“What does a content marketing team look like?”
This is the third most-frequent question from companies after (1) how do I measure a content marketing strategy and (2) how do I scale a content marketing approach. It should probably be the first.
You might be a team of one, wearing multiple marketing hats. Or you might be a global, siloed, integrated marketing and communications team of hundreds. It doesn’t matter. “Content” should absolutely be a strategic function in your business. It deserves the same dedication to roles and responsibilities that you provide for your accounting, legal, sales, and every other strategic activity the business performs.
There is no possible way to scale, manage, and optimize every channel to ensure that the company’s story is being told without a dedicated approach to content as a process.
And, interestingly, the only way to answer the question of how to scale the content team is by understanding it as a dedicated function. It’s the inherent ingredient in the question of content marketing measurement – how a defined team structured around the purpose, creation, management, and ultimate flow of content creates value for the customers.
My friend and CMI founder Joe Pulizzi wrote a post three years ago that defined many of the roles that we still see today. At the time he wrote, “While there is no perfect structure for a marketing organization, it’s apparent that marketing departments are transforming themselves into publishing organizations.”
Three years later, while much of this has come to pass, we’ve also witnessed marked differences. What we’ve seen is a bit messier but perhaps a bit more realistic in terms of how businesses approach creating a dedicated content marketing team.
Hybrid teams are emerging where the roles and responsibilities are real but shared with more traditional marketing functions. For example, when Joe describes the idea of the director of audience, he states it should be someone:
… intimately familiar with the audience members’ characteristics, their passion triggers, and what actions you want them to take.
While our 2020 version of the director of audience development has the same responsibilities Joe outlined in 2016, this person is also frequently responsible for bridging more internal marketing-related relationships in the business. In short, this role makes sure BOTH the audience’s needs and the business’ needs are met by the content marketing team.
With that introduction, let’s look at some roles important to the function of content marketing in the business.
1. Chief content officer (aka director of content marketing or program director)
Most typically the chief content officer is not a C-suite position, but leads the content marketing efforts. This is the content ambassador or the organization’s chief storyteller. Many times this person fits what I call the “arbiter of good.”
This person should be responsible for setting the overall editorial or content marketing mission statement and integrating all of your content. As every silo (PR, email, social, search, etc.) starts to create and curate content, it is the CCO’s responsibility to make sure the stories remain consistent and make sense to the audience(s).
In addition, the CCO must understand how the stories translate into results that address the organization’s business issues (e.g., driving sales, saving costs, or creating more loyal customers). This role is almost always the liaison between the content marketing strategy and executive leadership.
2. Content strategy director (aka business, governance, structure director)
This incredibly important role is one that, given the size or complexity of the organization, often sits at equal footing to the director of content marketing as a strategic function. Additionally, this role (similar to the audience development role) can be split against a “front end” and “back end” set of responsibilities.
On the front end, this director may lead persona development, and/or even UI/UX types of customer experiences. The person may assist, (or lead) the development of business requirements for content management technologies.
On the back end, this role is responsible for the functional flow of content as an asset throughout the business. Content strategists look at the structure of content, and thus review taxonomies, and meta data strategies. They review governance and workflow approaches to ensure that content is flowing smoothly through its management and optimization. They may be responsible for content audits, inventories, SEO strategy, and ultimately the scalability of these approaches.
3. Content traffic, project, and planning manager (aka managing editor)
We’ve seen this role emerge as one of the most important. It’s a role that exemplifies the balance that content marketing plays against more traditional marketing content creation needs. From an owned media perspective this role is typically a managing editor – focusing on the day-to-day operations of the editorial platform. However, we find that the planning manager is often also responsible for developing the guidelines and managing the production flow for content from both an owned media (proactive editorial creation) and merchandised flow (reactive editorial creation). This person is the internal project manager who improves content processes, implements solutions to ensure that the team is functioning efficiently, and ensures quality and compliance with legal, or other regulatory needs.
4. Content production director (aka creative director, format specialist)
A critical role and one that may be shared among a broader group, the production director is responsible for managing how things look. This may be the lead creative designer, writer, or perhaps even a format specialist leading a cross-functional team of creative specialists (e.g., writers, designers, video specialists, photographers). This role is ostensibly the creative director for the content team.
5. Audience development manager
Audience development has come a long way in the last five years. We wrote in detail about the audience strategist a few months ago. Additionally, we see that, given the increased importance of this role, it can be two distinct roles – external or internal communication. As Joe wrote, the audience manager “should be responsible for developing the subscription assets (direct mail lists, email lists, social media) that can grow and be segmented as your content mission matures and expands.”
Additionally, the audience development manager is responsible for the paid and earned efforts to engage and draw audiences into both owned media and (sometimes) marketing-oriented experiences. This latter responsibility is where audience development managers often serve as the liaison between content marketing and other initiatives to ensure internal activation and participation among the various marketing constituencies. In short – the audience development manager often serves as the content marketing team’s business development or hype person.
6. Influencer wrangler (aka subject matter expert manager, influencer outreach)
This is a role that traditionally has sat within corporate communications or PR (and still may). But as the creation of content from subject matter experts – internal and external – grows as an important role in the content strategy, this role is the recruiter, wrangler, and manager of these influencers into the content marketing process. This person identifies, creates, and maintains the relationships with both internal and external influencers who may provide content, serve as interviewed guests, or even help to promote the content marketing efforts of the business.
7. Technical content manager
This role understands the technology aspects of content management. This person knows the language of content, marketing, and communications, and helps the team facilitate their processes with technology. This person may manage/operate the content management system, the technology behind the editorial calendar, the implementation of web analytics, or data-related structures that provide management of audiences. This role also may help develop, implement, and maintain digital asset management systems. Put simply, this is the content team’s technology expert.
Teams have roles too
Overlaps in responsibilities exist among these roles, and certainly most companies will not employ full-time employees to fill each role. In many cases, these positions will be assigned as part of other aspects of jobs to support the business. In other words, many of these roles will be supported by more traditional marketing, technology, or even operational professionals. For example, we often see the technical content manager role delivered as a shared service within the IT department. In another case, the influencer wrangler is a manager within the corporate communications team and is a “dotted line” to the content team.
The percentage of time committed to these content marketing roles wholly depends on how much content marketing makes up your portfolio of integrated marketing and communications. But this is an important distinction – it should be dedicated to that function as a team.
The place where we see most businesses fail with content marketing is where these roles are seen as an addition to someone’s regular day job. The investment in content marketing becomes a “when you are done creating content for sales – you can go to the fitting room and try on that managing editor role.”
Creating a team structure is a critically important aspect to making a content marketing approach work. A common structure looks a bit like this:
The roles are segmented by each group’s roles:
- The editorial board is a team led and facilitated by the content marketing program manager. This cross-functional group informs and is informed by the editorial strategy and calendar created by the content team. This board helps set thematic priorities, directs and coordinates content across audiences and channels, and generally acts as the voice of the business. The audience development manager is a frequent liaison between the editorial board and the other content teams.
- The content execution team may be separate or split among the broader marketing communications organization and the dedicated content team itself. The content team may have responsibility for the management of content-oriented projects and platforms, but the content may be actually created by others in the business.
- The executive leadership team recognizes and empowers the processes, guidelines, and standard playbooks, as well as setting the budget and business priorities of content and content marketing. Typically, the content program manager is the liaison between the content marketing strategy and the leadership team.
We should note that this list isn’t all-inclusive. Many specialists can play an important part of an overall content marketing strategy. Roles such as channel experts (social media, email, print, video, etc.), librarians, translation and localization experts, dedicated editors, SEO experts, and others are all seen within the broader context of content and marketing strategy.
Overall, however, focusing on building a functional strategy – and applying the most important roles to your business – is what counts the most. Laura Hamlyn, global content director for Red Hat, now has 45 team members for the brand’s strategic content approach. As she said, “We’ve been given a lot of responsibility at Red Hat. Brands have to deliver consistent value in a consistent voice. The way we do that is with a consistent team.”
These roles can help you begin to assemble the right and consistent team for your content marketing program’s growth and success.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute