The Biggest Barriers For Global Content Strategy

Content Marketing


I spent close to two years interviewing content marketing executives at global enterprises about the challenges and opportunities they face when trying to scale up single-country or regional content marketing efforts to take them worldwide. At the same time, I’ve also been helping several global brands build their strategies to make this happen.

This newly published research on global content strategy summarizes my findings, outlining the challenges organizations face trying to scale and at the same time, coordinate content initiatives beyond borders.  The research also looks at global content strategy best practices across people, processes, and technology.

In this blog, I’ll cover what my research revealed to be the primary challenges facing global content operations.

Decentralized and/or Multiple Content Strategies

It’s not that large global enterprises lack content strategy. Nearly all the enterprises we formally interviewed for this report have a content strategy in place. Instead, the challenge is implementation; it can be a battle for hearts and minds as well as for budget and executive buy-in. “Strategy is a piece of paper,” laments one senior executive.

Challenges facing existing content strategies are as myriad as they are frustrating. Adoption of these strategies, from executive buy-in to far-flung staff is frequently cited. Strategy exists for some content initiatives, such 
as social media, but not others, such as the company website. Adoption by business units is another near-universal problem. One large global brand, for example, has differing formal strategies in various global regions; the company’s challenge is cohesively tying these together.

Conversely, one global enterprise has a top-down global strategy that can be tone deaf when it comes to regional adoption. Leaders select global marketing and branding elements with little regards for how images or ideas might translate across cultures and borders.

Case in Point

Naming conventions and regional semantics matter. One enterprise’s US headquarters acquired rights to NFL brand assets for a global marketing campaign, oblivious to the fact that “football” means something very different in the USA than it does in every other country on the planet. When creative assets were sent to foreign offices, marketing staff were flummoxed, not to mention bereft of content assets.

Proximity impacts a country or region’s content needs. “Global” content doesn’t always fulfill what a locality requires, nor is it as relevant as local news, events or cultural issues that are geographically closer.

Another Cautionary Tale

A couple of years ago, I worked with a global tech company that didn’t evangelize and didn’t socialize. Communication was not a circulatory system. It went one way. Give and take? Forget about it.

Their creative department built a new DAM, a digital asset management repository for content around the world. One morning, everybody in the company who dealt with content in any capacity got an email that said, basically, “Henceforth and furthermore this is the process: Put all your content in this thing that we built.” Guess what happened? Everyone essentially said, “Up yours! No one asked me about this. This doesn’t meet my requirements. It’s not what my department needs.  So no. Just no.”

The upshot was, of course, that content went missing. Where was it? I asked around. “On my desktop.” “In my email as an attachment.” Content was everywhere, so it may as well have been nowhere.

A content evangelist takes local requirements into account and also considers the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) factor. One of the best ways to evangelize content is to show the other person, the other team, the other department why this is going to work for them. Click To Tweet People want their jobs to be easier.

Additional content strategy challenges include:

  • Confusing individual campaign strategy for an overarching content strategy
  • Scaling content strategies across different regions and business units
  • Diverse regional content strategies with no overarching global coordination
  • Adoption of content strategies across the enterprise
  • Channel strategy, as the ecosystem broadens and audience/algorithms are ever-changing
  • Creating “global anchor” content that can be modified by diverse groups
  • Customer experience, particularly as related to emerging technologies and related changes in consumer behaviors
  • The ability to implement the voice of the customer at the core of content strategy initiatives
  • Having too many metrics
  • Measuring the wrong things

Moving Forward

All these challenges are just the tip of the iceberg. The accompanying chart illustrates more specific hurdles related to people, processes, and technology. This is much more deeply discussed in the research, which also addresses the very real ways organizations such as Visa, 3M, Bosch, Save the Children, Cisco, and IBM are addressing them.

Global Content_Figure 1

 Read the full report here.

Are there any challenges you’ve faced that I left out for global content strategy? Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments.