Content strategy is complex and fun. It’s one of the most satisfying things you can do when you’re putting together a content plan. But there is one part of a content strategy that nearly everyone neglects. That is how you respond when all your hard work is wrecked by something you had absolutely no control over whatsoever. Like when a major supplier goes broke.
This article offers a couple of basic steps that will help you mitigate that disaster.
The day we lost a whole magazine
It had been a couple of weeks since the magazine had gone to press, and the client and advertisers were ringing us to ask where it was. The truth was, we had no idea.
Over the previous few months, we noticed the delivery of the magazine was getting later and later. Whenever we questioned our mail supplier, they blamed the post office.
Then we got a phone call that made it clear what was really happening.
It was from another mail supplier, one that we had never heard of. They told us they weren’t going to post out our magazine until we paid the postal bill in advance.
Over the course of several frantic phone calls, we discovered that: (a) our mail supplier had gone broke and not told us; (b) our supplier had subcontracted their work for us to a third party, not paid the third party, and not told us; (c) the magazine that was full of ads and articles that were newsworthy TWO WEEKS AGO was sitting in a warehouse on pallets, and was at least another week away from being delivered; and (4) unless we could scrape together about $10,000 immediately, it wasn’t going to be delivered.
And we had the next issue of the same magazine about to go to press.
Building the backup plan
Many companies have a backup plan to cover themselves when a major supplier can’t deliver on a promised service. But if you’re new to content marketing, or new to publishing, you may not have thought of these problems.
“We’ve been putting out advertising campaigns for years, and haven’t had to worry about this,” you may say.
But because content marketing is not campaign-based, you have a much larger window of time for something to go wrong in.
So a key part of your content strategy should involve identifying who some of your key suppliers are and what you do if they disappear. For example, if you are publishing a customer magazine, you will be dealing with printers, mail suppliers, and possibly an agency to supplement or edit your content.
If you are doing digital publishing, it may be an ISP. It may be the people who build your site. Or a large integrated platform and/or data solution. Or other marketing software (perhaps automation or lead management stuff).
If you put together a spreadsheet with the names and contact details for key suppliers and their competitors, you will have a valuable safety net.
Making the most of the disaster
You can do this the long and complex way, by gathering it all in a request for tenders. Or you can keep it informal with an annual email to the sales guy in those organisations. Trust me, there is not a print rep on the face of the planet who is going to ignore your call if they think they can get your business.
In our case, we had kept track of other, more expensive options for mail suppliers. To their great credit, when we rang and explained the pickle we were in, one of them was prepared to help us out at the same price as our previous supplier. Just because he was a nice guy.
Needless to say, he got all our business from there on in.
To your leads or customers, a disaster that halts your content production or distribution is meaningless. They don’t care that your supplier went broke. They just know that they were expecting your content, and it didn’t arrive.
The simple act of adding a page to your content strategy document at the beginning with a list of names and phone numbers can save you an enormous amount of time, money and stress in the unlikely event that something goes very wrong, very quickly, in a very big way.