Content+: Thoughts from a Seasoned Marketer

After attending more conferences than I could count at this point in my career, I am thrilled to share that Content+, a full-day session put on by my new company Pace, was out of this world. It was attended by senior clients, prospects and senior members of the Pace team, and I can say without question that everyone left with exceptionally valuable insights and ideas that can be applied both personally and professionally.

I had the opportunity to spend quality time with client, Zachary “Zack” Lones, the director of Localized Social Media and Walmart World Magazine. His career at Walmart has taken him from the front end as a cashier to a store manager who turned around several stores to an impact player on the marketing team at the home office in Bentonville, Arkansas. He’s passionate about what he does, and you could see that passion come to life as he shared his thoughts on how to tap into the power of your best social asset: your company employees.

In his presentation, Zack told the story of how we came to understand the role content plays in making every employee a brand ambassador. It not only empowers them to feel more connected to the company and their success, but it leads to more “real” social stories that resonate strongly across the organization. Here are three of the key takeaways from what he shared:

As marketers, we are told to ensure we communicate and stay focused on the personality of our brand. What is interesting for retail brands like Walmart is that the personality of the brand is really the associates themselves—not the merchandise on the shelves. Zack reminded us that humanizing the brand is one of the best ways to build your audience and that he “put his brand in the hands of his most powerful asset: people.”

It’s already happening—your employees and associates are posting about the good, the bad and the ugly. But Zack advised that it’s better to embrace itthan ignore it. Give your associates permission to be the voice of the brand. After you’ve shifted your mindset and come to terms with letting go a bit, find the right people to be the voice of the brand and then believe in them. Sure, they might stumble and fall, but help them get right back up again. They are not performing lifesaving surgery—they’re creating social content.

Manage the narrative and the stories that are shared by guiding your employees. In Zack’s case, this involved partnering with the Pace team to help define what “good” looks like in social channels, providing them with loosely defined parameters on what to do, what NOT to do and some example activations. There will be setbacks but remember to celebrate the wins and recognize the success. Positive acknowledgement will only feed more participation and breed more success.

So, is allowing the associates to define the brand narrative in social working for Walmart? Is it something you should consider? You bet it is. Associate perception of the brand is higher than ever, and we anticipate this trend to continue as we evolve and build on the positive momentum.

And what did I leave with? A lot. I reflected on how wanting to have control is good—up to a point. It can become a negative, however, if you expect things will always go just as you planned. I thought about former bosses who wanted to control everything versus those who allowed me to find my own way but always offered an open door, and how that has shaped my management style. I thought about the control I seek as a mom of two daughters andas a passionate marketer, and how it’s challenging to be in control of all that involves, all the time. And then I realized that stepping back just a bit and letting it unfold a little bit more naturally is a really, really good thing.

Most importantly, I left with yet another affirmation that I’ve joined an exceptionally talented team and a feeling that says I am in exactly the right place.

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