In this guide we’re going to show you how we develop epic content marketing campaigns for big brands through the power of collaboration.

You’ll see how we identify, approach and leverage the specialities and talents of our incredible community to run successful campaigns that have reached millions for companies like;

We’ll also share the benefits and disadvantages of our signature 7R’s Strategy and what you need to watch out for.

 

Table of contents

 

But, what is collaborative marketing?

With over 80% of online content now generated by consumers and users, it’s no surprise the reach and power of mass media and traditional marketing strategies is falling.

Collaborative marketing is social marketing on steroids; where brands are being forced to develop deep relationships with their core audience using meaningful, genuine, user generated content and ideas.

It’s about pulling together a team of incredibly diverse, talented people with an array of different, complimentary skills to create an intricate web of content creating brilliance. (We use this word ‘team’ a lot throughout this article, because that’s exactly how you should view your crew).

This collaborative strategy has grown in popularity with influencers, celebrities and innovative brands. But it’s only now starting to become a necessity for big brands to re-engage with their followers.

Make something like this…

These are just some of the incredible campaigns where we’ve used our collaboration strategy to achieve industry leading results. You can see more of our projects at the We Are Explorers Studio site.

Merrell

Outdoor footwear brand Merrell engaged We Are Explorers to assist in launching the MOAB 2 in Australia and New Zealand, the world’s number one selling adventure boot.

We produced a series of articles and reviews using images curated from the campaign, which was also picked up by Merrell USA.

We Are Explorers X Merrell // ROB MULALLY

A beautiful short film on the magnetic pull of nature and how it feeds our souls. #weareexplorersShot by Rob Mulally and narrated by Mason Clay

Posted by We Are Explorers on Friday, August 11, 2017

 

Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson released a learner approved bike called the Street 500, and all buyers receive a $500 discount. So we tasked two riders to explore their cities with a fistful of fifties. $500 to be precise.

Through video, stills and editorial we captured the experience in a unique piece of brand marketing.

Watch the Street 500 conquer another city with We are Explorers. #Street500

Posted by Harley-Davidson Australia on Monday, May 9, 2016

 

Clarence Valley Tourism

The Clarence Valley Council in Northern NSW created Australia’s longest whitewater trail.

We reached more than 300,000 and the adventure was also picked up by national press resulting in a reach of more than 7 million.

The 7R’s Model: A Framework For Collaboration

What we’re doing at We Are Explorers isn’t new, but it’s different and we’re pretty darn good at it.

We’ve bootstrapped, customised and supercharged more traditional marketing models into our own custom built grassroots guide.

The 7R’s Model is absolutely and entirely designed to reach into, empower and showcase the incredible talents and secret powers of our community.

Most brands see their audience as customers, clients or income. Our community members are our partners. Our fire. And our future.

Let’s rip into our signature marketing model and share what it’s all about!

1. Research

You’re excited to jump into your new project and put this powerful framework into practice.

Take a deep breath. We need to do some research first.

Tapping into the resources and skills of others can be inherently risky, particularly if you’re working with influencers and creatives for the first time.

Any misalignment in project goals, availability, skills or enthusiasm can destroy the project.

Some key areas you need to study include (in order);

Project Needs

What are the primary goals and KPIs for the project, and how are you going to measure them?

Some examples of these may be to build up your content libraries with fresh visuals, launch a new product or service, grow your Instagram followers, driving traffic to your website, or connecting with a new market and audience.

As seasoned marketers this is nothing new, but you may need to simplify the project goals to the bare bones for your collaborators who will have less insight and understanding of the project as a whole.

Your new team should be provided with a very clear scope of work and goals which has been designed around their involvement and the skills they are bringing with them. When a content creator knows how they are plugging into a wider project, stronger results are always achieved.

If you are able to clearly identify and meet smaller milestones and deliverables, you will have more time and energy to focus on supporting team members and putting the power of collaboration into practice.

Skills

Once you’ve identified your key deliverables and project goals, you should start to see emerging skills and resources among these. These skills will determine what your requirements are when you reach out to your network and build your content team.

It’s critical to keep in mind that while the practical and professional skills of your team are a priority, your project may also require specific resources that could play a part in determining who you work with.

Resources may include things like access to drones or licenses for filming and photography in certain locations, vehicle or transport requirements, or existing networks and relationships your team members have access to (this is a big one!).

Timeframe

Like your project goals, the timeframe you have to work with will play a major part in helping you choose who you will be able to work with.

One of the few weaknesses in the collaborative marketing strategy is being restricted by timeframes and deadlines when selecting your team. Time has a habit of speeding up on these sorts of projects, so be aware!

Much like contract workers, you must accommodate the demands of other projects and responsibilities for your collaboration team members that may be very different to how you currently work with in-house staff or departments with full time resources.

Conflicts

Researching your project goals and resources will likely uncover some potential conflicts of interest that you need to be aware of before you start reaching out to potential team members.

Working with such a powerful and flexible framework can be highly rewarding, but you are more likely to come across professional and personal conflicts within your new team.

Your team members need to be aware of all stakeholders and brands for every project they work on, as they may have existing relationships or contracts with competitors or brands that can take them out of the game.

Support

The final part of the research phase is patching the leaks before filling your team with exceptional individuals.

Any supporting infrastructure, training, logistics or contingencies you need to have in place to accommodate last minute changes, lacking skills, or members pulling out is what this stage is all about.

Some common solutions to these problems may be to work with collaborators who have overlapping skill sets to cover a late exit, or having multiple team members working on the same deliverables when short on time.

2. Reputation

You’ve done your research and now you’re ready to reach out to the world and to build your new team.

How you connect with your network will be up to you – although without a doubt the most successful strategy for us has been building up our own community through social media (Facebook page, Groups and Instsgram predominantly) as well as the offline world (yep, real world connections still exist!). Recommendations here have always been an integral step within the ‘recruitment’ phase. Highly targeted email lists are another.

But wait! Don’t reach out yet!

What we’re focusing on in the reputation phase is going beyond the mass shout out to identifying key players with a reputation that can be leveraged later on in the 7R’s Collaboration Marketing Framework.

This does two important things for your project;

  1. It cuts the incredible amount of time and energy required to process hundreds or thousands of team applications – sometimes down to just a handful of applicants.
  2. It builds your potential reach, influence and likelihood of success for the project by absorbing and repurposing the reputation and networks that individual team members have to amplify your message.

So how do we do this? It’s easier than you think.

Weighted References

Before you approach any potential team members, ask for recommendations from within your existing networks and get them to do the hard work for you.

This should give you one of two possible outcomes, both of which are more reliable and efficient than asking for applications directly.

First you’ll see that some individuals are mentioned and recommended by multiple sources and/or for multiple skills. This is a dead giveaway that there’s already some influence behind these members, but also that their skills are recognised.

It is likely you also have some individuals in your network that have better connections that you can start to rely on. These weighted references can be the deciding factor if your community recommendations are more mixed than you would like and they can help you trim the selection process into something more manageable.

Community Participation

After collecting a list of weighted references, we then want to look at their level of community participation. Social media makes this incredibly easy.

Community participation is a signal that these individuals are truly passionate, interested and engaged with the same community, goals or industry as your project. Request screenshots from their Instagram analytics – where are their followers based? How many swipe-throughs do they get from Stories?

Facebook groups, LinkedIn and Instagram comment sections are ideal for you to check in on potential team members and see if they’re actively engaged and participating in either your own or related online communities.

Influence

Slightly different to community participation is influence.

A team member can be highly community focused, but that isn’t that same as having a level of persuasion, connection and influence within their communities.

Influence is often a signal that individuals have provided value, support or resources to a group and is an important foundation when repurposing your content within their networks.

It’s very easy to look at someone’s follower count on social media, or the number of comments and likes on their posts to get a broad view of their potential influence super juice. It can also be much harder, however, to measure this level of influence outside of social media.

Ideally potential team members would be well connected and respected within their networks, would be referred to by multiple sources for the skills or resources you’re looking for, and you would be in a position to have observed others listening, following or sharing opinions with these individuals.

3. Review

Awesome! You should now have identified your new collaborative influencers – your team members.

Reach out with the project details that apply to them based on what you identified and put together in the research stage.

This is where the review process begins, and it’s not easy.

Communication

Straight away, the most important part of the review process should be how well the team member communicates. This is as important to me as the quality of the output.

Keep in mind that responsiveness is not always a good indicator for communication – they may be out on another project with limited access to comms.

Look for someone who quickly understands what you’re trying to deliver as this shows experience working on projects like this in the past, and not just the initial skills you’re looking for.

Be open to questions and suggestions – this shows they are eager to understand their part and once again their skills and experience are the main reason collaboration projects are so incredibly powerful. Tap into that and use what they know.

Finally, make sure there is consistent communication both ways leading up to the project date. Signs such as communication black out, you having to engage contact to get updates, or poor attention to details may create more work for you managing the team.

Portfolio

Your communication feels good, you think you’ve found your hero.

Request a portfolio that demonstrates the work you are asking them to do.

This can be more informal if they’ve got a collection of work available online already, or it may require that you ask for specific examples. Instagram is always a good port of call, but most will have websites and case studies to show too.

Remember your team members may not be industry professionals, this method means we’re often working with highly skilled amateurs and hobbyists. Don’t assume every applicant will have a portfolio prepared for you, or that they know what type of work to show.

Availability

Last we need to check availability for your applicant and ensure they are in a position to dedicate the time required for the project. For the heavier hitters, this can be a juggling act!

This commitment needs to be clear and accommodate time for the travel, training and delivery appropriate for your project.

4. Relationships

Collaborative marketing projects require an extremely high level of resource and people management to make all the parts fit so you can deliver outstanding results.

Team Relationship

Relationship building with your team can make a substantial and positive impact on the time and energy it takes to manage individual team members and their parts of the project.

This could come down to booking a dedicated meetup day before the project officially begins and give the team time to connect and discuss the project and the smaller parts each of them are responsible for.

Relationship building as the project manager can also reveal new opportunities for promotion and networking through each team member’s connections and influence.

Audience Relationship

One of the hidden benefits of the 7R’s Collaboration Marketing Framework is the inbuilt audience growth as a result of having a unique and flexible team behind each project.

For each member that comes onboard you’ll now have new networks and communities of passionate followers that you need to start building a relationship with – through your team members – so the project launch can be pushed out through them effectively.

You will be relying on your team to help build the awareness and introduce the project over a period of time.

How these relationships are structured will depend on the project but here are some audience building strategies we’ve used effectively for past projects.

5. Reinforce

The power of this strategy lies in the power of your team.

Reinforcing the contributions, skills, networks and project goals with team members and their connected audiences is crucial to breaking into a broader market than would be possible any other way.

You need to publicly and consistently empower your team members and the skills and contributions they are making. Your team members are the heroes.

Positioning them in this way also helps to increase the positioning, perceived value, and reach of the project by pulling the attention of your new audiences to someone they already identify with.

This can be incredibly valuable for future projects when we move into the recycle stage and can leverage off the work done here.

6. Repurpose

All the hard work is done, this is when this collaboration strategy really takes off!

Once the project is complete, this framework has a built-in mechanism for content distribution that absolutely dominates your network to ensure the primary deliverables and objectives are smashed.

This is how it works.

Drip Feed on Steroids

As the team works on creating the content and hitting the project goals, they’ll also be sharing teasers and behind the scenes content to their own audience and networks.

What this means is you’ve essentially created a promotional network that is tailored to the interests of multiple groups and audiences on autopilot.

This drip feed on steroids inevitably leads to a mass following of new users that each have their own stake and interests in seeing the project succeed.

Content Library

You have essentially created a content library as a by-product of the project through the drip feed process.

The difference with this by-product content is that it’s usually more authentic, individual and genuine because it was not part of the main project.

This unbranded and original content helps push the success of the project organically to increase awareness to a wider audience.

7. Recycle

At this stage your project was a roaring success.

Will you run a collaborative marketing project again? Well, that’s up to you.

But the benefits of this strategy don’t stop yet!

Having successfully worked with collaborators on a project, there is now a foundation in place that will allow you to recycle these benefits into future projects.

With a database of highly effective team members under your belt, you can now tap into the skills and resources you need without having to find new collaborators every time.

Working with collaborators on multiple projects also builds a stronger and deeper connection between your brand and their audiences. This helps future projects leverage off that previous experience to be even more successful.

In addition to working again with existing collaborators, you should now also have access to their network of followers and contacts that you can tap into to find new skills and resources for future projects thereby expanding your network of influence.

The essence and power behind the 7R’s Collaboration Marketing Framework is that it’s true social marketing.

It empowers and employs the skills of your audience to reach further and build on your network and field of influence.

Collaborative Marketing FAQs

We’ve also answered some common questions about our collaborative marketing strategy to help you get started right away.

1. How can I start collaborative marketing?

We usually have a mix of unpaid and paid work for our projects, so you don’t have to have money on offer to get started. Where there hasn’t been a big budget we’ve looked at the situation and worked with suitable individuals who could benefit from the project in other ways (portfolio, experience, exposure etc).

If you’re a creative and want to get involved, be sure to join our Facebook Group and sign up to our email list to stay informed about upcoming projects.

2. How can I reach out to creatives and collaborators?

Ask for recommendations. Think outside the box and get creative with finding people. For example – find a relevant film related to your project and see who filmed it. Contact them through social media directly. See who has been winning awards, always keeping your eyes open to great content and who is capturing it – then keeping a spreadsheet of creatives, their contact information and their recent work.

Facebook is surprisingly good at giving suggestions! Once again, this is tapping your existing network.
Facebook Groups! There are lots of groups out there with some great talent but you have to wade through applications a sometimes! Networking events, speaker nights etc are awesome for connecting with creatives. They walk amongst us!

3. Balancing the message and expectations

Striking the balance between multiple sponsors and how to manage the messaging so that the all clients are happy with the output can be difficult.

Keeping the focus on authenticity and managing the clients effectively from the start that we (as publishers) know are audience best, and whilst a brief is super important, maintaining our creative control and vision ensures a much stronger output

4. Some of our lessons learned

  1. There is amazing talent out there!
  2. Network hard to find the right people for your project and use all the tools available at your disposal – social media, events, phone calls, email, recommendations, etc.
  3. People are out there to support each other in this industry – it’s important to pass it on
  4. Work bloody hard
  5. Do great work and opportunities will eventually follow
  6. Passion is infectious. Believe in what you do an magic happens
  7. Always have honesty and integrity
  8. Do what you say you’re going to do
  9. Do your research on the people you’re working with. Sometimes recommendations are from people who are just trying to help their mates out!
  10. Leverage creatives who have followings themselves. This helps to increase your campaign reach

Can we hire you to do this for us?

Absolutely! Head here to book a call and discuss your project.

 

BAM! How sweet is this!?

You now have our secret content marketing framework in your toolbox and we can’t wait to see what awesome projects you can pull together with the power of collaboration!

Strapped for time and want it sorted for you?

Work With We Are Explorers