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How to get buy-in for your content strategy, according to CEOs

Writer Team

The Writer Team

ow to get buy-in for your content strategy, according to CEOs

Revenue expectations from content are increasing, and there’s more pressure than ever for marketers to create content faster and hit bigger goals. Content strategy is being discussed at the C-level, which means there are lots more people — including non-writers — involved in the production process. Content marketers are in the spotlight. The pressure is real.

Given these higher stakes, the process of getting your plan of action approved can feel intense. When the strategy you’ve poured your creative genius into gets rejected, it’s disheartening. Maybe you’re thinking: what went wrong? To avoid having to go back to the drawing board, get into the minds of your execs. What do they want from content?

CEOs need to believe your strategy is worth the money. They need to see how the content strategy connects to the company’s business objectives. For your boss to approve your ideas, you must demonstrate an understanding of your organization’s priorities and then connect your content strategy to those goals.

To help, we asked CEOs why they don’t approve certain strategies — and what you need to do to get the green light on your next content plan.

Talk to the rest of your company before you start

Your content can only support the work of your colleagues if you know what’s going on in your organization. Make an effort to get to know the long-term goals and vision of your company and find out about the work of other departments.

“[I wish marketers knew] more about where the business is headed in the next 1-2 years,” says Brett Farmiloe, CEO of Terkel. For Jennifer Smith, CEO of Scribe, it’s important that content aligns with “our mission, vision, and values.”

Engaging others in your strategy production process will help with getting support later on. “When an executive feels invested and involved, a content strategy is much more likely to get approved,” confirms Brett.

Your organization is constantly changing — and the way you manage content needs to evolve with it. Keeping communication lines open means you stay up to date.

Talking to other teams in your company beforehand is also necessary if you need their contribution to carry out your strategy. “Sometimes they [marketers] need help from other teams and don’t get their buy-in before presenting to understand if they agree with the strategy and have time to help,” points out Liz Beechinor, president of Coefficient Marketing.

Before you create your strategy, ask your leadership team about their goals and what they’re looking for from content. Then, you can share your general vision for the strategy and check if it fits. Having conversations at this stage will allow you to tweak the direction you take before you’ve spent too much time working on the details.

Set accurate expectations and show how you’ll achieve them

We know that content takes time to have an impact. The CEOs we spoke to said it’s important that the strategy demonstrates how content will support business objectives — even if it doesn’t lead to immediate sales.

“Being too vague or having a lack of a plan” is a way to ensure your strategy will be rejected, notes Seth Winterer, CEO of Digital Logic. Show you’re being intentional with your content by “incorporating clear, measurable goals,” explains Anu Ramani, founder of Isoline Communications.

Brett points out that “even though forecasting a return may be hard, it’s an essential ingredient… that blank will inevitably get filled in,” whether by you when you present the strategy or a CEO’s guess.

Decision-makers are thinking: “What are we investing in this, and what is our expected return? How long will this take to pay off? What are the interim milestones we need to hit to know we are on track?” Your strategy should resolve those questions.

“I don’t mind if it’s a long-term strategy as long as you’re honest about that so we don’t set short-term expectations.” –Liz Beechinor, Coefficient Marketing

Demonstrate that you understand the target market

Illustrate how your content is hitting the pain points of your potential customers.

CEOs want to know you’ve done your research and you understand “the market [you] are trying to capture,” says Jack Mellor, managing director at Personnel Checks.

“I have rejected campaigns that approach the issue from the inside out rather than starting from the audience and what they need.” –Anu Ramani, Isoline Communications

Explain how your content aligns with and will be useful to your target audience. “[My priority] is making sure that the content is actually helping our potential customers,” adds Seth Winterer.

It’s easy to get caught up with ideas that are exciting and interesting for you. But the strategy needs to focus on reaching the specific audience your company is aiming for. “[Some] content ideas are often not a good fit because they drive irrelevant leads,” stresses Jane Portman, co-founder of Userlist.

Back up your strategy with evidence from market research. Extensive research is essential — and throughout your research, you might find that your target audience is different than what you initially thought. Use insights from the content you’ve produced to inform future strategies. For example: “We know X post was really popular with our audience; that means X is an important issue for them.”

“I’m much more willing to get outside my comfort zone when I know in advance that the content is something our audience wants…. It’s not about what I like. It’s about what our customers like.” Steve Pockross, CEO of Verblio

Don’t let lost in the details

CEOs are generally very busy people. It’s your job to present the information that’s most relevant to them.

“We don’t need the nuts and bolts of how you’ll do it. We want to know how it’ll benefit the company, what you need from us, and why we should be excited about it.” –Liz Beechinor, Coefficient Marketing

Consider your CEO as a customer persona. Create a strategy that speaks to their pain points. As a marketer, it’s normal that you care about the details of the content strategy. But when you’re trying to get approval from decision makers, focus on the business value of your content.

“I tend to switch off when the presentation focuses too much on the ‘what’ instead of the how.” –Jack Mellor, Personnel Checks

Don’t just list all the post titles you’ve come up with. Don’t share your ideas. Share why your ideas should exist. When you’re going to create your strategy, follow Jay Acunzo’s solution to the green smoothie problem. Answer the following questions:

  • What do they want? (What are the goals of your CEO?)
  • What do they believe about what they want? (What does your CEO believe about content strategy?)
  • What is your reasoning? (What are the logical steps you’re taking to reach the goals?)
  • What is our unfair advantage? (What skills and expertise will you leverage to reach the goals?)
  • What will it require? (What resources or help do you need from leadership or other teams?)

If you answer these questions first, you’ll be able to create a successful strategy and get approval for your great ideas.

When presenting your strategy, use your marketing skills

In your presentation, start wide. Show that you understand the big picture and how your content fits in. Then you can go “narrow” — giving specifics like content calendars. If the presentation is cut short, your CEO will leave with the most important information. To sell your ideas, tell a great story. Demonstrate to your boss why your content isn’t just nice to have, but essential for reaching key business goals.

Illustration by Natalie Nelson