I started at c3 in April 2020 as the 16th employee, and the first member of the content team. My role as Content Strategist meant I worked very closely alongside PR and SEO, whilst picking up my own clients.
As we won more content projects and retainers, I made my first hire in September 2020 – Hannah Brady, as Content Writer. Three months later, Alex started, as my second Content Writer.
Fast forward to April 2022, and the content team has GROWN. We’re now a team of eight, with seven of us based in Leeds, and our latest hire, Sophie, joining our Manchester team as Content Strategist. We’ve also hired our ninth member, who’ll be starting as a Senior Content Writer in June 2022.
With many new content retainers and projects won over the last two years, we’ve seen several promotions within the team. I’ve progressed to Head of Content Strategy, Hannah has had two promotions to Content Strategist, and Alex is currently working towards a Content Strategist role; whilst our writers are all working hard to become senior writers.
Promotions and progression opportunities are extremely important to any team who wants to retain their staff and build a great culture, but there’s more to it than that. “Culture” is a word that’s often thrown around a lot, without much thought as to what it actually means; but from day one, I carefully constructed the team to ensure we’d all work towards the same common goal, and have fun whilst doing so.
Here, I’ve shared my tips on how you can create, grow and maintain an amazing team culture, that will keep your employees happy and motivated!
Hire people who see your vision
Culture starts at the interviewing stage. For me, it’s very important that I hire people who have the skills and drive to get the job done… or are eager to be trained up to do so. However, anyone I hire must also have a desire to want to work for c3, and work well alongside other team members.
That doesn’t mean we all need to have the exact same values, hobbies and outlook in life, as that wouldn’t be very inclusive; but what it does mean, is that we all need to have the same kind of ambition and work ethic. I want anyone who works in the content team to be proud to work in the team, consistently deliver their best work, and support others with doing the same.
During the second stage interviews, I invite the rest of the content team to join for ten minutes, so they can ask the candidate some questions (and the candidate can ask any other questions they may have!); and it’s important to do this, as I want to make sure everyone is invested in new hires, and feel like they’re part of making this important decision.
Promote honesty and transparency
The structure at c3 is pretty flat, with everyone approachable, but this can become more difficult to maintain as the company gets bigger. Suddenly, it can become all-too easy to forget to mention something, or to assume that everyone has the same information you have.
There are a few things I do to promote openness and honesty on the content team. One initiative is our weekly call we have on a Friday, where we talk about any specific client issues, and work out how we can solve them together.
I’ll also make sure that any relevant information gets fed through to the team, so they know exactly what’s going on in the company, whether that’s new business opportunities, or specific comms about the office, or ways of working from senior management.
Another thing I’m very open about is pay within the team. Having come from a previous agency where it was very hush-hush, with people talking leading to the realisation of massive pay discrepancies; I understand exactly how demotivating that can be, and would never want it to happen here. That’s why I’ve created clear job descriptions and pay bands for each role, which everyone can access. Everyone knows how they can reach the next level through progression opportunities; and it means that all members of the content team know they’re on a fair wage, and that no one on their level is being paid massively more than them.
We also have regular 121s, which I’ll talk about more in my next point, but it offers other members the opportunity to feedback and let me know if there are things we could be doing better as a team, or other opportunities they’ve discovered that we haven’t yet utilised.
Promoting honesty and transparency is so important in building culture, as it’s this communication that makes all members – both senior and junior – feel valued and listened to, and part of something bigger.
Be clear about progression
This ties in quite nicely with the above point. During the interview stage, we’re open about what’s on offer at c3 if you’re ambitious and keen to grow, and I want to make sure those opportunities exist within the content team when a new member starts.
In-line with the rest of the business, we have monthly 121s and six-month reviews. The six-month reviews are where we set goals and have a more formal chat about work undertaken, and progression, and we also collect 360 feedback from other members of the business. The 121s are a lot more informal, and we’ll talk about how we’re getting on with achieving those goals set.
We also have training budgets in place, which team members can use; and we run regular training sessions internally too. One example of this is our “dream client” initiative, where everyone in the content team listed their dream brands to work for. Every month, we each spend a day working through a couple of brands, spotting content gaps and opportunities for the new business team to send over.
Not only is this fun, but it’s a great opportunity for junior members to get a feel for the strategist role. This specific initiative has seen us run informal training sessions on how to do keyword research and content ideation, as well as how to put a roadmap together, and present your ideas in a slide deck.
The other thing to mention is that not everyone will want to be a strategist, and that’s OK! The team know that if there’s a niche they want to delve into and make their own that isn’t currently a thing, we’ll help them to fulfil that – and it’s in our regular catch-ups where we can talk about these opportunities in more detail.
Give constructive feedback
Part of being honest means giving feedback – that means giving praise where it’s due, but also constructive feedback where it’s needed. Some of our writers joined with no prior SEO knowledge, so it was a real learning curve for them when discovering how to add keywords into copy naturally, using the right anchor text for internal links, and learning how to best structure a blog.
We gave them a lot of feedback when they first joined; but we were clear why we made those changes, and the reasoning behind it, so they knew why they were doing what they were doing. This helps the rest of the team in the long-term, as it means less proofing is required over time; but it also gave new writers the confidence to be able to talk about content from an SEO perspective.
Support other team members
This ties nicely into progression and feedback, but ultimately, if you join the content team, you need to be supportive of all members. It sounds cheesy, but we’re more like a little family than a team of colleagues!
I try to make myself available for all team members – whether they want to drop me a quick message, have a call, or a face-to-face catch up in the office. That’s something that we then pass down to the rest of the team. Our weekly catch ups and Teams chat means people can be honest if they’re worried about their workload, and we’ll work together to make sure that someone else in the team can get it sorted.
I don’t believe that would happen if we weren’t all working towards the same common goal, were respectful of each other, and genuinely all liked each other.
Be an example to your team
We have a lot going on in the content team: we have our own content retainers and projects, but we also work closely with PR to create content for their campaigns, and with the c3 marketing team, where we proof all blogs and vlogs.
In fact, we proof a lot of work from all different teams – pitch decks, blogs, quarterly reviews for clients… you name it! We’ve built a reputation for being a reliable team who will help out wherever possible, and complete all work to an extremely high standard. But I can’t ask that of my team without setting that example myself.
That’s why I still work as a strategist on a few clients, will support others if they’re struggling with work, and get involved in proofing.
Ultimately, I know I have high standards, but I’m proud of the team I’ve grown, and I don’t want that reputation slipping, which is why I’ve hired people who I know will be proud to work in such a great team; and are extremely conscientious and have a high attention to detail.
Meet regularly – both work and play!
The company has recently moved from minimum two days in the office a week, to remote working; but as a team, we all genuinely enjoy coming into the office to see each other, and that’s something that hasn’t changed. For the most part, we’ll all do at least three days a week, but at any given day of the week, there’s always at least two people from content in the office!
To work in content, it’s so much easier being face-to-face to bounce ideas off each other, but it means we can really cement the team culture, as we can go out for lunches together, as well as spontaneous drinks after work, and just have a general catch up when we’re all sat at our desks.
That being said, if someone isn’t in the office, then that’s OK too! Every Monday morning we’ll have a quick catch up to talk about workloads, in addition to our Friday meetings; and we’ll have other team meetings throughout the month where we may hold ideation sessions, or show the team a particular strategy that worked well. Our Teams chat and WhatsApp group are always going off too, so we always feel connected!
There’s also the social side of things! We’re the only team in the company to have regular monthly socials, and we’ll do a variety of things, such as axe throwing, crazy golf, and karaoke.
These socials are a great way to unwind after a hard week of work, and for newbies, it’s a great way to get to know everyone.
Work towards something bigger together
Everyone in the team is on a clear progression plan, and there’s a reason for that. We’re not going to progress people for the sake of it – I want to make my team the best content team in the business; so it’s crucial that everyone works towards that same common goal. Besides, the more work we bring in and the more hires we make, the more opportunities there are for team members.
Communicating that common goal clearly is key, and we have regular meetings to make sure people are aware of that, and know how to work towards it. The dream clients initiative is one example; and another initiative is our push on social media, where we’ve all been tasked with posting on Twitter and LinkedIn at least once a week each, to get the c3 content name out there.
That being said, we can be flexible on this. In the name of honesty and transparency, if something isn’t working, I want my team to be able to tell me, and for us to fix it. Alternatively, if there’s something we could be doing to get our name out there that I haven’t thought of, then the team know they can make suggestions and I’ll take it on-board.
Building a culture isn’t simple, and there’s a lot of factors that play into it! I’m super lucky that I have a really hard-working team of people that all enjoy working together, but it didn’t come about by luck – it came about by careful hiring, and curating and building that culture to make sure that our team continues to stay as great as it can be.
If you’d love to join the best content team in the industry, then check out our vacancies; or if you’d like to chat more about how we can help with content strategy and writing, get in touch with us today.