The 4x400m Content Creation Relay

The 4x400m Content Creation Relay

Content creation and content syndication are fantastic marketing outlets for B2B marketers looking to drive lead generation and brand engagement results. But the process of creating market leading content in your field can sometimes feel like an Olympic event. In this blog, I’d liken it to a 4×400 metre relay.

The 400 metre ‘dash’ has been featured at the Summer Olympics since 1896 (1964 for women). Recently, Lee Ness (a UKA qualified Event Group Coach for Sprints and Hurdles) states that 400 metres is “the race that has the most painful training regime”, whilst going on to explain the complexities of the race strategy.

If the lactic-acid-inducing 400 metre race is strenuous enough for one athlete to run, as soon as you overlay fatigue and strategy with extra team work, clear decision making, timing, precision and maintaining momentum between athletes, things inevitably get even more complicated. The risk is that 4 top performing athletes in their field will crumble under the pressure, recording below-par times (or even worse, ‘DNF’) in their efforts to outperform their competitors.

With the help of global 400 metre athlete Natasha Hastings’ expert tips on the 4x400m relay race, this blog explores;

  • Why content creation is comparable to a 4×400 metre relay final and the pressures associated with it
  • Who the key stakeholders involved should be, what their roles are, and which laps they should tackle
  • How a B2B marketing department can effectively pass the content baton through it’s ‘athletes’

Ready? On your mark… Set… Go!

Lap #1 – Content Strategist

…the pressure leg. Ultimately as a first leg runner the onus is on you to set up the rest of the team for a good race…

The person commissioning content runs the first lap of any content creation project. That individual will need to have an intrinsic understanding of the strategy behind why and how pieces of content are produced. The content creation strategy involves many considerations;

  • should you write for specific personas?
  • what purpose is the content going to serve and what is the topic?
  • how do you maintain a consistent tone of voice?
  • does the piece factor in brand guidelines and company compliance?
  • how is content structured and in what format will it be delivered?
  • what are the budgets and timeframes for each stage/final completion?

Of course, the starting athlete needs to ensure they avoid the dreaded false start too…

The 4x400m Content Creation Relay

Ill-placed decisions by the strategist could result in wasted time and resources (as well as budget), continual concept changes and stressful handovers at a later date. If uncertainty creeps in at an early stage or the piece falls apart under critique, it’s potentially race over.

A decisive strategist should act as the pace setter. Providing they don’t jump the gun, they give the project the head start it needs…

Lap #2 – Thought Leader

…it often pays to put one of your faster runners on the second leg, in an effort to establish a good early rhythm and potentially pull clear of trouble at the break…

It’s at this point the baton will typically be handed over to a thought leader.

Handing over a clear brief to a qualified, knowledgeable and passionate thought leader in your company’s market place or industry sector will reflect well on the quality of the final piece. Overlaying an impressive level of expertise, commerciality and most importantly value to your content will make whoever reads (i.e. your prospects) go wild with excitement as we head towards the half way point of the content creation relay.

Furthermore, the breakout stage happens halfway through the second lap too, where all competing athletes move to the inside of the track. Selecting the right thought leader will see you make strides towards the front of the pack, putting enough distance between you and the competition whilst guaranteeing an interruption-free handover going into the third lap. By leaving the competition in your shadows during this breakout stage, you should be heading to ‘thought leadership position’ on the podium and a gold medal in marketing ROI.

Let’s start creating…

Lap #3 – Content Creator

…the third leg is the pivotal leg of the race. The job is either to maintain a position, or try and rescue the team from a difficult position…

The content baton has reached the half way point and is into the final two legs of the race. It’s now down to a content creator to take the baton and write, design, or produce the content. As Natalie Hastings suggests in the quote above, the third lap can be pivotal. It’s where the team and supporters start to see the race begin to come to fruition.

In an ideal scenario, the content creator should already have enough rapid momentum and distance gained from the first two stages of the race to set the final approver up for an incredibly fast paced finish across the line. This is providing that the concept from the content strategist is flawless and the thought leader has overlaid excellent knowledge to the piece.

However, if there are any gaps in the content vs. the original strategy, the content creator should still be in a position to fill those out at the point of curation using their own initiative and research legwork, to carry the baton around the third lap. As HubSpot explain, a successful content creator’s habits include continually reading industry news whilst being curious by nature. It’s these specific traits that allow them to not only expand on the knowledge, but add to it as well.

If the content creator can complete this leg smoothly, you’ll be on the nerve-wrecking sprint to the finish line. Will it be a photo finish?!

Lap #4 – Final Approver

…the number one priority of an anchor leg runner is: do not mess up!…

At time of writing, the men’s 4×400 metre relay world record was set in 1993 by the American team. They ran a time of 2 minutes and 54.29 seconds, with Michael Johnson completing the final leg in 42.91 seconds. This was a full 0.27 seconds faster than his then world record breaking solo 400 metre race in 1999. This record stood for 17 years, until Wayde van Niekerk recently clocked a time of 43.03 seconds in the 2016 Olympics.

Like Michael Johnson then, the final approver could steal the limelight and receive the initial plaudits. But there’s absolutely no doubt the relay is a team race and any final approver knows they can’t have done it without the 3 other ‘athletes’. In fact, the dedication and momentum Michael Johnson received from his fellow athletes must have provided extra adrenalin and focus to deliver the result after a successful exchange of the baton.

Therefore, it’s the approver’s role to be the anchor for the whole content creation team. They will check compliance, proof copy, approve design, verify source information and cross reference against the original brief, to carry the piece of content through to completion and through to market. Achieving competition beating lead generation metrics and national recognition will make the exhaustion all worth it.

But don’t rest on your laurels. It’s back to training a fortnight later to get ready to do it all over again. Remember; a successful marketing team never stops producing content.

The 4x400m Content Creation Relay

Hopefully this blog has inspired you to “go for gold” with your content creation projects!

At Inbox Insight, we work with great clients who already produce a wide variety of fantastic content.

We also want to help marketers through the process of creating content too. With a network of journalists and content creators, we can take the pain out of laps 2 and 3.

To find out more, connect with one of our content experts.

Amie Lovell

Meet Amie, Marketing Manager here at Inbox. She looks after everything from our content and blog articles to newsletters and social. Her passion is delivering engaging content that resonates with our target audience while promoting thought leadership, to drive brand awareness and trust in what we do.
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