By Joe Pulizzi published April 20, 2013

12 Roles Essential to the Future of Content Marketing

essential content roles for futureWhat’s the future of content? It’s a question that my friend Lee Odden (author of “Optimize) has recently been asking on his blog. CMI has also been digging into this important area, both as a content marketing agency and from a hype and positioning perspective. So critical is the changing nature of the content marketing industry, that we have officially altered our editorial strategy because of it.

Now, think about the dynamics of our industry in terms of content creation:

  • Epic content is an asset. One story can be developed into multiple content assets, which can generate traffic and interest for years, if not decades. Most importantly, great content is the main driver for developing an audience — the greatest asset of all.
  • Regardless of what the economy does, or how your overall marketing spend changes, great content rises to the top and can continue to fuel your business.
  • Once an audience is created, an organization can generate cash from that content by selling products and services directly, or by selling access to its audience (in the form of advertising, sponsorship, or affiliate sales).

So think about it this way: What if our primary goal in marketing is now to own content niches online; to build out our content assets to grow and maintain our audiences and subscribers?

As Robert Rose says, “In many businesses (especially in B2B), the marketing department is an order-taking, tactical function that runs on the hamster-wheel of demand generation, trying to keep up with “client” orders for new collateral, press releases, case studies and, at times, marketing-qualified leads (MQLs).” If our new call to arms is around creating and growing owned audiences, it’s clear that our marketing skill sets may be, well, a bit out of date.

The new roles of content marketing

While there is no perfect structure for a marketing organization, it’s apparent that we are starting to see marketing departments transform themselves into publishing organizations. And with that transformation comes a shift in the key business roles that marketers must now fill. Don’t think of the list below as new job titles, per se, but rather as the core competencies that need to be accounted for across the enterprise:

Chief Content Officer

This is your content ambassador, also known as an organization’s chief storyteller. This person should be responsible for setting the overall editorial/content marketing mission statement and integrating that throughout the enterprise. As every silo (PR, email, social, search, etc.) starts to create and curate content, it is the CCO’s responsibility to make sure that the stories remain consistent and make sense to the audience(s). The CCO must also continually receive feedback from all other players so that the mission statement continues to reflect your organization’s goals and metrics for success.

Managing Editor

Half storyteller and half project manager, the managing editor executes the content plan on behalf of the CCO. Whereas the CCO focuses on strategy, the managing editor’s job is all execution, working with the roles below to make the stories come alive (including tone, style guides, and content scheduling).

Chief Listening Officer

The role of the CLO will be to function as “air-traffic control” for social media and your other content channels. This person should be there to listen to the groups, maintain the conversation, and to route (and/or notify) the appropriate team members who can engage in appropriate conversations (customer service, sales, marketing, etc.). For the content marketing process, this function should serve as the gravitational center of your “listening posts, which your organization will need to establish so that you can always be ready to react and adapt to subscribers’ evolving needs. Hopefully, as your content starts to create reactions among your communities, the CLO can then route important feedback to the CCO, so that the chief storyteller can modify the content plan on an ongoing basis.

Director of Audience

This person should be charged with monitoring your audience/buyer personas, making sure all content creators are intimately familiar with their characteristics, their passion triggers, and what actions you want them to take. The Director of Audience should also be responsible for building subscription assets (direct mail lists, email lists, social media subscriptions) that can grow and be segmented as your content mission matures and expands.

First Responder

This person’s role is the make the content work better for the organization. That means taking the current assets and optimizing those assets for increased engagement. This includes tweaking and monitoring blog post titles, working on image enhancement to optimize sharing and working directly with the channel master to figure out what kind of content resonates best in a particular channel.

HR for Marketing

As every employee and stakeholder becomes a more integral part of the marketing process, it will be increasingly necessary for marketing to work closely with human resources to make sure that employees understand their roles in the marketing process and to help your organization leverage your employees’ audiences without creating conflicts or confusion.

Channel Master

Wherever your content is headed (social media, email, mobile, print, in-person, etc.), the channel master will be responsible for getting the most out of each channel. What works best on SlideShare? When should we send our emails, and how frequently? What’s the appropriate ratio of owned vs. curated content your business should distribute on Twitter? Who is keeping track of mobile strategy and execution? Your team will look to the Channel Master for these, and other, answers.

Chief Technologist

As marketing and information technology continue to merge, there will be a need for at least one (maybe more) individual whose sole purpose is to leverage the proper use of these technologies into the content marketing process. The person in this role will be responsible for staying on top of these ever-increasing changes as they relate to the storytelling process — from calendaring and approvals to marketing automation, freelancer integration, and emerging technologies.

Influencer Relations

The role formerly known as media relations will evolve into that of a manager of influencers. This person’s responsibilities should include developing your “hit list” of influencers, maintaining direct relationships with them, and integrating them into your marketing process in the most impactful ways.

Freelancer and Agency Relations

As content demands continue to evolve (and increase), your organization’s reliance on freelance talent and other external content vendors will grow as well. Organizations will need to cultivate their own “expert” content teams and networks, and it will be this person’s job to negotiate rates and responsibilities so that all members of your team are united in their work on behalf of your marketing program.

Lead Trainer

In marketing’s evolution, one person will need to be responsible for making sure your team receives ongoing training and education. I’ve personally been involved with education programs from Dell, SAP, and Ernst & Young, and have observed how critically important they are to the success of the enterprise.

ROO (Return-on-Objective) Chief

This person will be responsible for ensuring that there is an ongoing return on marketing objectives, and for communicating to all teams why your business is developing content assets in the first place.

Yes, we are selling products and services, but the way in which we do that is changing faster than we ever anticipated. This means focusing on content as an asset — which, in turn, means that our marketing departments will continue to evolve. Putting the above roles in place now will help make sure the rest of your enterprise is prepared to evolve right along with them.

What additional roles are you seeing emerge on the content marketing landscape?

For more insight on emerging trends that are impacting the content industry, register now to attend Content Marketing World 2013.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Carla Johnson

    I appreciate you covering the true breadth and depth of the roles that content marketing needs to have within organizations.

    I see expanding the involvement that content marketing has with HR or adding another category for internal/employee communications. Marketing needs to partner with HR to help this group, who’s typically is not skilled in communication, understand how to tell the brand story through the recruitment and on-boarding stages so that there is consistency with expectations about corporate culture and the company they will represent.

    Once an employee, marketing needs to focus just as much on ensuring our internal audience understands the story as we evolve it. We’ve all had disjointed interactions with companies, ones in which our interactions with sales people and customer service reps don’t match what we’ve heard publicly and what they push through social channels. This, to me, is where the rubber hits the road. It shows whether their marketing department is order takers, as Robert says, or whether they truly understand and believe the point of view of their organization and how their work impacts every aspect.

    As content marketers, we have to be willing to invest in owning our internal audiences as much as we do our external ones.

    Thanks for another great post,

    • Nenad

      Totally agree with you Carla. Lately I’ve been getting quite a few consulting requests concerning internal/employee communication. This is even, I might say, more frequent request by bigger companies (they more or less still have a classic view of separation of PR/marketing/corporate communication), but are very much interested in how to do “internal content marketing”. A very siginificant niche, right? N.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Love this Carla. The great Don Schultz says your marketing should always start internal first. Going external without a focus on internal could be (and probably is) a huge waste of resources and opportunity.

    • Kimberly McCabe

      Hi Carla – I love your response. It’s true of just about any company I have been at – there isn’t a consistent message from employees. One difference was a big financial institution and I think the fact that we all spoke the same ‘language’ made us all feel more commraderie right off the bat.

      Joe – This is another article that makes me nod and further understand why I feel scattered often times. I monitor social channels, I build influencer relations, I read from a lot of sources to stay-in-the-know and find opportunities, I’m always listening to the community, even though I see what the market wants I have little impact on it…I have no specific budget for any of the above. I myself work influencing those with budgets in the organization.

    • toddwheatland

      The HR/marketing story is huge. One of the surprising bits of feedback I get from HR at big companies is that marketing is holding them back. Even when HR ‘gets it’ and wants to embrace a content approach for employer branding – the recruiting and onboarding stages that Carla refers to – that often crashes into marketing who ‘own’ branding and don’t want anything to confuse/water-down the officially sanctioned approach.

      • Joe Pulizzi

        Todd…I feel a blog post coming on about this 😉

      • Carla Johnson

        Todd, I’ve experienced the very same thing. I also find it odd (and understand the frustration of HR) that marketing teams view HR as a drain and distraction of the message rather than an extension of it, as it should be. They’re missing an incredibly valuable opportunity.

    • Ashleigh Verdier

      I just started as the new Content Marketing/Social Media manager with a large company. One piece of my plan that I started working on just last week is the HR side of our communications. We’ve developed an internal team to work on crafting our voice and to develop a communications plan specifically for recruitment. This will be a big portion of the greater content mktg and social plan that I put forth. I see a huge opportunity to build brand awareness and develop recruitment practices by incorporating content that speaks to the culture of our company. The HR/communications partnership is something that has largely been ignored by my company but that won’t be the case any longer. I’m glad to see that others agree on the importance of including HR/recruitment in our content plans.

  • Barbara Mckinney

    Content marketing
    is a must-have if you are an online marketer, and it is fast becoming the
    most valuable way to increase brand awareness and nurture leads. Thanks for
    sharing this very informative article Joe!

  • James Perrin

    This is really interesting, and definitely something that will develop in time. For me, one of the most important aspects of content marketing will be the outreach/community building role. It’s interesting that you have effectively split this into a CLO and a Director of Audience. I think there should be more emphasis on this aspect of a Content Marketer’s role, if not an entirely new role created to constantly monitor and engage with a community – effectively like a social media executive, but with one eye on pushing content. Great post Joe.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks James. Good take! Most companies get the “listening and response” part, but not “listening to adapt the content strategy” part.

  • Craig McBreen

    Hi Joe,

    I love the way you laid this out, but what about someone like me? I’m a designer, and want to help the small business owner trying to find real customers. I normally work with companies with 10-100 employees. These people have limited staff and limited time to dedicate to this stuff, but many really need it

    My explanation usually goes something like this: Brand differentiation is now easier because of Content Marketing (it helps build a story around your brand), then we discuss all the meaty benefits of a content marketing plan. I’ve been in the visual branding business for almost 20 years, but this is something I am just starting to implement … but the push back is often strong and about a lack of understanding about the effectiveness of the process and … TIME!!

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Craig…thanks. The answer is that you do what you can with what you have. The only way to get complete buy in is to show success. Start with a small pilot program focusing on agreed-upon metrics, and then go from there.

  • Tom Pick

    Great stuff as always Joe. I’m not sure that marketing skillsets are necessarily out of date though; in many cases, “traditional” personnel should be able to transition into these new roles you define, e.g., marcom to Managing Editor, from PR pro to Influencer Relations, etc. What is changing though is the unprecedented need for all of these functions to work together, tightly coordinating efforts to maximize an organization’s overall online visibility through a web presence optimization strategy. Great content has limited value unless it is repurposed, optimized, shared and measured.

  • Gurdeep Dhillon

    One role that I’m super excited about as I build my Content Marketing team is for Analytics. Maybe it ties in with the technology role, but this person is responsible for the testing, measurement, and delivery of insights on the content we produce. We have had very little measurment and optimization/iteration in the past when it comes to content. I’d like to fix that.