68% of consumers spend time reading content from a brand they are interested in.
- Content Marketing Association
In the Old Days (early 2000s and before), brand advertisers would shout through the TV set or the billboard or the magazine layout and cross their fingers. Consumers had little interaction with brands via one-way broadcast or print advertising (created by agencies), or by reading consumer review journals. Sure, some face-to-face interaction with sales associates happened at stores or events. But with the digital revolution, brands now offer up interactions every second to millions of consumers around the globe. And to gain the continual attention of these consumers, brands are pumping out content.
The natural result: Content is now officially sexy in the marketing world. People are talking about it with new terminology (brand publisher, micro-content, etc.). It’s rolling downhill and gaining size, weight, and velocity. But many agencies and large brands are naturally hesitant to commit significant resources in an emerging discipline that has fuzzy boundaries and job descriptions.
Content Strategy as a discipline has been with us since around 2000, give or take, from the early Internet days when legacy brand print content had to be “webified” for online consumption. But while content – and the strategy around it – is crucial to brand-building in today’s multi-channel universe, the disciplines of content creation, content management, content marketing, and yes, content strategy, are still unexplored territory even within some leading digital agencies and brands. And when something is unexplored it is often misunderstood. And feared.
The Fear Factor
You may be unafraid to step in the content wild but you should acknowledge that many around you may feel differently. The fear of embracing content comes from several unknowns:
• The content ball is moving
This discipline is ever-changing, so it’s hard to be sure you’re hiring the right people with the right skillsets. How do you even write the job description? And there are relatively few people with long-term experience in the field to provide any kind of leadership.
• What’s the ROI?
In the amorphous world of brand-building and online marketing, there are jillions of metrics to track consumer engagement, sentiment, and traffic. But not all branding activities immediately move the needle in terms of revenue, so it can be hard to show a bottom-line return on even highly engaging content. So how to justify hiring new headcount?
• How to sell this to clients/internal leadership?
Content Strategy/Content Marketing is a newer discipline with newer aspirations and techniques, so it requires an updated way to communicate its value to stakeholders. To those unfamiliar with how to articulate the uniquely powerful value of content, it seems a daunting task.
• Whose toes will get stepped on?
Today’s PR department must be prepared to play well, and often, with the social media crew. Same goes for an existing Editorial group or Copywriting pool. But who owns what content, and for which channels, frequency, subject, and tone? When adding a crucial overarching content strategy into the mix, long-time stakeholders can get nervous about newfangled approaches upsetting their entrenched apple cart.
• Good old inertia (not always a fear, just human nature)
For the Head of Digital at a marketing firm, it’s reassuring to make bold, simple moves to increase your value proposition. (Getting lackluster visual design? Hire a better designer!). But enhancing your content play often requires a long-term vision, and the results are valuable – but maybe not as immediately apparent. If for the past decade client accounts have run relatively smoothly with visual design, development, and possibly a generic UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface) lead spearheading project deliverables, it can be a real jolt to introduce fresh content-focused people.
Start Rolling Without Getting Flattened
Scared yet? Not to worry. If you're a CMO or VP of Digital or MarCom, you don’t have to jump in the deep snow to start packing your own content snowball. And if you’re a solo content professional, you can make a clear impact even while freelancing within a large organization.
Here's a simple roadmap to take useful baby steps in building up a thriving content practice. Specific sample roles and skillsets are spelled out, and of course can evolve with time based on headcount and budget. With a gradual build-out, you can address the fears spelled out above: You will learn to understand the roles and requirements from your early, all-in-one hires; you can acclimatize your existing departments to this new resource; you will build the case for value to present to clients; and you need not break the quarterly budget.
Note: These approaches are broad enough to include both in-house brand AND agency roles – but your mileage will vary. Titles and levels will also vary greatly from place to place.
A. The Skeleton Crew
When starting at ground zero, you need in-the-trenches, GSD (Getting “Stuff” Done) types who can immediately produce quality content across brands, platforms, and clients. They will need strategic guidance from existing staff.
1. Content Strategist (Senior-level, copywriting background)
Swiss army knife type: Copywriting/editing, campaign concepting, editorial calendaring, market research, content documentation, web and social media writing/editing, some photo/video creation and editing, SEO, some UX theory/practice
2. Social Media Engagement Lead (Mid-level)
Concepting and writing posts, “always-on” audience engagement for comments/replies/issues, relationship-building, online research and trend analysis, ads/promotions, analytics monitoring/reporting, basic photography/videography for uploading, basic graphic design for posts, optimizing graphics for social channels
B. The Nimble Few
You’ll notice that job parameters shrink as team size grows – but still demand extreme versatility at this level.
1. Content Lead (Executive/Senior-level)
Strategy, team leadership, brand editorial guidance, market trend analysis and reporting, campaign concepting, editorial calendaring, some UX theory/practice, copy editing
2. Content Strategist/Copywriter (Junior/mid-level, copywriting background)
Copywriting/editing, market research, content documentation, web and social media research, SEO
3. Video Producer (Mid-level)
Video/stills shooting, directing, editing, post-production graphics, optimizing for digital platforms, archiving
4. Social Media Engagement Lead (Mid-level)
Writing posts, “always-on” audience engagement for comments/replies/issues, relationship-building, ads/promotions, analytics monitoring/reporting, basic graphic design for posts
C. Solid Core
If persistent and lucky, you can find two or more of these roles in one talented person. But be realistic with workload, realizing that you are asking for 2-4 jobs from one human!
1. Head of Content (Executive/Senior-level)
Strategic guidance/ideation for multichannel content, team building and managing, editorial leadership, market trend analysis and reporting, editorial calendaring, UX theory/practice
2. Content Strategist (Mid-level, copywriting background)
Copy editing, market research, campaign concepting, content documentation, content style guide implementation, web and social media research
3. Copywriter (Mid-level)
Copywriting/editing for digital and social, campaign concepting
4. Video Producer (Mid-level)
Video/stills shooting, directing, editing, post-production graphics, optimizing for digital platforms, video archiving
5. Visual Designer (Mid-level)
Imagery for digital/social/video, archive assets, UX theory
6. Social Media Engagement Lead (Mid-level)
Create short-form posts, adapt long-form content to various platforms, “always-on” audience engagement for comments/replies/issues, relationship-building, ads/promotions
7. Analytics/Optimization Manager (Junior/mid-level)
Monitor/report digital and social metrics, SEO, industry tracking/trend-watching
D. Robust Team
This team would be overkill, of course, at a six-person digital marketing firm with virtual offices. But at a larger agency or brand needing to connect content to consumers, it may be underkill. At this level and beyond, you can easily scale horizontally (e.g., expanding your copywriter pool from 5 to 30 as volume increases). And freelancers can come in handy as content publishing needs fluctuate.
1. Head of Content (Executive-level)
2. Content Strategist (Senior/Mid-level)
3. Jr. Content Strategist/Traffic Coordinator (Junior-level)
4. Copywriter/Lead Editor – Marketing/Creative (Mid/Senior-level)
5. Copywriter pool (Junior/mid-level: for content-heavy output such as magazine sites)
6. Proofreader (Mid-level)
7. Social Media – Strategy (Senior-level)
8. Social Media – Community Engagement Lead (Junior/mid-level)
9. Social Media Promotions (Junior/mid-level: for buying social ads, monitoring, budgeting)
10. Visual Design (Mid/senior-level)
11. Video Producer/Director (Mid/senior-level)
12. Video Editor (Mid-level)
13. Analytics/Optimization (Mid-level)
E. Content Platoon
For the truly big players on a national or global scale: horizontally expand part or all of “Robust Teams” by as many as it takes to serve a large client base or brand.
With the right pieces in place, you can then start building not only a content strategy, but a content culture. Stay tuned…