Creating Organizational Artifacts Through Content Marketing
With all the buzz around content marketing and its use in inbound marketing and online promotion, there is little discussion on the contemporary benefits of more traditional forms of content. A recent conversation about “organizational artifacts” as a byproduct of a digital marketing campaign brought forth a realization of some longer-term, qualitative benefits of content marketing.
In my pre-digital marketing life, I was a graduate student of Industrial/Organizational Psychology (sometimes referred to as “workplace psychology”). During that time I was exposed to a variety of academic concepts designed to “optimize” organizations. One particular school of thought that stood out to me was the idea of organizational culture, and how it is represented through “organizational artifacts”.
You likely are familiar with the concept of artifacts as cultural byproducts in Archaeology and other cultural studies, but its use in Organizational Psychology is equally as fascinating (if you too are a nerd). An organizational artifact symbolizes or represents some salient aspect of the organizational culture often to convey meaning, identity, legitimacy or brand ideals, either internally or externally. Artifacts are the visible elements in a culture that can be recognized even by people not part of the culture. Artifacts can be physical (awards indicating excellence, uniforms to engender solidarity) informational (case studies, employee handbooks) or conceptual (such as language, interaction patterns and cultural “norms”). A value of common organizational artifacts such as a website or a case study is that it provides “social proof” that an organization is what it believes itself to be.
How is this relevant to content marketing? For companies that are in the practice of producing sophisticated content, the typical endgame is to create assets that are used to promote brand awareness, engender loyalty, demonstrate confidence, and build trust among those outside the organization (i.e. prospective customers). What can easily be overlooked is the impact content marketing can have internally, especially in regards to corporate identity, values, and direction. Companies that spend thousands of dollars to develop and promote a brand often neglect communicating the brand identity and brand messages to those within the organization.
Let’s take a practical example: The case study. Companies have been developing case studies to highlight noteworthy results for decades. It’s a common piece of content that can have a huge impact if used properly. A case study can provide social proof of excellence both externally and internally. Track records and ROI are key influential factors for external publics and for top executives, but they offer little for the internal team members who need to be the company’s first knighted brand ambassadors.
An often-overlooked (or under-valued) application of a case study for your internal team is that it may provide social proof of your core values. If having your employees “buy in” to your vision impacts your bottom-line (it most certainly does), simply rehearsing a value proposition isn’t enough – people have to believe. Simon Sinek said during his How Great Leaders Inspire Action TED Talk “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But, if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” Beliefs aren’t formed from mandates and propaganda – they are formed from the evidence of personal experiences.
Regardless of your organization’s beliefs, these beliefs aren’t innately present the first day the employee sits at his or her desk. Executives must not neglect sharing the organizational artifacts with the most important assets they have; the assets that communicate first to the company’s publics and who are an essential source of content.