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From the Trenches

The Secrets of a Successful Content Marketing Kickoff Meeting

Mike Sweeney | July 11, 2011

The following post was initially published on the Content Marketing Institute Blog (June 23, 2011).

An organized, well-attended kickoff meeting is essential to starting a successful content marketing program.  This is true whether you are handling your content marketing in house or hiring an agency or consultant. Yet keeping this meeting on track is difficult, especially when it includes people from multiple departments who have different perspectives and communication styles.

Here are 13 tips you can follow before and during the meeting to make it more productive. This will result in immediate enthusiasm and participation from marketing and non-marketing employees alike – a promising start to your long-term content marketing strategy.

Before the meeting

Identify the right participants

Getting the right people involved is one of the trickiest aspects of the entire content marketing process. Generally speaking, you want this meeting to include people who are enthusiastic about the concept, who are well-respected within the organization and who have a penchant for both listening and participating. The domineering, like-to-hear-themselves-talk types should never get the meeting invitation. In my experience, kickoff meetings may include as many as 10 – 20 participants.

Give participants detailed information about the meeting

The program’s point person should send a note out at least a week before the meeting. The meeting request should include:

  • A detailed agenda: I usually schedule 2 hours for the meeting with the first hour focused on selling the idea of content marketing and going through general procedures; the second hour is spent on brainstorming.
  • Reasons for the meeting: Sell the meeting to attendees by anticipating questions and preparing accurate and compelling responses.
  • A “thinking” assignment: For instance, ask participants to come up with a few questions or blog post topic ideas, as opposed to a “doing” assignment.

Get buy-in from all appropriate supervisors

Everyone is busy these days. Very, very busy. Whether that’s true or not, one way to combat the busy excuse is to make sure each invitee’s supervisor is aware of the meeting and encourages attendance.

Starting the meeting (sell the idea)

Start with the why

In an editorial meeting just last week, we entertained 10 -12 participants from a variety of departments, such as marketing, product management, sales and professional services.  While the internal champion had done a great job of communicating beforehand, each individual clearly needed to understand:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Why am I here?
  • What is the timeline?

I prefer a straightforward, blunt approach in these situations. Something is broken, here’s how we know it’s broken, here’s how we’re going to fix it and here’s what it’s going to look like when we do fix it.

Back up the why with stats

This should go without saying, but back up your fix-it scenarios with data. Show not only internal examples of content marketing successes and failures, but show how others inside and outside the industry have benefitted from content marketing programs.

Show the competition

Show people how and why the competition is doing it better or worse. There are bound to be at least a few people in your meeting who may not react to or participate in anything UNTIL you get to the competition section. With certain people, competition stokes the fire.

Discuss the goals

Don’t just acknowledge the bad news and discuss the future good news, show it. Tell everyone what the goals are for the program. Be as specific as possible.

The meat of the meeting

Explain the contribution process for authors, sharers and other stakeholders

Every organization will have a slightly different participation process.  But in most cases, within that conference room you are selling to at least three different audiences that are all marked by different types of participation.

Some will write. Some will edit. Some will post. Some will comment. Some will share internally. Some will distribute externally. Some will stroke the checks to keep the effort going. All are very important.

Acknowledge the typical excuses for low participation in content marketing

We hear the same excuses over and over again from folks trying to avoid participation in the content marketing effort from “I don’t think I’m a good enough writer for this,” to “My dog ate my computer” (well, not really, but you get the point). To nip these excuses in the bud, we put them in big font on our slides and spend some time talking about them. Being up front about these excuses lets participants know they won’t be accepted, and it also helps get buy-in for the process we’re about to embark on.

Run an open but structured brainstorming session

During the kickoff, conduct an open brainstorming session where participants feel comfortable sharing even the wackiest of ideas. You should also provide a structure so that no single idea, be it a great or boring one, occupies too much time. Although this depends on the type of content being discussed, the preference is to gather a high volume of ideas for a follow-up as opposed to discussing 1-2 specific ideas.

Closing the meeting (sell participation)

Remind participants that they are not alone

Remember that authors, especially first-time authors, are terrified that their material will stink. Remind them that not only will they have a sounding board, but that they also will have an editor, and that this editor will not let them fail.

Identify specific next steps

As with any meeting, identify exactly what will happen next and how you will communicate with this group moving forward.

Answer all remaining questions

Leave room for questions. Participants may ask what the company can publish without giving away intellectual property, or they may simply want to know how to upload a new photo to their LinkedIn profile. Answer all questions or set up individual follow-up discussions. The more insiders who become part of this content marketing team, the more effective the effort will be.

Say thank you

Participants do have other things to do, some of which may represent higher priorities. Acknowledge the sacrifice and thank them for their time and attention.

For those of you who have either run or participated in these types of meetings, what other tips can you add to the list? Add your comments below.


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About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.