Over course of the 2010s, the information superhighway came into its own. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, matured and evolved into mission-critical marketing tools. Businesses of all stripes began extracting value from the immense volumes of data the Web democratized. And customers, armed with more information and technology than ever, shifted the balance of power away from sellers and toward themselves.
Also by 2010, content marketing claimed its seat at the table. And since then, it has established itself as one of the best ways to build credibility, grow brand awareness, generate leads, and drive business growth.
But that doesn't mean marketers have everything figured out. Some 42% of content marketers say they still struggle to access subject-matter experts for content creation, according to a 2021 report from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. Another 38% say siloed teams and a lack of internal collaboration often stand in the way of effective content marketing.
Such challenges will kill the momentum of your content marketing strategy if you're not careful. Luckily, they're not insurmountable. Marketers interested in harnessing the full power of content marketing can use a knowledge bank to streamline the content creation process.
If you've never heard of a knowledge bank, don't panic. You're probably not alone.
Basically, a knowledge bank is a repository of insights provided by your company's subject-matter experts that you can use to create pieces of content.
Those insights don't have to be polished or even fully fleshed out, because the knowledge bank is more than the sum of its parts. Nuggets of information can be used as a springboard for content ideas or they can provide important context that helps you better understand certain topics.
For example, at my agency, our account teams faithfully catalog their clients' expertise using our knowledge banks. Sometimes, the most spontaneous thoughts can be transformed into influential articles. And when you buttress spur-of-the-moment musings with support, such as third-party research and real-world examples, they become grounded in a reality that audiences can understand.
A knowledge bank will also help you save time in your content creation process. You don't want to ask your subject-matter experts the same questions repeatedly. That wastes everyone's time and causes frustration. Instead, you can pull already-existing expertise from the knowledge bank and ask experts to plug any remaining holes.
For instance, our account team members will always review a client's knowledge bank before interviewing them. Because the knowledge bank is searchable, they can easily see whether that client has answered similar questions in the past. If they have, the account team members will prepopulate the planned Q&A with those insights. Then, they give the client a chance to revise or build on their past insights rather than have them start from scratch. And by saving all insights gathered, teams can repurpose interviews for multiple pieces of content.
Sometimes, the hardest part is getting started. Make that easier to do by using a template.
It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Our template (reg. req'd), for example, is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, but if you're one of the 38% of marketers who struggle with collaboration, you might use our template as inspiration to create a knowledge bank in a more collaboration-friendly platform, such as Google Sheets. That way, multiple team members can access and update your knowledge bank as needed.
After you've selected a template, begin customizing it to fit your needs. Think through how your team will sort through the information, and add any tabs and filters to make navigation a breeze.
Then, populate your template with information your content marketing team might need to reference throughout the content creation process, including general company information, lessons learned, personal anecdotes, biographies, and common customer pain points.
You might also include links to relevant press releases, marketing materials, published articles, and social media mentions.
Adding insights to the knowledge bank with little thought or care is a recipe for disaster. Why save all that information if your team members can't find what they need when they need it?
So, as you input information, be sure to add important details, such as dates and relevant links. Also, create and adhere to formatting guidelines so the knowledge bank doesn't look messy.
Last, consider creating a key of some sort so any member of your team can contribute to, navigate, and organize the knowledge bank with relative ease.
The shelf life for information has shortened significantly over the past decade. If your knowledge bank is full but all the information is from 2012, there's a good chance it's not providing much value.
To ensure that all the examples, insights, and research in your repository are relevant, you need to review and update the knowledge bank regularly.
How often you conduct those reviews will depend on the cadence of your editorial calendar, but I recommend at least quarterly reviews.
Starting designing your editorial calendar today with this free template:
During reviews, remove outdated content and irrelevant insights. And if your company has changed its stance on a topic, update that information, too. That way, your content marketing team is always positioning your company accurately.
More than likely, individual teammates will use the knowledge bank a little differently, and that's OK as long as you have some guidelines to keep things organized.
To determine what those guidelines will look like, ask yourself questions such as these:
Set user guidelines based on your answers. Then, ensure companywide access. You might not want every employee adding information to the knowledge bank, but everyone—regardless of role—should be able to view and extract information.
Content marketing isn't a new strategy, but teams won't be able to maximize their content efforts if they're not rowing in the same direction. For that reason, it's a good idea to use a knowledge bank to classify subject-matter experts' thoughts, store important evergreen information, and reduce unnecessary friction in the content creation process.