Historically, marketing departments have been forced to work at the pace of the rest of the organization they serve. In fact, their needs often get bumped down the priority list by other business needs and wants. For decades, moving at the pace dictated by the rest of the business was just fine. But now it’s not. Because the audience is moving really fast, and your marketing needs to meet that speed. This is a problem for most organizations.

Embracing content marketing is, arguably, the best way to build trust with the audience.  The audience – i.e., everyone you know – is searching for good information on the Internet. The entity that delivers it to them is going to build trust as a reliable, credible source. Your organization can be this entity, if you embrace a content strategy.

However, before you can start to build trust with the audience, you need to build trust with the big dogs in the C-suite. Because you can’t win the game if the folks upstairs won’t let you run free.

In other words, you need complete buy-in from the C-suite. If you don’t get it, it will inhibit your success. Because most C-levels folks have risen to that level by selling, and selling hard. Their muscle memory defaults to selling, and if a lack of trust in the concept of content marketing easily leads to a lack of patience.

Here’s a true story from the front lines: We just concluded a client relationship because we could not retrain the executives’ muscle memory. Their default thinking was always to sell sell sell.  Try as we might, they were not interested in audience-focused content. We – I – failed to convince them that focusing on a bigger conversation would pay dividends.

So how do you earn the trust of the C-suite when you’re first launching a content strategy? Here are some ideas on earning the trust of the decision makers upstairs:

Be clear from the outset. 

It’s important that the decision makers understand that this is something completely different from everything they’ve done in the past, and that it will take six to 12 months to see real traction. They’ll have to be patient. They’ll be seeing content that talks about competitors and does not have an overt sales message. They won’t get it and they’ll have their doubts. You need to tell them all of this before you start, and then you need to over-communicate as the effort progresses.

Speak their language (but do so honestly.)

You can’t have a “let’s put on a show” mentality. This effort needs to be business-focused, and the presentation to the C-suite should focus on what it will do for the business. Talk about audience growth, engagement and, importantly, how that will lead to sales. Showcase examples from similar industries.

Be metric focused.

In all likelihood, the C-suiters will not be writers and journalists. They don’t need to know how you’re going to execute this strategy; rather, they need to know what it will do for the good of their business. Focus on numbers that demonstrate audience growth and engagement. Track the audience as it moves through the sales funnel. Frequent numbers-oriented updates will help you maintain credibility and keep the content strategy on track.

Keep top-level goals front and center.

You should not get down in the weeds of content creation and distribution when talking to the folks upstairs. They want to know how it’s going to move the business needle; they don’t need an advanced education on newsgathering.

Focus on awesome quality that will make them proud.

Most executives will get it when they see you produce content that is awesome, whether it’s an infographic that goes viral or a fantastic long form piece that makes the light bulb go off for them. Dare to be great.

In the end, trust is the central issue. Would-be content marketers need to make a case for content in which the CEO, CFO and other top-level decision can believe.  The head of the content effort needs to being credibility to the table, needs to build trust, and needs to show demonstrable progress.

It isn’t easy within a skeptical business structure. And it’s impossible if you don’t start with a baseline of trust.