This interview is part of our Content Visionaries series, asking content leaders across industries for their insights into findings from our 2021 State of Content Operations Study.   

Stacey Martin holds a unique role at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC). Although she sits within the marketing department, she serves as a content consultant for the entire organization. Martin is working to modernize and streamline how her company approaches content in an industry that faces tight regulations and requirements.  

In this interview, Martin gives her views on the state of content roles, processes, and training

Our 2021 Content Operations study finds that many organizations are reshaping their content teams to make room for new and modern content roles. Can you tell us about the makeup of the content team or teams at your organization and how they have evolved?

MARTIN: Blue Cross NC is an exciting place to be. New leadership is very focused on our members’ experience—bringing with them models of success for streamlining teams. How that will trickle down to new and modern content roles is still in process.   

Currently, our content strategists work alongside user experience and interaction designers, developers, and project managers to support specific product and digital channel needs. We work with business owners, product owners, marketing strategists, and ask our legal and compliance teams for their review. Likely a similar setting to other marketing teams and agencies.

What I think is unique about Blue Cross NC—and the health insurance industry altogether—is the consideration of how much paper content is still being generated. As well as the legacy solutions for managing healthcare claims and appeals. Health insurance is regulated by state, and sometimes national, governments that require specific documents and information to keep us in compliance with the law. Adapting our response to government mandates is time consuming and complex. Adopting the Affordable Care Act, for example, required our content creators to include new language and user experience to connect our products with the online health insurance marketplace. So while our content creators are working on our digital marketing assets, they also must consider the complexities of health insurance regulation and growth as well. 

Evolving content roles at Blue Cross NC is exciting to think about. From my perspective, what I hope happens is that we consider roles that will help us mature our content operations. If I  could build the dream team, I would start with explicit content leadership at the executive level. An executive role that creates the expectation and provides the resources to build capabilities in enterprise content strategy, management, and governance. 

As needs change, how have you worked across your organization to align content professionals and stakeholders? Have you had success achieving alignment with methods such as setting up peer review and creating content playbooks or centers of excellence? 

MARTIN: Yes, I lead One Voice, an initiative similar to a Content Center of Excellence, which advocates for and supports our communicators. Our goal is to develop advanced capabilities that support enterprise content strategy and management. This means we are mapping out the people, process, and technologies needed to personalize and deliver content around consumer/member needs. We want to have an active role in governance, and we want to publish new content, consistently and in coordination with all areas of the company.  

We embarked on this initiative a couple of years ago, beginning with adopting our language simplification program and expanding to include additional stakeholders. We invited key business partners and stakeholders from around the company to define our organizational mandate. That is to define what our group would, and would not do—and why it is needed. We created our business case with the budget and resources needed to deliver on this mandate. We aligned with leadership and socialized across the organization. 

The enterprise impact we are making on Blue Cross NC is: 

  • A concept of a “mature” voice for the organization that aligns with brand strategy. 
  • An online toolkit that makes it easy for the organization to adopt these new standards. 

In 2020, we took a deep dive into the messages we communicate and the pain points our members experience hen managing their plan. We designed a strategy that is a plan for change. How we speak to our members is why our brand voice must be upheld throughout everything we say. And while there is still work to do when it comes to building infrastructure and systems that help us shift to a more digital way of interacting with members, we must help members take advantage of the digital tools already in place. 

What do you think are the most important new content skills that every content operation needs to succeed?

MARTIN: If I could wave a magic wand, and build THE dream content operations team, here are the skills I think every content operation needs to succeed:

  • Leadership: When it comes to anything considered “new,” be it roles or goals, it is important to remember the element of change that is required. Some folks adapt to change easily, while others need a better understanding, more time, or training.  Being a good leader is spotting this and supporting your team in the ways that are needed.
  • Brand voice: While you don’t need to be an expert on brand, understanding your company’s brand promise and how to express the brand through voice is critical. What is the company’s voice? Tone? What do you want members to feel when they engage with your company?
  • Content Management: Any level of content  management can apply. If you have managed a website, you may be ahead of the pack. It is important to understand principles of  taxonomy, SEO, and information architecture. Whether you are managing marketing content or your company’s digital asset management system, agreeing on and managing the terms used is a key to building consistency and clarity to content.
  • Customer/Member experience: Any exposure to your company’s overall experience metrics is important. Does your company measure ease or satisfaction? Do you have access to consistent user feedback? Surveys? 
  • Editorial lead:  What topics should your company be talking about? Do you have a content calendar to help chart and plan for delivering that content when it is relevant? Does this  role have the power to govern content and influence what is published or should be sunset? 

How do the different content roles work within or fit into the content process at your organization? 

MARTIN: We have a decentralized content model, with content strategists working within the marketing area and serving different product teams and business units. And we also have about 150 communications professionals who sit in different areas of our company, operations, customer service, and do everything from sending letters, emails, and other forms of communication to our members. 

That is to say, there are some elements of the wild west. We have multiple business areas using different tools. We don’t have a consistent content process—yet.

What types of content process challenges have you found to be the biggest hurdles, and how have you overcome them?

MARTIN: Priority, budget, and technology infrastructure are top concerns for us. Competing for resources requires us to be extra clear on the challenges we face, and the impact a mature content operation will have on the business, and our customers. 

For example, one of our content process challenges is inefficient content creation. We have a lot of different content creation silos. While this isn’t a novel challenge for large companies, how we solve this is unique to Blue Cross NC. 

To overcome this challenge, we are exploring unified content management platforms. There are different tools in the marketplace designed to help you deliver curated and personal content through content services and digital asset management. However, adopting new technologies at the enterprise level requires a substantial consideration of the existing architecture and resources needed to support. 

We also found that companies that offer content training are much more likely to have thriving content operations. What types of training does your organization offer? What has the impact of this training been at your company?

MARTIN: In addition to one-on-one consultations and team coaching sessions, we are reaching new audiences within the company with self-service on-demand videos. These videos introduce our brand voice with examples, as well as simplification strategies to reduce the reading level of our communications. Health literacy is very important when it comes to healthcare, so we have a clear expectation that we communicate at the 6th to 8th grade reading level. The videos are available through our HR platform and to everyone at the company. 

Our training is consistently used to introduce our brand and align the voice of Blue Cross NC. We continue to drop the reading level of our major communications. Sharing examples of how to simplify complex topics has helped different areas of the company reduce the complexity of the communications they produce. 

What are next steps for your organization in terms of enhancing content processes and getting greater adoption of best practices? 

MARTIN: We have built the foundation and now it is time to scale. We are eager to integrate accessible tools that will enable us to deliver personalized, consistent content across audiences and channels. We are building the roadmap that will take us to designing content that is easier to navigate. And assembling the skills, roles and teams needed to ensure all content creators have access to the resources they need to advocate for our members.

The Author

As a Content Strategist at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Stacey Martin is passionate about health literacy and delivering simple content. Her roots in medical geography give her the drive to tackle the complicated, cheer on the failure, and find the words that help users navigate their health care.

Last Updated: September 17, 2021

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