By Marcia Riefer Johnston published February 26, 2015

Restructuring the Modern Content Marketer

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If you create corporate content today and you’re not having an identity crisis, maybe you missed the memo, or maybe you’ve had your headphones on. Take off the headphones, and you’ll hear Change knocking. Scott Abel, that is. Don’t be afraid. Open the door. He’s smiling. At you.

Among the changes Scott has been heralding for years is the blurring of the line between content marketing and intelligent content. The modern content marketer needs to think and act in ways that extend beyond marketing – and those of us outside the market arena need to think and act like we’re in the promotion business. Because we are. Scott has said it many times: All business content is marketing content.

Therefore, Scott says, the modern content marketer needs “restructuring.” (You may ask yourself, Am I a content marketer? If you create content that describes a product, service, organization, or brand, your answer is somewhere on the Yes side of the scale.) Scott recently shared some insights on this topic in a podcast and a video:

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This blog post paraphrases the insights Scott expressed in that podcast and video.

Companies need to restructure content-creation teams

Businesses must restructure the teams that create customer-facing content. Some companies, mostly high-tech companies in Silicon Valley and beyond, now call people who create content information developers.

People who create customer-facing content may have an area of specialization. Maybe they’re experts in diabetes care or in technology. Maybe they’re experts in language or on a region, something specific that the company needs. If you bring them all together under one leader, you create departments that collaborate.

Organizing companies hierarchically by department componentizes the information that gets created. Customers don’t care how companies are organized. Marketing people might say, “I didn’t create that technical documentation. Don’t blame me.” But customers don’t care. They don’t say, “I’m mad at the customer-support content creators at Target.” They don’t say, “Oh, it’s OK that the marketers didn’t create that content.” They’re unhappy with the brand.

We need to break those silos down. And then people need a champion, a leader, somebody who says, “This is not right. No wonder our customers think that we suck.” We limit the effectiveness of our content by not empowering the people who create it to work together. We need to establish new roles, responsibilities, and workflows.

It’s not easy. Some brands – including some big brands – are restructuring their teams in this way, but they’re not talking about it. They know that this practice gives them a competitive advantage. They save money. They do better in the long run.

An organization’s content should not differentiate one department from another. The content– all of it – should differentiate the organization’s brand from its competitors’ brands. For that to happen, teams need to be restructured for collaboration.

Today’s content processes require smart use of technology

The problem is big. We can’t keep throwing human resources at it, can’t do more of what we’ve always done. We are not going to get that funding. Even if we could, that approach misses the point. We need to change the way we think. Today’s solutions need to make smart use of technology and to develop processes that enable organizations to deliver the right piece of information, to the right person, at the right time, in the right language and format, on the device of that person’s choosing.

That’s a lot of variables.

Smart use of technology in the creation, assembly, storage, and distribution of content leads to automation and efficiency gains. Consider the automation and efficiency gains made by factories of the early 1900s and again by automobile manufacturers in the 1970s. During those eras, manufacturers looked at every production-related task and asked, “Is this necessary? If so, does it have to be done by a person?” That’s what modern content-production teams need to do – as well as identify new tasks that humans could never accomplish without the help of computers. When we do this, we give our content superpowers.

Content creators don’t have to understand code. They don’t have to know how to write software. They do need to understand what computers make possible.

Smart use of technology frees people to do what people do best

Some people fear that automating content production will make the discipline less creative. Nothing is further from the truth. We want to eliminate the busywork that slows you down, keeps you from being creative, keeps you from doing the thing – whatever it might be – that you’re great at.

Automation didn’t make car design less creative. Machines now assemble cars from the parts that designers specify, but the job of designing a car remains as creative as ever. Car manufacturers simply automated the parts of their process that enabled them to eliminate waste and deliver lots of cars to lots of places in the ways that car buyers wanted them.

That’s how today’s organizations need to produce content. Have machines do what machines do best, and the same for people.

The modern content marketer needs long-term, strategic vision

Content marketers and strategists need to look at all the opportunities and pinpoint the ones that would be best for the organization in the long term. It’s tempting to focus on solving today’s problems. When we do this, though, we may create new problems for tomorrow.

In other words, the solutions we invent today should not be limited to today’s problems. They should prevent us from having the same problems again in the future – and prepare us to meet new opportunities and challenges.

Content quality matters more than ever

Making content more intelligent doesn’t mean that we care less about its quality. So-called “good enough” content leads to a lot of mediocre customer experiences. Good-enough content sucks! It’s nothing to be proud of. If a company is going to stand out in a world where everyone is using content to compete, it has to aim for an exceptional customer experience with every kind of content.

Summary

The insights paraphrased above come up often in Scott’s talks.

  • Companies need to restructure content-creation teams.
  • Today’s content processes require smart use of technology.
  • Smart use of technology frees people to do what people do best.
  • The modern content marketer needs long-term, strategic vision.
  • Content quality matters more than ever.

The modern content marketer is you. Change is knocking. Go ahead, open the door. Smile back.

Want to learn more about intelligent content and what it means for the modern content marketer? Here are some things you can do right now:

Title image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski, Content Marketing Institute

Author: Marcia Riefer Johnston

Marcia Riefer Johnston is the author of Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them) and You Can Say That Again: 750 Redundant Phrases to Think Twice About. As a member of the CMI team, she serves as Managing Editor of Content Strategy. She has run a technical-writing business for … a long time. She taught technical writing in the Engineering School at Cornell University and studied literature and creative writing in the Syracuse University Masters program under Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaRJohnston. For more, see Writing.Rocks.

Other posts by Marcia Riefer Johnston

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