Silos Should be Used for Storing Wheat, Not Content.

 In Editorial Planning, Organizational Change, Tips & How-Tos

I grew up on a farm in south central Kansas, where we had two huge silos for storing grain in the summer that we used to feed our dairy cows during the winter. On a farm, silos play an important role, but in business, specifically the content marketing business, they tend to work against productivity.

I tried to find a funny content analogy about what happens when information is siloed within organizations, but the only thing I came up with was information sitting in silos acts like the last bit of grain in a silo. It’s probably been in there way too long, has gone bad and starts to stink. See the resemblance? No? Made me chuckle. ANYway…

The term “silo” has been floating around the DivvyHQ office a lot lately. It seems as though our customers deal with this issue a lot. There can be a lot of things stored in silos within an organization, but the way we (and our customers) view silos is any barrier to communicating or retrieving useful information from other departments within an organization.

A Few Examples

One of our traditional publishing customers owns several different consumer magazines, each with different focuses and audiences. Let’s say the music magazine just did a story on a band that released a new album and in the interview they find out the lead singer is expecting. This would be great information to pass along to the other magazine in the company that covers all things pregnancy. But often, according to our customer, this information is old news by the time the other magazine finds out about it.

The issue of silos is of major importance to a company like this because it winds up costing them thousands in wasted dollars. Had the pregnancy magazine known about the celebrity pregnancy up front, the two reporters could have tag-teamed the interview, shared the photo shoot, etc.

Or, has this ever happened in your organization? The PR department of a consumer company learns that the CEO will be giving a lecture at a large university about being smart with social media when looking for jobs. They do a news release about it and contact the local media. The company’s social media department doesn’t find out about the event until their online monitoring tool intercepts the tweets and posts about the event. An event like this could have been a big opportunity for the social media team to capitalize on the buzz prior to and during the event, which could have made the jobs of the PR team much easier.

We hear examples like these every day. The key point here is that silos create a trickle-down effect of missed opportunities, wasted time and money and a duplication of efforts. The good news is, if you work for an organization that has embraced content marketing, you’re in a good position to start busting silos like the twister of 2009.

5 Ways to Remove Marketing Information Silos

1. Bring everyone to the table, including the C-Suite – The first thing you need to do to start breaking down information silos is to get your leadership team on board. It shouldn’t be too hard to get their buy-in when you show them how much information is being lost or duplicated, i.e., costing them moola. That’s usually a pretty easy way to get them to back your cause. The next thing to do is to bring all the silo owners to the table and discuss the need to remove barriers and talk about ways to do that.

2. Create a safe place for ideas – The next step will be for you to create an environment where information silo owners feel empowered to share information. If other team members poo-poo ideas, or the brainstorming sessions feel stuffy, then you won’t get the results you’re looking for. People need to feel heard and validated, so make sure your ideation environment is created as this safe haven.

3. Make Sharing Information the New Status Quo – Establish a new normal, where after every meeting, project kickoff or brainstorming session, you ask yourself “Who else would benefit from knowing about X?” For example, you are in the engineering dept. and you give your PR and Web teams a heads up after a meeting in which you discussed releasing a new technology. Your PR and Web teams can then at least start planning for the release.

4. Formalize your editorial process – The silos we’re talking about here are in the context of barriers to information that would be beneficial for marketing purposes. Now that you’ve brought your silo owners to the table, created a safe place for them to share information and ideas and established an environment of sharing, it’s time to formalize that process. Assign each person on your team with a role in your process and diagram it out so people can see how information and content production should flow. Then start handing out deadlines and working your process.

5. Use a tool to keep everyone in the loop – As you work to establish your new, non-siloed editorial structure, you’ll need to implement the right tools to support your effort. After we released DivvyHQ as an editorial calendar and content production tool, we quickly realized in talking with customers that breaking down silos was a very positive, if unintended, side effect of using the tool. Because of our Master Calendar and shared Parking Lot features, DivvyHQ has helped companies see what other parts of their organization are working on, share assets, share ideas and manage it all in one place.

P.S. we are working on enhancements to the application that will make these silo-breaking features even better.

Bottom Line

Silos should be used for storing wheat, not content. Start implementing these 5 silo-busting tactics, and you’ll start seeing major benefits in your marketing efforts. Be patient, though. These silos weren’t built overnight, so it may take some time to re-train your people.

My question to you…How are you removing information silos in your organization?

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