Marketing TechnologyThe Future of Content

Content Marketing Operations: Best Practices to Calm the Chaos

By March 7, 2016 No Comments

The formation of a content marketing organization should result in individual roles that are beautifully synced. At least that’s the gist of how Jason Miller—who’s in charge of leading global marketing for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions—phrased it in a recent presentation about how LinkedIn combats the chaos of content marketing at scale.

There are a number of factors at play in content marketing that can result in chaos becoming the norm before B2B marketers even realize it’s happening, including:

  • Growth in available channels (earned, owned, paid)
  • Growth in available formats (white papers, webinars, infographics, video, blogs, etc.)
  • Adoption of buyer personas and content mapped to buying journeys
  • Multiplying marketing technologies (1,876 vendors across 43 categories at last count)
  • Isolated marketing teams
  • By function (demand gen, social media, PR, etc.)
  • By organizational structure (divisional or vertical marketing teams)
  • By product or solution
  • Lack of organizational vision and executive buy-in for content operations

Pulling all of this together under one umbrella is the goal of content operations. I wish there was a one-size-fits-all formula that could simplify the structure of a content operation, but there isn’t. Just do a search for “how to structure a content marketing team” and you’ll see nearly 20 million results.

That said, in my work with B2B clients, I’ve discovered some best practices that will serve every company in taming the beast of content marketing chaos.

The Foundation for Content Operations

Content marketing is about sharing a story that represents the value that your brand brings to buyers and customers in specific target markets. With this in mind, the first premise is that content operations should be led by a centralized team.

The second premise revolves around content marketing as a practice (not merely the act of publishing) that requires orchestrated and strategic processes at its core.

These two premises are critical to the foundation of content operations. They are what will keep your content marketing programs relevant, consistent, and on brand. They will also position your company to use consistent experiences that will attract buyers and retain customers.

Structuring Your Content Operations Team

Content marketing requires specific roles. This is where the tricky part comes in. Make sure you read roles, not people. Depending on the size and structure of your organization and the talent you hire or outsource, one person can potentially fill multiple roles.

The following seven roles will help you structure an ideal content marketing operations team:

  1. Content marketing strategist. This role can also be known as Chief Content Officer. This person is responsible for the overall vision of the content marketing strategy and developing the storyline based on buyer personas, as well as how it will play out across the organization. This is especially critical for ensuring consistency across global teams or if content marketing is executed in a decentralized model (such as by division or by product).
  2. Editorial manager. This person is responsible for orchestrating the processes and workflows to execute the strategy and vision of the strategist. He or she makes sure all the moving parts work together in sync and serves as the one providing the guardrails for content marketing programs in execution. This person is also the gatekeeper for style and tone that matches the needs of target markets.
  3. Content creators. These are your content writers. They may also be subject matter experts (SMEs) playing other roles within the company and contributing their expertise to the content marketing effort. Note that an SME may be more of a contributor than a writer, but the two roles must work together to produce compelling, relevant content.
  4. Content producers. These are the folks with specialty expertise—such as designers, website developers, or videographers—who make content visually attractive and engaging and ensure that it displays well in the channels where it’s published.
  5. Content analyst. This person analyzes the data related to your content marketing programs. As this role evolves, new metrics (beyond clicks, pageviews, and dwell time) will be added, such as how content contributes to progress in the buyer’s journey and adds to customer lifetime value by contributing to account expansion. As performance becomes more important, expect metrics to evolve in these areas.
  6. Content curator and chief listener. It’s never been more important to keep your ears open to what buyers and customers are saying and doing, as well as what thought-leadership topics are trending and how the story you’re sharing is being received by your target markets. The act of curation can also point to new topics or provide fodder for additional commentary that drives conversations in key markets. A feedback loop should be established to facilitate the findings.
  7. Content distributors. This role is in charge of marketing your content marketing. This means taking responsibility for content distribution and monitoring how your story is unfolding across channels. This person should also be tracking how often buyers and customers are being “touched” by content from your organization. Research has found that oversaturating people with content is one of the biggest turnoffs experienced by prospective buyers.

It’s important to note that some of these roles may be either in-house or outsourced. Some roles may be embodied in one person, such as the managing editor who is also a content creator. Additionally, depending on the structure of your organization, execution may happen in distributed teams. This is why establishing a core content marketing operations team will be the glue that makes sure your content marketing programs are consistent, strategic, and well orchestrated.

At the least, I highly recommend that your centralized team take ownership of the following:

  • Buyer personas
  • Mapping the buyer’s journey
  • Developing the storyline for each application (or at least overseeing it)
  • Setting the tone and style to match the brand, positioning, and needs of target markets
  • Analyzing the results of content marketing programs
  • Developing the processes and workflows for execution

This doesn’t mean locking them down; it means developing these components and managing them across the organization to ensure best outcomes.

Visibility and Collaboration Bring Calm and Consistency

The key to making this all work is visibility and collaboration across the organization. With the content platforms available today, there’s just no reason not to enable consistent processes and workflows. The ability to contribute ideas and feedback to works in progress—whether you’re responsible for the content or not—brings out collective genius that would otherwise remain unheard and unseen.

But the other added value is the inclusiveness generated by being able to see a) the content for each persona, b) the story that’s being told by different areas of the organization, and c) how the stories coincide with one another. When I say inclusiveness, I mean the ability to generate new ideas about how content can be repurposed and shared that also reduce redundancy and don’t reinvent the wheel.

When approached from this perspective, content marketing operations can indeed result in individual roles beautifully synced together, with no chaos in sight.

Ardath Albee

About Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions. She’s written two books, the latest is Digital Relevance: Developing Content and Strategies That Drive Results. Ardath helps B2B companies with complex sales use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Follow her on Twitter at @ardath421.

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