Collaboration is the Pits – And it can drive success.

“Hot Pit Pass” – Those words on the ticket hanging around my neck on a fancy lanyard were magic to me. The coveted prize of any motor-racing fan, to be granted access to epicenter of the action in any major motor-race. A few years ago my wife and I had been lucky enough to be invited to attend the Texas NASCAR race as a guest of Richard Childress Racing, and part of the package was a guided tour of their pit operations and the coveted pass that allowed us to stay in the pit and garage area the whole race. NASCAR is un-matched in the access it gives fans and visitors, and with that magic piece of paper we got to wander anywhere; including sitting on the pit wall watching the cars come in and being serviced.

It was a magic moment witnessing the well-rehearsed choreography of a top-flight pit crew. Six men flowed over the wall to service the car, filling it with fuel and changing four wheels and tires in less than 15 seconds. (In Formula One where the pit crew can number as high as fourteen people each with a dedicated task they can accomplish a four wheel and tire change in less than three seconds!)

A good pit-stop can mean the difference between success and failure in a race; and a good pit crew can be just as effective as the driver when it comes to positioning a car to win. Despite there only being one person on track, motor racing is definitely a team sport. This was bought home to me again recently during a business trip while watching the 2015 NASCAR race from Atlanta on the hotel room TV. Not surprisingly I’ve stayed a fan of the RCR teams and always follow them closely, and the Caterpillar sponsored #31 team in particular. During the Atlanta race the #31 pit crew were exceptional, as it soon became apparent that with every single pit stop the car emerged from the pits several positions ahead of where it had entered. In some cases the fast efficient work of the team gaining four or five places.

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It also struck me that the pit-crew model is a perfect analogy for the content creation and delivery process.

Customers are looking to your content to provide answers to questions, and as the content creator you may feel like the lone driver out on track fighting for space and hoping to get out front and be noticed first.

But the truth is that most customer answers need input and information from across your organization. Customers don’t think in terms of your operational silos, so they don’t look for information in neatly packaged chunks. To meet your customer’s needs you need to collaborate with subject matter experts, do research, and them pull it all together in a language that your customer will understand.

You need to pull together your own “pit crew” around a particular subject, value their individual inputs and pull them together to develop a process, to deliver the result that will help you, and your customer move forward at an accelerated pace.

Collaboration of this type also results in a premium consistent brand experience; ensuring that your customer gets the same answer, the same information, no matter through which channel they ask their question.

Working together results in success for both you and your customers.

A Rockin’ Quote to Kick Off 2014

It’s a year ago today that I officially started my current role as the Content Marketing Manager for Caterpillar. And what a year it’s been: I have learned so much in the last twelve months, both about myself, and about the challenges of introducing the idea of Content as an asset into a large global enterprise.

A lot of my time during 2013 was spent in what I guess could be termed “education mode.” Working with various business units and other groups around the company discussing how we can leverage the content they have, or are creating, to tell better stories about how we help make our customer’s around the world succesful.

The Content Marketing role is a new one to the organization, therefore it’s not surprising that one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked is “What exactly is Content Marketing?” – Over the year I’ve worked on and refined my answer, and have various responses in differing levels of detail depending on who is asking the question, and the context in which it was asked.

But what I’d never managed to do was come up with a simple one-liner.

A Twitter entry posted by Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute on December 26th solved my problem. Robert wrote:

“Marketing is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content Marketing is showing the world you are one.” — Robert Rose

Perfect. In fact I liked this quote so much that one of the first things I did on returning to the office today to start the new year, was print it out and pin it up on my office wall where I can see it every time I look up from my desk.

Thanks, Robert – and here’s to a rocking 2014.