Organizing for Content: A Detailed Overview
Organizing for content can be complex, very much similar to controlling a complex swarm-system, just like the swarm of birds in the picture.
Luckily you can get organized to control the complexity of content marketing.
In this blog post I want share in detail, using examples and best practices, how small, medium and large organization can get organized on different levels for content marketing:
The dream of content marketing
When looking at the benefits of content marketing, you might picture yourself publishing amazing content every day, all with beautiful and extremely engaging imagery.
Oh yes, your content produces sales leads every week, and you are able to news-jack in a blink of an eye. You master every modern content format, and are brilliant in your native advertising, interactive content and Youtility marketing apps.
Unfortunately, damn, damn, damn, reality is different.
The reality is that you only publish when time permits, or you publish what you can get your hands on. You only manage to churn out new lead offers every quarter. Oh, and the news jacking dream you had: you are happy to news jack just only 2 weeks after the news hits the market.
Why is this dream so hard to achieve?
I think it’s because content marketing is such a complex beast. It’s complex for a couple of reasons:
- Everyone is involved: as content is used in every stage of the customer life-cycle, every department in your company has content for customers.
- Content lives in every silo: every department has its own reasons to create content to reach their departmental objectives. Corporate communication, PR, marketing, the website team, customer service, HR, product management.
- Different strategies per channel: in many cases we marketers have different content marketing strategies for our marketing channels. We have a social media strategy, an email strategy, a web strategy, a paid media strategy. Depending on which industry you are in, things get worse as you can see in a study performed by IMN at the end of 2012 and 2014. That’s making the whole thing even more complicated.
Typical organizational challenges for content marketers
The challenges when trying to get organized for content marketing can be big:
One of the biggest challenges I often hear is getting buy-in from senior management. That’s because the value is not clear, the resources and budget requirements are not clear, and the return for the business is not clear.
The first thing that needs to happen here is to get yourself educated on how to implement content marketing and becoming a digital marketer, understand how you can become a digital marketing organization, after which you can build your case towards the CEO. And even if you don’t get buy-in, there are still ways to continue purchasing your dream.
Another challenge is getting people on board behind the same vision, set priorities as a company, and orchestrate the complete content supply chain from a central place.
This is where you start thinking about bridging the silo’s: how will you as a company align everyone behind the same buyer centric strategy, how will we organize to to agree on priorities, budget allocations and governance in general.
When all is good, you have buy-in from your senior management, and you have your teams aligned behind the same goals. But that doesn’t mean everybody understands his tasks and responsibilities.
Closing the skills gap
Often found, the next challenge is about finding the right skills and knowledge. This is where you need to think about closing the skills gap by training people on digital marketing, the workflow, the tools and templates and specific content tactics like content atomization, content curation, and new modern content formats.
And finally, the last challenge is to get people motivated to support you. Activating employees can be difficult because they are busy with other stuff, and consider supporting the content strategy not as part of their job.
All these challenges can be tackled by setting up a professional content supply chain organization.
How to organize for content?
To me, the key to content marketing has always been to have someone in your organization who really understands what is at the core of content marketing.
That someone is the internal leader that put’s customers at the center of the strategy, realizes that it’s not about more content but about creating greater value.
That person understands the role of content in the customer life-cycle, knows about how to attract awareness, know what content you need in every stage of the customer life-cycle, knows about content quality and content formats, and knows about marketing technology.
When organization for content, you need to organize on different levels:
- Aligning business objectives with strategy
- Where will ideas for content come from?
- How will you plan ? Who does that?
- Who creates, reviews, proofreads, validates, publishes?
- Where do you publish? Who does that?
- How will you promote your content? Who does that?
- And finally, how will you measure and organize for optimizing your content?
In essence, when developing a content supply chain organization, you need to think about 2 important levels:
- Strategy: which team will bring together external and internal knowledge about the content needs of customers, and agree on the big themes your company wants to talk about in the coming period. These themes formulate answers to the needs of your customers, because they are important to them, and on the other hand they align with your strengths as a company.
- Execution: once the strategy is developed (you know who you will be targeting and with what big themes), there is an organization who works towards and editorial calendar, and gets the content published, promoted, measured, reported and optimized.
Staffing to get organized for content
An interesting way to look at how you set-up your resources is looking at the buying cycle of customers (see image).
Classic organizations, I mean organizations that are not organized for content, have a high number of people working on the typical marketing deliverables like product leaflets, solutions guides, product descriptions, website content, events, advertising, etc. Classic organization also have little or no attention to the so called “middle-of-the-funnel”. The middel of the funnel is the moment where buyers are exploring their options and want to understand if your product or service is what they need. The idea of aligning content in marketing funnel is explained in one of my previous blog posts on how content can be aligned with the buying cycle.
Organization that are organized for content have much more people working on the awareness and consideration phase of the buying cycle. These people deal with blog posts, SEO & SEA, design, building content offers, building landing pages and lead nurturing tracks, etc.
Examples of companies – organized for content
Contently (software) – small organization of 30 employees in total
Newtec (high-tech) – medium organization of 300 employees in total
Newtec is a medium sized company in the high-tech B2B business (full disclosure: I used to be marketing manager at that company).
Two people took care of the content marketing strategy, one chief content and one marketing strategist. The strategy was executed by 3 to 4 people consisting of people skilled in digital marketing, PR & Media, and marketing automation.
That core team was supported by product managers, employees, external contributors and a PR & News agency.
Marketo (marketing software) – medium organization of 700 employees
Well known in the content and automation space, is the company Marketo. Although they produce a high amount of high quality content, the core team only consists of about a couple of people.
Marketo’s content supply chain organization is run by a core team of 6 employees:
- 2 Senior Leaders: Two marketing executives lead Marketo’s content marketing. They set the strategy, review key metrics and take in feedback from internal and external stakeholders.They also contribute content themselves.
- Managing Editor: The quarterback of the operation runs the editorial calendar, coordinates the content submissions of internal and external contributors, reviews metrics and is also a content contributor.
- 2 Content Creators / Social Media Specialists: These two manage Marketo’s social media presences, manage relationships with key Influencers in the sector and also contribute content
- SEO Expert: This employee is dedicated to Marketo’s search strategy and performance
- Marketo encourages participation from all its employees in its content marketing and many employees outside of the core content team contribute to the blog every month.
CEO Phil Fernandez himself publishes around 3 posts every month. Additionally Marketo uses some external contributors, particularly on its long form content.
For the marketing automation part, they have a larger team. They have six marketing ops people who serve as admins and handle analytics, and 10 people in paid lead generation programs – three work as event managers, one does webinars, and one focuses on lead nurturing and engagement. These people prepare their own copy and content. They also have a four-member creative services team supporting the marketing automation team.
Non disclosed – large organization of 5000 people
An example of a larger organization, with multiple products, targeting B2B and B2C, is organized using content programs. Each content program has a content program manager that reports the progress and activities to a chief content manager. The programs are set-up as continuous programs, which run indefinitely until it is decided to tear them down, modify them, or boost the scale of the program.
Within each content program, a virtual team is assembled from a pool of writers, designers, agency staff, digital optimizer, digital communication, marketing automation specialists, all managed by the content program manager.
A strategy team validates the programs, monitors the progress, sets priorities, and makes decisions.
New marketing roles needed – enabling agile marketing
Organizing for also requires new roles to be introduced in your organization. In certain circumstances this means that you’ll need to hire new people if you do not have the skill set and knowledge available in your existing organization. To be clear: roles are not people or functions. It’s very well possible that one person has to fulfill multiple roles. The bigger your company is, the more these roles will be spread over multiple people.
Let’s discuss some of those new roles:
- Chief Content Manager: you could compare this role with the dirigent of the orchestra. He has a good view on what’s happening, assures there is good governance, monitors the overall planning & execution, safeguards the quality of the output, and coordinates the reporting towards the governance structures. If you are in a smaller company, this role is the person that leads the vision towards content marketing, has the passion to push things through, and motivates other people to follow him or her.
- Content program manager: your marketing plan or business strategy might bring you towards developing multiple content marketing initiatives or programs. This can be to target multiple markets, introduce multiple products or services, target different sales stages (acquisition, retention), etc. This role makes sure that for these different programs all necessary activities are conducted to come from strategy to execution.
- Marketing automation specialist: this role takes care of managing the marketing automation systems. In bigger organizations you’ll have multiple people administrating the activities and handle the analytics. Other aspects of this role deal with lead generation programs, event management, webinar execution, etc. But this role also deals with managing the best practices, data management, household rules, marketing attribution rules, lead scoring mechanisms, etc.
- Digital optimizer: another fairly new role is the digital optimizer. During the set-up, execution and operations of a content program, this role takes care of optimizing for SEA, SEA, retargeting, landing pages, A/B testing, etc. Additionally, and more importantly, this role is capable of looking at the end-to-end performance of a program and come up with improvement suggestions for the program.
How to organize the Governance of Content?
To make sure that the output of your content strategy is aligned with your business objectives, you need processes, clear role definitions, alignement between departments and people, and insight into progress and results. All of that is what is called governance.
Governance within a company can be split into 3 categories:
It’s important everyone knows what to do, and clearly see the process that needs to be used. Think of a clearly defined workflow or methodology, easy access to all process output deliverables (buyer persona’s, SEO keyword lists, brainstorm output, etc), but also draft and finished content assets. Next to that, everyone needs visibility into the content pipeline, which in practices means a open an transparent editorial calendar. And next to that, also key to me, is a centralized distribution of content assets towards inbound and outbound channels, to avoid silo-working of your content.
Alignment means that production output and business objectives must be always aligned. Do you have an agreement from all stakeholders (usually marketing, communication and sales) to target specific personas and sales stages? Does everyone agree with the content themes your customer care about? Is sales and marketing aligned on the definition of a lead and the lead management process?
If you want to understand what works and what doesn’t, you’ll need to get insight into your marketing performance. Not only the performance of your content (how well is it contributing to lead generation or your revenue, and what moves people through the pipeline?), but also how are we doing in terms of content production itself? Spotting bottlenecks in your content production can reveal inefficiencies that need to be take care of.
In practices, you’ll need to set-up a team that manages these 3 aspects. Depending on the size of your company, and if your are national or international, you’ll need a different setup. Altimeter did some great research on how to organize for content in which they also suggest some possible models, along with the positive and negative aspects of each model.
In any case, you’ll need a central place of one person (small company) to several people (medium to large), to a whole organization setup like a hub-spoke model (international). This content lead, executive steering committee, editorial board, or whatever you want to call it is deciding on:
- Who does what?
- How are decisions made?
- How is the content validated?
- What budget and resources do we agree upon?
- How are priorities set?
If you want to organize something similar, think about meeting frequency, meeting participants, meeting format, reporting structure, decision criteria, etc. The best thing to do is to write down your governance in some kind of framework document that describes:
- role of the governance structure
- process and team description
- internal communication
Key success criteria
Content marketing can indeed become complex.
But if you have the right mindset about content marketing you are probably in good shape (it’s about bringing value on top of your products and services).
As long as you involve a key team with power, then you are probably in good shape.
As long a you document your strategy, governance and change process, your are probably in good shape.
But as with everything, start small, but build for fast growth !
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Tom De Baere