The one thing that is constant in our work is this: we repeatedly hear the same challenges and issues that organizations face when trying to scale content strategy. Recent discussions focus on how AI and machine learning will take content marketing to the next level and beyond. In many instances, a huge readiness gap exists for AI adoption as organizations still grapple with streamlining processes and creating a single view of their customers across functions and business units. The biggest demand for our work at ComBlu is to help organizations streamline content operations, stimulate collaboration between content creation teams, better understand the content needs of their customers across the full customer lifecycle, and determine topics that are both differentiating and relevant to target audiences.

We call this the manual labor of content. Without a shared roadmap across functions and business units, it is premature to scale or automate, much less introduce machine learning. Delivering “customer-first” experiences overwhelms many organizations because they try to leap frog to scale rather than first creating the right foundation.

Four conversations surface over and over. Following are brief snippets from each conversation.

Conversation One focuses on orchestrating content operations on an enterprise level.

Content is created in many different areas of our company. Marketing, product, sales, corporate communications, brand: each of these functions produces content, often about the same topic. To add to the confusion, subspecialties within marketing create dueling content assets. Little collaboration exists across functions resulting in content with varying degrees of relevance, quality and usefulness.

While content is created independently across functions, it is essential to understand how this content is planned for and staged, particularly in relation to where each fit within the customer lifecycle and an omnichannel environment. The content needs to work in concert, irrespective of what part of the organization produces it.

Conversation Two deals with finding the right topics for thought leadership content.

We don’t know if we’re writing about the right topics. Our SMEs seem to know what buyers and customers are thinking about, so they drive the editorial planning. We interview them once or twice a year and then create an editorial plan for our thought leadership content.

While SMEs cast an impressive shadow, they should not be the singular input for your thought leadership content calendar. Insights from internal subject matter experts are important but sole reliance on them leads to an insular view. Even worse, it limits topic innovation as you focus on what you know vs. emerging customer challenges. Instead, look at multiple sources for building your editorial plan. This prevents you from dealing with the same topics over and over or not addressing important issues of your buyers.

Conversation Three highlights how to apply customer research when creating a roadmap.

We know our buyers. We created personas and developed a journey. We’re just not quite sure how to apply the information to create better experiences and drive-to conversions.

Personalized experiences require knowledge of the needs, preferences and triggers of all people who influence a purchasing decision. Yet, many organizations create personas exclusively with internal knowledge. They often fail to probe deeply enough into the psyches of all the roles involved in a specific buying scenario. Even worse, they rely on one general journey instead of developing one for each major buying trigger or fail to account for buying behaviors that cross channels and devices. Without these inputs, it is almost impossible to create a meaningful personalized experience for each person involved in the purchasing decision or to expose next best action.

Conversation Four talks about how to organize content assets for the best experiences.

We have a ton of content but have no idea if we have the right stuff to support personalization across a full buying team or account. We’ve created personas and understand their role in the path-to-purchase for a variety of use cases. We just don’t know how to organize our content to deliver progressively honed experiences.

In this instance, it makes more sense to start with automated tools and then bring in the thinkers. Here’s why: Creating content inventories is a long, arduous process. Many great tools exist that will crawl your digital properties and generate a list that includes data about each asset. Once this is done, you can audit against journeys to identify existing content that meets goals, uncover gaps and find the resources to round out the editorial calendar.

ComBlu just published an eBook, Elevating the Content Conversation, that presents four conversations that we’ve had across many companies and industries. In each case, manual labor leads to better outcomes before scaling and automating content operations. Each section of the eBook summarizes the conversation, offers tips and techniques for addressing the challenge and provides insights into automation to leverage and scale once this initial strategy work is complete.

Hopefully these insights can help change the narrative and elevate the content conversation. We’d love to hear about the content conversations you’d like to resolve.

Click here for easy download of Elevating the Content Conversation.


Cheryl Treleaven

Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.