What We Can Learn from Red Hat

Red Hat’s Global Content Team, lead by Laura Hamlyn, has been put on the radar of content marketers around the world lately because of the stellar work they’re doing in the area of enterprise content marketing.

What have they done that’s so special, and what can we learn from them? 

Let’s look at a few key lessons, lessons that especially apply to large content marketing teams in other companies. But, of course, as we’re also going to see below, even the individual content marketer can learn from Red Hat’s content team.

What exactly does Red Hat do? They create open-source technologies for enterprise companies, notably their Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution. As a technology company, they create systems and processes that foment innovation and democratize access to content. Through open-source, they share ideas with others, such as innovators and thought leaders to spur collaborative innovation to benefit everyone.

If that sounds like a tall (and lofty) order, it is. And their content marketing team has to be able to connect with the right people around the world so that collaborative innovation can grow.

Teams that Get Siloed

Now, a special problem large marketing teams can run into is what’s called “siloing.” What does it mean for a team to be siloed, and how can it be detrimental to their brand’s success?

When content marketing teams get siloed, they are essentially cut off from the rest of the company. They may not know exactly what direction the company is going. What is worse, sometimes different content marketing teams within the same organization are siloed from one another, meaning their efforts could overlap, meaning wasted work, or even work against each other.

Imagine this: You are a politician, running for office. You may not exactly care if the teenager you hire to cut your grass knows your stance on the big issues, but what about your press representative?

If the person that speaks for you, representing you before others, doesn’t completely understand every aspect of your campaign strategy, you’re just asking for trouble.

In the same way, the guys that work in the mailroom of a company may not know the direction the organization is going, but the marketing people, the ones that represent a company’s brand, better be completely in the know.

Just as reputation is everything for a politician, the word brand is a fancy way of saying reputation in the context of a business. Companies should care about their message just as much as a politician does.

Even if you’re a single writer, working freelance for a company, large or small, you can easily be cut off from the overall strategy or message, meaning you won’t be able to optimize your work to contribute fully to the brand you work for.

Surely, getting siloed is not pleasant! How was Laura able to combat that in Red Hat? That has to do with the first of the three lessons below.

Creating a Single, Unified Strategy

Online Content Marketing used to be simple. A weekly blog post and a few banner ads, and you had the complete package. These days, digital marketing has exploded, meaning modern brands have nearly unlimited advertising, authority-building, and community-gathering options to pursue.

With so many avenues to follow, and, perhaps, several different content marketing teams across the company, it becomes more difficult to maintain a unified vision for the direction of the brand throughout the company.

Laura began her unifying efforts at Red Hat by first creating a single strategy, a massive and complex sales and awareness funnel. Even though different teams would be working on different parts of the funnel, everyone understood how their assignments fit into the master plan.

If you have an expanding content marketing team, or even multiple teams, what can you do to unify them under a single strategy?

Cross-platform campaigns, with a single theme that runs from ads to blog articles to email newsletters and more, can magnify results across the board and drive the brand’s story forward in an impactful way.

Something as simple as getting team leaders together and clearly communicating the direction of the brand can help tremendously. Even better, you can record the meeting and present the recording for all team members to review later. That way you’re even more sure everyone’s on the same page.

If you work in a large team but don’t lead it, or if you’re a freelance content creator, can you take the time to ask more questions as to the main direction of the brand before starting your next project? The questions might be met with resistance at first, but, over time, the higher-ups may start to understand that better communication to marketers will only bring about better results, multiplying their ROI.

Creating Strategic Teams

Laura also reworked the organization of the Global Content Team at Red Hat, dividing the department into smart teams of professionals.

At first, it may feel more logical to divide marketers by what they specialize in. So you may want to have a team of copywriters, another of graphics experts, another or voice and audio specialists. But this may not be the most strategic way to break up a group into teams.

Laura opted to divide her group into teams that handle specific aspects of the overall message. For example, she has a Content Marketing and Story Development team and a Digital Content Strategy team.

Each group might have a combination of writers and marketing strategists, as well as other specialists. This way each team is in charge of a specific aspect of the company’s overall strategy. And they know exactly what other teams are doing, helping them work together better.

Can your marketing department be divided into mixed groups of writers and other experts? Can your teams stay focused on a common theme or project, each member bringing something different to the table?

With such a mixture, imagine the higher quality of brainstorming in team meetings! A team of only writers may overlook outside-the-box ideas a graphics expert might put out there. That level of collaboration will foment creativity and create better products.

If you’re a freelancer, you may not be able to influence who you’re working with. That simply isn’t up to you. But you can choose to network with a variety of different professionals on LinkedIn and other social networks, giving you that fresh perspective when you need it.

Using a Variety of Content Formats

Red Hat’s marketing efforts are not restricted to a single kind of content, such as the written word. Their strategy includes graphics and design, as well as video and audio content.

For example, working with Saron Yitbarek, Laura and her team created a podcast to provide marketing support for a Red Hat Linux project.

The podcast, called Command Line Heroes, involved interviews with programmers and developers. Originally, the idea was to target only fellow programmers with the show, but the unique voice of the host and guests created something with a much broader appeal than anticipated, which is even better.

The podcast has become a huge success. Command Line Heroes involved more than the audio show. It also includes video content, written articles, and well-designed web pages, full of unique, brand-defining graphics.

In other words, this one project utilizes a great variety of content, something that probably really helped it succeed.

If your content marketing team has the latitude, can you include more variety of content in your campaigns? Many content marketers, like Laura Hamlyn, are writers at heart. But that variety and collaboration can turbo-boost ROI.

Even as a freelancer, don’t be afraid to suggest more variety of content to your clients. For modern brands to survive, they have to be adaptable. Even though the written word isn’t going anywhere, the best marketing strategies will include every possible avenue.

Certainly, the marketing folks over at Red Hat are doing interesting things, and there are fascinating lessons we can all learn from their work.

By leaning into the future, getting more organized, and using the latest tools available to us, we essentially future-proof our profession, and we can also help the brands we support to grow stronger faster.

That’s what we like to call a win-win!