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This podcast discusses the different roles an organization needs to successfully execute a content marketing strategy. I discuss the roles of project owner, editorial director, content producers and web producers.
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Hi there, Christoph Trappe here with The Authentic Storytelling Project, and today I want to talk about roles in content marketing. So we have decided to roll out a content marketing strategy, we know the goals, we know what we’re going to talk about, we know our expertise, we know where we’re going to put it on the website, on social, on all of the other channels that may or may not happen at some point here. But now we have to think about the roles. One of the things that’s important besides all those things I just mentioned in a content marketing is the roles – who is going to do what. Who reports to who and who is a decision maker and decides what content gets published; who has veto power on somebody else’s decision.
Those things are important to think about and then put the right people in the right roles. So for example, let’s say you have somebody who’s really good at coming up with good stories, story development, figuring out what are the right questions, who to talk to, but they’re not the best writers. So if you’re going to write blog posts, they’re probably not the people to write the blog posts, but they might be the people who go about developing the content, who go about and do the interviews, who find the right experts, who plan, who come up with the summary of the story.
One of the biggest things when we first start reporting stories for content marketing is also, “What’s the point of this story? Why do people care?” So that’s one role that we can think about.
So some of the roles that come to mind, we do want to be a collaborative environment, but people have to be able to make decisions. There needs to be some kind of chain of command.
Now, in my 2015 content marketing hopes article, I mentioned how I hope corporate blogging at some point will become as easy as personal blogging. So for example, on this blog, The Authentic Storytelling Project, I write a post, sometimes I ask my wife to give it a proofread, sometimes I don’t (depending on the timing), and then I publish it. My chain of command is basically me. I’ll overrule myself if I need to change my opinion, but there is nobody else that I run my content by other than myself. Now, I understand in a corporate environment that that doesn’t work all the time, necessarily. At some point, maybe, but today, we probably need some kind of approval process. Now, the shorter that approval process can be, the easier it will be for everybody involved for a number of reasons. Number one, you can’t be nimble.
So, if you have to publish something quickly, you don’t want to have a ten-step process to get a three hundred word article approved- you’re not going to get the thing published in a half an hour. Same with social media. You have like fifteen minutes at the very most to respond to a person when they’ve started talking to you, fifteen minutes from the time they say it, not from the time that you get approval, or not from the time that you saw it. So, you need to have a pretty quick approval process to get those things out.
So the fewer people, the better- but you do need people. So, who are the people? Probably the owner– who owns the blog, who is going to be the ultimate decision maker? So if I have four people writing on the blog, we all agreed on the topics, we all agreed on the expertise, we all agreed on what it is we’re going to talk about, what our goals are for the content, but somebody needs to be able to say, “No, this doesn’t fit, let’s rework it,” or “Let’s kill it,” or whatever. So somebody needs to be that final decision maker. We call it, him or her, the owner.
Editorial director: who is in charge of figuring out what all goes with one piece of content. So, for example, I might write a post, and here’s my post, but I don’t have a photo, I didn’t take a photo. You know, I could do a podcast. There needs to be somebody who oversees the assets for the story. Now, on my own blog, I kind of play all those roles, right? I’m the owner, I’m also the editorial director- I figure out when I’m going to talk about what, what I’m going to say about it, what my assets are, you know, am I going to do a podcast, or am I going to do a written article or a video, or take a picture, what am I going to say about it? So, the editorial director who kind of oversees those things.
Web producers: Now if you have a real big organization, you might have a web team, for example, so this is somebody who puts the content on the page, who makes it look nice, who formats it correctly. Those are the people that, while they’re not expected to be the editors necessarily, but they can also find things and make suggestions, but their role is to really get on the site, make sure it looks good, make sure the metadata is where it needs to be and the page tiles are correct and all those things. And then of course, that’s toward the publication stage.
Early on, you also have editorial planning. Now that could be the editorial director to a degree, but let’s say you cover five different topics, so you probably need to have an expert in all those different areas who helps with the planning, who helps with the “what is the big message, the big story in this area?” So that’s really important to have that person as well to help the editorial director share some of those responsibilities – to get those things flushed out. Because the editorial director, for example, might be an expert at storytelling content marketing, but that person necessarily might not be an expert at coming up with the exact stories in the different subject matter areas.
And then of course you need the content producers. Sometimes, those can be the experts, sometimes you can have ghostwriters who write for the experts, so they would interview the experts and then they would write the articles in their voice. Sometimes you might have a video or a podcast like this; you know, I’m literally recording this podcast on my iPhone. That’s how easy technology has become. Could I go into a soundproof booth and record it with mics and would it sound better? Maybe just a touch. But honestly, most of the time it sounds just fine for the web. And that doesn’t mean that content quality on the web is OK to be lower than other places, but you really can’t tell. It sounds just fine. People pay attention to the content, not that every once in a while you hear me, you know, jiggle my paper here on the side. So, it’s really not that big of a deal. So you have the content producers.
So as you can see it takes – it can take – a lot of people, it can take different skill sets. So just because somebody has been a communications professional, for example, doesn’t mean that they can run any of those roles, but they potentially can. The important thing is that you figure out who the right people are in the right roles, and then put them in the roles and then define the roles. One of the biggest problems in content marketing when it’s new to an organization is who does what role, who is in charge of what and who actually makes the decisions, because it didn’t used to be this way. Somebody else used to do it when we did it here. So, it needs to be defined, it needs to be explained, and then your content marketing strategy can be off to a good start. Now granted, we still have to come up with good stories, good things to share, relevant, engaging content.
Thank you for listening. Christoph Trappe, The Authentic Storytelling Project.
Sidebar: What titles should I use on my content marketing team?
Content marketing titles are all over the place! Dare I say they are out of control? Maybe that’s too strong but the lack of uniformity is there. Even for a guy who makes a living in making lack of uniformity work for organizations.
Being unique has a certain level of not being uniform!
Nonetheless content marketing titles that are all over the place can be confusing to anyone from people tying to get into the field, to job seekers and even hiring managers!
For example, I’ve seen VP of Content roles who are supposed to do all of this:
- Write blogs
- Designs infographics
- Run SEM campaigns
- Duties that nobody else can or wants to do because they outrank you
I worked with a lot of talented people and I’m not sure any of them are expert level at ALL the things. Some of them – sure.
Then I’ve seen virtually the same roles with titles of:
- Content strategist
- Content marketer
- Director of one thing or another
- Manager of everything ⬅️ Extremely loose paraphrase
And of course it doesn’t help when you have people – like myself included – who make up new roles. Examples I’ve blogged about include:
- Content marketing journalist
- Chief Office Politics Officer
- Storyteller > content creator
My apologizes for participating in the mad dash to create new titles. So what’s the solution? Follow my guidelines below, of course. Bahaha. ???
VP/director of content marketing roles
These are leadership level roles that in many companies shape strategy and run a team. That does not mean they can’t get in the weeds but no team or strategy development or input equals a different title.
Don’t get me started on having Executive VPs without having VPs, etc.
Bonus thought: Fancier titles at the same pay as others don’t help you pay bills quicker!
Content marketing manager
Managers supervise (or preferably lead) people. No direct reports equals no mananger title. Side snark: Having three managers with one direct report each shouldn’t justify a manager title! That probably should be one manager and five reports.
Content marketing strategist
I love this title because it can be flexed many different ways (but that doesn’t mean one person does all these tasks – that would be hypocritical, of course). Speciality tasks can be:
Again, one person doesn’t do all these things but a well-rounded team of content marketing strategists does these tasks. Think of it like this:
- Content marketing strategist (writer)
- Content marketing strategist (social)
Other titles that can be used and that should be pretty self-explanatory:
- Social media strategist
- Distribution strategist
- Project manager
If you have all six of those specialty roles on your team – Congratulations ?? ? It must mean things are going well and the organization has seen the value of content marketing.
In a nutshell, keep titles simple and closely aligned to what people do and what it’s called in the rest of the industry. It should make things easier in the long-term.
As we are moving forward in a maturing content marketing field some uniformity in titles can be helpful. How else will we know what somebody did when we consider hiring them?
If we ever get the uniformity in titles it’ll probably be just in time before the next major evolution in digital marketing. Still worth striving for, though.
This was first written in 2015 and 2016 and combined in late 2017.