: Why (and how) to do it successfully

5 minute read

Centralized marketing: Why (and how) to do it successfully

5 minute read

Centralized marketing: Why (and how) to do it successfully

Ashley Budd

Director of Digital Marketing for Cornell University’s Alumni Affairs and Development
As the token millennial at my first job, I was given all the digital projects—managing our blog, email marketing, and building a social media presence, for example. I’m particularly good at taking in-person events and translating them to online programs.

Table of contents

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

For example, in the last recession, my alma mater saw a decrease in families visiting campus. Since I knew how heavily interactions with our student tour guides influenced a prospective student’s decision to enroll, I took five students and put them online.

They created a video series, hosted live chat sessions, and created virtual tours.

Converting in-person experiences to digital in this way can be rewarding and effective. Yet, I’ve encountered many hurdles while creating online offers that were planned for an in-person audience first.

Digital content is almost always an afterthought or add-on. The online audience is second, third, or fourth on the priority list. Thankfully, that’s rapidly changing.

The increased demand for digital content

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we communicate. Stay-at-home orders have halted our ability to meet in person and increased our capacity and interest in connecting online. Now, in-person events are a non-starter.

If you’re like me, you’re now getting hit with a firehose of digital content requests. Folks are forwarding ideas they want to be produced and sharing old content they want to resurface. Event planners who are used to packaging content for groups around the world now find themselves planning for a global audience in one location—the internet.

In this new world, we can’t rely on the content strategies of the past. With digital communication replacing in-person interactions, our approaches must match today’s communication styles and preferences. That means offering more digital content.

Channel preferences are also changing. Email communication is noisier than ever. Video conferencing is more accessible. The demand for digital downloads and streaming content is exploding. What does this mean for marketers?

What is content centralization?

If you work in a decentralized environment, as I do, now is the time to prioritize centralization—also known as content marketing collaboration. Instead of separate entities working independently of one another (even within the same organization), it’s often better to work together.

For example, at Cornell University, we’re curating digital offers from all of our colleges and units and making them accessible to the communities we serve. In my role, those community members are alumni, parents, donors, and friends of the University.

We also recognize the need to create original content for our audience to meet their needs. Therefore, the digital content we feature represents a variety of content types (e.g., videos, downloads, stories, etc.) and themes (e.g., entrepreneurship, the arts, career development, etc.). Both reflect the diversity that makes Cornell so special.

Lastly, as we’re adopting a centralized approach to gathering content, we’re also centralizing alumni communication. To streamline communication, we’re collaborating with university partners on an email calendar and approval process to get the right digital content in front of alumni at the right time.

What are the advantages of this approach?

The benefits of a centralized content marketing strategy

Content centralization can produce many rewards. For example, it:

  • Ensures that your entire organization is on the same page as far as content priorities
  • Simplifies workflows for creating consistent content (and maintaining it)
  • Allows for content repurposing, resulting in higher impact both due to consistent messaging and broader reach
  • Reduces conflict related to the marketing technologies used to create content

While it has its disadvantages just like decentralization does, content centralization prevents many of the problems that plague organizations today. Problems like:

  • Lack of communication between teams, which can lead to duplication of efforts and poor distribution of resources
  • Inconsistencies across content that negatively impact how target audiences perceive and engage with it
  • Inability to effectively repurpose content, resulting in less reach and impact
  • The use of different (and possibly incompatible) marketing technology across teams

As Justin Borge, Founder and CEO of Help With Your Hustle Digital Marketing Agency, puts it:

"Without a central marketing strategy in place, you can’t pinpoint behaviour and areas within the funnel that need improvements."
Justin Borge
Founder and CEO of Help With Your Hustle Digital Marketing Agency

Justin continued with an example: “If someone has recently read your bottom of funnel content, presumably they did so because they’ve already decided to buy and are looking for the best option. That makes it the perfect time to send them an exclusive offer before they decide to spend elsewhere.”

But such informed decisions are virtually impossible to make when your content strategy is disjointed and your team lacks visibility into audience behaviour, bottlenecks in the funnel, and so on. So, if you’re keen to avoid the above issues, it's time to transition away from decentralization.

Instead, follow the six steps below for managing a centralized content strategy.

Six steps to managing a centralized content strategy

1. Identify decision-makers

You can’t streamline communication without some authority. So, identify who can approve a centralized approach to content strategy and communication and ask that person to be the executive sponsor for your work. Find leaders across your organization that can help you set and enforce guidelines.

2. Bring everyone together

It’s important to cast a very wide net from the start. Use all the channels you have to communicate how you’ll approach marketing activities going forward. For groups and individuals that you need on board to be successful—your CMO or others with decision-making power, for example—and opt them into regular updates. Additionally, ask folks to share your efforts with others who may want to collaborate.

3. Define contribution opportunities for stakeholders

In addition to a steering group of decision-makers, you’ll need a variety of ways for people to contribute to your effort. Survey your broadest group of stakeholders and ask them what marketing activities they’d like to get involved in. For example, they may wish to:

  • Gather customer data
  • Share content ideas
  • Provide pre-written content
  • Support marketing efforts
  • Support production efforts
  • Review and approve content
  • Assist with tracking and/or optimization after publishing
  • Coordinate with campus/organization partners

And that seamless cooperation will translate into an improved customer experience.

4. Put an organizational structure in place

I can’t stress enough the need for a system to organize your work. It starts with documenting who you’re working with and what roles they’ll assume.

Next, you need a content hub or repository to store content ideas, tasks, production and marketing calendars, and completed work.

GatherContent Content Hub
An example of how GatherContent can unify content creation, workflows, and operations

For example, the GatherContent Content Hub provides a streamlined way to:

  • Assign and organize work and projects
  • Provide all team members visibility into both their and others’ ongoing and upcoming work
  • Coordinate due dates
  • Collaborate on content with other stakeholders for a cohesive end product

Ultimately, while there are many project and content management tools available to get and keep your marketing teams organized, there’s one that never works—your email inbox. Avoid using your inbox at all costs.

5. Create content themes

It’s important to showcase the breadth of what your organization can offer. So strive for variety and balance. You can organize content by topics such as entrepreneurship, wellness, and creativity and/or by engagement focus such as learning, career support, and stewardship. For example, here are some of Cornell Alumni’s content themes.

Cornell Alumni Content Themes
7 content themes for Cornell Alumni

Tagging the content you collect will help you prioritize what gets featured and reveal gaps in your offerings so that you know what to develop next.

6. Create a production flow

There are lots of ways to produce content, and many factors depend on your organization, staff, and other resources. As a manager or content strategist, the key is knowing what that path looks like and flagging any roadblocks you might encounter. Lean on your steering team of decision-makers to break down barriers. And, if there’s a person or group of people that stand in your way, invite them into the process.

Now’s the time to embrace centralized (content) marketing

To recap, here’s how you can go from a firehose of content to a streamlined product that’s ready to share.

  • Rally a big team with decision-makers at the helm
  • Collect content ideas and suggested features in one place
  • Prioritize your content by theme and timelines
  • Assign production tasks
  • Publish and promote

And, even beyond publishing, you can also set guidelines and develop processes for content and workflow optimization. The benefit? Not only can you streamline your company’s content operations, but you can also improve its long-term return on investment in content.

Ultimately, working in an all-digital world requires systems to get and keep different business units hyper-organized. If yours wasn’t a primarily digital team before the pandemic, your marketing department’s digital transformation might still be a work in progress, and that’s okay. Centralized organizations aren’t built overnight.

Give yourself time to organize your resources and collect information in one place. And take advantage of resources like the webinar “Empowering Your Content Teams With Process and Workflow Tools” to make the transition and process easier for marketers.

For example, in the last recession, my alma mater saw a decrease in families visiting campus. Since I knew how heavily interactions with our student tour guides influenced a prospective student’s decision to enroll, I took five students and put them online.

They created a video series, hosted live chat sessions, and created virtual tours.

Converting in-person experiences to digital in this way can be rewarding and effective. Yet, I’ve encountered many hurdles while creating online offers that were planned for an in-person audience first.

Digital content is almost always an afterthought or add-on. The online audience is second, third, or fourth on the priority list. Thankfully, that’s rapidly changing.

The increased demand for digital content

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we communicate. Stay-at-home orders have halted our ability to meet in person and increased our capacity and interest in connecting online. Now, in-person events are a non-starter.

If you’re like me, you’re now getting hit with a firehose of digital content requests. Folks are forwarding ideas they want to be produced and sharing old content they want to resurface. Event planners who are used to packaging content for groups around the world now find themselves planning for a global audience in one location—the internet.

In this new world, we can’t rely on the content strategies of the past. With digital communication replacing in-person interactions, our approaches must match today’s communication styles and preferences. That means offering more digital content.

Channel preferences are also changing. Email communication is noisier than ever. Video conferencing is more accessible. The demand for digital downloads and streaming content is exploding. What does this mean for marketers?

What is content centralization?

If you work in a decentralized environment, as I do, now is the time to prioritize centralization—also known as content marketing collaboration. Instead of separate entities working independently of one another (even within the same organization), it’s often better to work together.

For example, at Cornell University, we’re curating digital offers from all of our colleges and units and making them accessible to the communities we serve. In my role, those community members are alumni, parents, donors, and friends of the University.

We also recognize the need to create original content for our audience to meet their needs. Therefore, the digital content we feature represents a variety of content types (e.g., videos, downloads, stories, etc.) and themes (e.g., entrepreneurship, the arts, career development, etc.). Both reflect the diversity that makes Cornell so special.

Lastly, as we’re adopting a centralized approach to gathering content, we’re also centralizing alumni communication. To streamline communication, we’re collaborating with university partners on an email calendar and approval process to get the right digital content in front of alumni at the right time.

What are the advantages of this approach?

The benefits of a centralized content marketing strategy

Content centralization can produce many rewards. For example, it:

  • Ensures that your entire organization is on the same page as far as content priorities
  • Simplifies workflows for creating consistent content (and maintaining it)
  • Allows for content repurposing, resulting in higher impact both due to consistent messaging and broader reach
  • Reduces conflict related to the marketing technologies used to create content

While it has its disadvantages just like decentralization does, content centralization prevents many of the problems that plague organizations today. Problems like:

  • Lack of communication between teams, which can lead to duplication of efforts and poor distribution of resources
  • Inconsistencies across content that negatively impact how target audiences perceive and engage with it
  • Inability to effectively repurpose content, resulting in less reach and impact
  • The use of different (and possibly incompatible) marketing technology across teams

As Justin Borge, Founder and CEO of Help With Your Hustle Digital Marketing Agency, puts it:

"Without a central marketing strategy in place, you can’t pinpoint behaviour and areas within the funnel that need improvements."
Justin Borge
Founder and CEO of Help With Your Hustle Digital Marketing Agency

Justin continued with an example: “If someone has recently read your bottom of funnel content, presumably they did so because they’ve already decided to buy and are looking for the best option. That makes it the perfect time to send them an exclusive offer before they decide to spend elsewhere.”

But such informed decisions are virtually impossible to make when your content strategy is disjointed and your team lacks visibility into audience behaviour, bottlenecks in the funnel, and so on. So, if you’re keen to avoid the above issues, it's time to transition away from decentralization.

Instead, follow the six steps below for managing a centralized content strategy.

Six steps to managing a centralized content strategy

1. Identify decision-makers

You can’t streamline communication without some authority. So, identify who can approve a centralized approach to content strategy and communication and ask that person to be the executive sponsor for your work. Find leaders across your organization that can help you set and enforce guidelines.

2. Bring everyone together

It’s important to cast a very wide net from the start. Use all the channels you have to communicate how you’ll approach marketing activities going forward. For groups and individuals that you need on board to be successful—your CMO or others with decision-making power, for example—and opt them into regular updates. Additionally, ask folks to share your efforts with others who may want to collaborate.

3. Define contribution opportunities for stakeholders

In addition to a steering group of decision-makers, you’ll need a variety of ways for people to contribute to your effort. Survey your broadest group of stakeholders and ask them what marketing activities they’d like to get involved in. For example, they may wish to:

  • Gather customer data
  • Share content ideas
  • Provide pre-written content
  • Support marketing efforts
  • Support production efforts
  • Review and approve content
  • Assist with tracking and/or optimization after publishing
  • Coordinate with campus/organization partners

And that seamless cooperation will translate into an improved customer experience.

4. Put an organizational structure in place

I can’t stress enough the need for a system to organize your work. It starts with documenting who you’re working with and what roles they’ll assume.

Next, you need a content hub or repository to store content ideas, tasks, production and marketing calendars, and completed work.

GatherContent Content Hub
An example of how GatherContent can unify content creation, workflows, and operations

For example, the GatherContent Content Hub provides a streamlined way to:

  • Assign and organize work and projects
  • Provide all team members visibility into both their and others’ ongoing and upcoming work
  • Coordinate due dates
  • Collaborate on content with other stakeholders for a cohesive end product

Ultimately, while there are many project and content management tools available to get and keep your marketing teams organized, there’s one that never works—your email inbox. Avoid using your inbox at all costs.

5. Create content themes

It’s important to showcase the breadth of what your organization can offer. So strive for variety and balance. You can organize content by topics such as entrepreneurship, wellness, and creativity and/or by engagement focus such as learning, career support, and stewardship. For example, here are some of Cornell Alumni’s content themes.

Cornell Alumni Content Themes
7 content themes for Cornell Alumni

Tagging the content you collect will help you prioritize what gets featured and reveal gaps in your offerings so that you know what to develop next.

6. Create a production flow

There are lots of ways to produce content, and many factors depend on your organization, staff, and other resources. As a manager or content strategist, the key is knowing what that path looks like and flagging any roadblocks you might encounter. Lean on your steering team of decision-makers to break down barriers. And, if there’s a person or group of people that stand in your way, invite them into the process.

Now’s the time to embrace centralized (content) marketing

To recap, here’s how you can go from a firehose of content to a streamlined product that’s ready to share.

  • Rally a big team with decision-makers at the helm
  • Collect content ideas and suggested features in one place
  • Prioritize your content by theme and timelines
  • Assign production tasks
  • Publish and promote

And, even beyond publishing, you can also set guidelines and develop processes for content and workflow optimization. The benefit? Not only can you streamline your company’s content operations, but you can also improve its long-term return on investment in content.

Ultimately, working in an all-digital world requires systems to get and keep different business units hyper-organized. If yours wasn’t a primarily digital team before the pandemic, your marketing department’s digital transformation might still be a work in progress, and that’s okay. Centralized organizations aren’t built overnight.

Give yourself time to organize your resources and collect information in one place. And take advantage of resources like the webinar “Empowering Your Content Teams With Process and Workflow Tools” to make the transition and process easier for marketers.

Ready to get started?
Start your free trial now
Start free trialBook a demo
No items found.

About the author

Ashley Budd

Ashley Budd is a digital strategist and designer working primarily with higher education institutions and non-profit organizations. Through speaking, writing, and research she offers insights into contemporary issues in enrollment, fundraising, and communication technology. Ashley is director of digital marketing for alumni affairs and development at Cornell University. Prior to joining the digital team at Cornell, Ashley spent over five years at her alma mater, Rochester Institute of Technology, where she led social media strategy for undergraduate admissions. Ashley serves as producer of the Higher Ed Live podcast exploring innovations and trends in higher education. Connect with Ashley on Twitter, @ashley_budd.

Related posts you might like