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A Culture of Content

Jessica Groopman

A Culture of Content

“If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories. If you want to change the culture, change the stories.” -- Michael Margolis

Culture and content are, and always have been, inextricably linked. Just as our understanding of cultures past and present are contingent on the tangible outputs and expressions of those cultures, so too are companies defined by the stories they tell.

As the demand for content (i.e. across business functions; paid, owned, earned media; proliferating channels and platforms) grows, so too does the organization’s imperative to support it; with formalized strategy, adequate resources, and perhaps most importantly, with a culture of content. This imperative forces assessment of the ‘stories’ both within, and coming out of the organization itself.

In our latest research report, A Culture of Content, my colleague and co-author Rebecca Lieb and I present a framework for how organizations of any size can establish, evangelize, and foster a culture of content.

Defining a Culture of Content

A culture in any context is a “common reference points of whole peoples” [Wikipedia], connecting common aspirations, beliefs, ideals, and ways of doing things. In our report, we define the the Culture of Content:

A culture of content exists when the importance of content is evangelized enterprise-wide, content is shared and made accessible, creation and creativity are encouraged, and content flows up and downstream, as well as across various divisions. A formalized yet not immutable content strategy is the framework upon which to base culture.

A Culture of Content is an Engine of Content

Creating a Culture of Content means infusing across the organization a mindset and evangelism of the value of content, beyond just content production. When content becomes an ingrained element of an enterprise’s culture, the culture functions like a well-oiled engine, producing, circulating, and begetting content, creating numerous efficiencies in the process.


Content is bigger than any one department. A content engine empowers teams and infuses content across marketing and other critical functions like social selling, employee advocacy, customer service, audience engagement and hiring. All cultures are built on certain tangible and intangible elements. In a culture of content, there are four primary elements, or ‘cogs’ that run the engine:

  1. Inspiration: The mindset, the momentum that drives buy-in and behavior: vision, creativity, and an acknowledgement of risk and the willingness to fail.
  2. People: The people responsible for and benefiting of, both top-down and bottom-up, content strategy execution: senior leadership, content leader, business units, external partnerships, and individual employees.
  3. Process: The components and workflows that streamline and scale a culture of content: evangelism, governance, education & training, and technology.
  4. Content: The atomic particle; the output and the input for a culture of content: paid, owned, and earned media.

In this report, we assess each element and its respective components in great depth. Based on our interviews of major B2B and B2C brands, Altimeter paints a detailed picture of how these elements come together in various types of organizations, as well as the best practices gleaned from those companies touting a strong culture of content. Readers of this report will walk away with a clear understanding of the elements that comprise a culture of content as well as pragmatic next steps for facilitating a culture to ensure enterprise-wide adoption and sustainability.

A Culture of Content Unifies Brand Identity

Ultimately, a culture of content doesn’t just help brands organize around content, it helps crystallize the very brand message; a culmination of stories that convey brand identity. Aligning internal processes, behaviors, and needs to a single brand manifestation will only grow in importance as brands embrace new ways of connecting with customers. In fact, as products become more connected, as online and offline experiences, and media itself, continue to converge, content will increasingly serve as the united face of the brand — across every single interaction customers have with the brand.

As with all Altimeter Group research, The Culture of Content is available at no cost under Creative Commons. Please feel free to read and share it, and please let us know your reactions, as well as how these lessons apply to your own organization.

Additional Resources


  1. Sherrilynne Starkie (@sherrilynne) says:

    I wrote a review of the report

  2. Dennis Shiao says:

    Jessica and Rebecca,

    Fabulous report. I’m responsible for content marketing in an 80-person company and have found success establishing a Culture of Content (CoC) in 2014.

    That being said, I’m curious how you might advise clients to adjust their CoC strategy based on company size:

    Startup (20 or less employees)
    Moderately Large organization

    I’d imagine that what’s been working for me (in my 80-person shop) may not be as effective in an 8,000 person company.


  3. Rebecca LIeb says:

    Jonathan, thanks for such an insightful comment. However I would argue that the vision needs to be more all-encompassing than “just” content or “just” social. In a converged media world, content strategy is married to advertising as well as to social strategy. In additional, social business is so much more than how “audiences can make the content their own,” as you put it. Social is also dialogue, sharing, and most of all, participation. Content is what spurs and fuels all this, so again, it cannot be segregated. I agree that brand comes first, but content is second – and it’s an umbrella vision for social and advertising, as well as for owned media.

  4. Jonathan Blank says:

    Rebecca and Jessica, I’m convinced from your report that companies need to start the “culture of content” journey with a vision statement for how content specifically should improve the lives of our customers and how employees can get involved. I would think all the other cogs of culture would derive from that vision statement. So I’m going to leave my comment focused on vision.

    I think as a community of content strategists we need to explore how to coherently align visions for 1) our brand’s purpose, 2) social business and 3) content as an as asset or experience. I buy that social is now wall paper for content. And in many ways content is the daily expression of the brand. But we still must accept that we have visions for the brand and for our unique way of acting as a social business. I’d personally recommend that we architect vision statements so that we have the brand vision first. Then the content vision showcases how we can solve problems with content alone or content and products together. Finally, the social vision illuminates how audiences can make the content their own.

    Do either of you have an opinion on the best practice for architecting these potentially conflicting (but hopefully complimentary) visions?