The industry is abuzz with the expression “breaking down content silos”, but what does it actually mean? Many of us grapple with the expression silos in the workforce, and now we have them even in our content strategy? No wonder so many companies are struggling to keep their audiences engaged and interacting with publications written with the customer’s best interest at heart. So what are these silos, and how do we recognize them?

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Have you identified your workforce silos?

Breaking Through Content SilosSilos have existed for a long time. We saw them more frequently within major corporations and enterprise-sized companies. Now this issue has surfaced in some medium (and even small) start-up-sized firms. They can be pretty straightforward. Usually, everyone has the best intent. Ok, maybe 80%! Still, most silos grow because the need for speed trumps the need for knowledge sharing. How often do you find that sales does not know what marketing is up to? That your customer service team was not quite fully caught up with the latest product releases?

Silos don’t grow only between functional groups. Silos are within functional departments. This is even more impactful to your business. Think of a tool that was once innovative, yet still is essential to company workflow: Is it really just a legacy? Maybe only one person in the department knows how to keep it running. This creates a single point of failure. How do you recognize it? A pretty good indication is when you start thinking about your colleagues, “I don’t know WHAT they do. What value do THEY provide?” Most of the time, that is a silo, not a teammate or team that isn’t pulling their weight.

Have you let collaboration slip and competition fester?

We have seen examples of this time and time again: When technical content groups don’t align with product or service features, the user/consumer gets left behind. That creates work silos. We have seen it happen in marketing when writers create content that speaks to a product, but not to the brand, and vice versa. Social media is being planned without the input of the in-house marketing writers or technical writers. This leads to the markitecture so often mocked; they don’t know what the product really does, so everyone’s content delivers a different message.

When these workforce silos arise, collaboration gets lost. Instead, teams compete for resources, budget, content, and exposure to the customer. While this is a clearly an organizational issue, not a content issue, it still matters if you are in the content strategy business.

Have you created content silos as a result?

Breaking Through Content SilosWe are just one step away from workforce silos to content silos. When teams don’t work together, the content that is being created (whether officially or unofficially) by such teams often create redundancy or misalignment in content, terms, and tone of voice. Your organization is investing in creating the same content, in many ways, not all of them cohesive and good. Again, everyone has the best intentions; they are just solving an immediate problem and don’t know how to surface their ideas to a collaborative forum.

Ultimately, the customer does not care who (within the company) wrote that handy guidebook or infographic. What they care about is that it is a consistent, quality experience for them. They want to solve the problem in front of THEM. Their needs include:

  • Will this tool help my customer satisfaction?
  • Increase demand generation?
  • Do I connect with this content and find it trustworthy?
  • How can I consume this information? I want a video, a podcast, a deck… I don’t want to read a manual.

About the authors:

Laurel Nicholes – Director, Product Content Experience at F5 Networks.

Laurel is a 20-year veteran in tech writing. She is an avid advocate for cross functional collaboration and community-driven content strategy to transform content delivery from pdf graveyards to bustling community knowledge hubs with thousands of visitors engaged in conversation.

Nikoletta (Vecsei) Harrold – Director, Communities Strategy and Social Media at Transamerica

Niki is an international digital marketing expert with a wealth of social media and community management experience. Her unique strategy for driving inclusiveness within the business and building interactions with customers sets her apart in her field.

To learn more about breaking down content silos and content collaboration please visit