CMI first described the Chief Content Officer (CCO) job more than a decade ago.
In those days, companies needed senior leaders to spearhead the integration of “content marketing activities” into more traditional marketing campaigns.
Today, content leadership must expand beyond marketing (even content marketing) to encompass an all-communication strategy.
That means today’s chief content officer (regardless of whether that’s the title the person holds) guides the content that makes up every experience a customer, audience member, or prospect has with a brand.
What does that look like in practice? I’ll explain and provide a chief content officer job description you can copy.
First, though, let’s look at the context of what’s changed – because that informs the scope of the new content leader role.Today’s chief content officer guides the #content that makes up every customer experience, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet
How it started: Content serves marketing
When we last updated our view on the chief content officer role, we described it within a content marketing context. Most people who performed that function held titles like vice president of content marketing, head of content marketing, editor-in-chief, or even chief storyteller.
Few held the “chief” title, as few companies considered content a c-suite function (like finance, operations, technology, or marketing).
A few products and services brands – especially those that have built separate content or media operations – have adopted the CCO title (Peloton, Dun & Bradstreet, and Ralph Lauren, for example). Goldman Sachs, AirBnB, and Procter & Gamble have similar roles but call them vice president of content, head of content, or chief media officer.
The chief content officers in these organizations focus on the creative aspect of content product development. In media companies, the CCO is the leading creative voice for the brand’s product strategy. In product and services brands, the content leader is much more likely to run the strategic initiative of a media division or head up a focused function of creative services.
But content strategy is not a separate division at most brands. Nor is it separated from the sales and marketing organization.
That must change. And it’s starting to.
Almost a year ago, I wrote about how content strategy and marketing strategy are coming together. I asked the question:
What if content and marketing as a practice … was treated as important in the business as its current products or services?
And why shouldn’t it be? Content makes up the entirety of communications from any company.
Today, almost everyone in the organization communicates directly with audiences, such as customers, partners, press, analysts, and employees.
How it’s going: Content importance skyrockets
We’ve moved beyond the need to integrate content marketing into the broader marketing ecosystem. That happened.
Consider this: 71% of marketers in our recent B2B research said content is more important to their organizations than it was a year ago.
Content is a business strategy today. Full stop.
But that merger of marketing content, content marketing, and content operations I mentioned? It’s created a pressing need to organize and coordinate not only what marketing markets but also what sales sells, accounts service, PR relates, and HR recruits.
As a result, content leadership looks different going forward. Here’s how:
The content leader (whether called chief content officer or not) must own communication strategy. The content function is not an internal, on-demand content vending machine for the rest of the business – it’s a strategic contributor to every customer experience with the business.
The chief content officer must lead all operational content approaches, including content marketing, content operations, branded content, native advertising, and anything else that drives the creation of media-powered customer experiences as a business strategy.
The CCO must set lead (and measure) experiences that align with and contribute to business goals. The content team of today and tomorrow builds audiences through owned media experiences that can be monetized in multiple ways. They drive the execution of content for short-term advertising campaigns. They drive engagement and shares on social media and organic search traffic from innovative earned media and word-of-mouth strategies. But they also support visibility, transparency, and internal communication of the content lifecycle – from ideation to creation, management, activation, promotion, and even archiving. And the CCO leads the development of the infrastructure required to do all of that.
The CCO leads content for every part of the customer’s journey. The content function shouldn’t be relegated to top-of-funnel sales enablement assets. It’s not limited to SEO-focused articles driving brand awareness. It’s not limited to customer-support how-to videos or customer events. The content function holds the expertise to deliver audience value at every stage of the customer journey. And the chief content officer guides the application of that expertise across the company.
Whether you call the role chief content officer, vice president of content, head of content, or something else matters less than the function of the position.
Here are the new requirements for the position. Feel free to copy this description to advocate for a CCO at your brand. You can also use it to guide your own development if the top content position is your goal.
Job description: Chief content officer
The chief content officer is a key member of the senior management team. The CCO leads the administrative, operational, and creative functions of content as a strategic marketing and communications function in the business.
Chief executive officer/chief operating officer or chief marketing officer/VP of marketing
The CCO’s goal is to secure the creation, coordination, consistency, and value of content as a competitive advantage for the business.
The CCO oversees all marketing and communications content initiatives, both internal and external, across multiple platforms and formats to drive value to both the business and the audiences served.
This individual must have leadership experience in creative strategy, coordinated content operations, channel optimization, brand consistency, audience segmentation, translation/localization, and meaningful measurement of content’s value to the business.
The position is the leader of a content operation that collaborates across multiple organizational departments – including public relations, communications, marketing, customer service, IT, sales, human resources, and executive leadership. Thus, the CCO should expect to have a hand in defining, governing, and deploying the overall brand’s communication approach.
The CCO owns all operational initiatives regarding the creation, management, activation, and measurement of content.
The CCO’s primary responsibility is to determine the operating model and content approach that will offer the greatest value for the organization, and then lead its administrative, operational, and creative functions.
- Design and implement content strategies, plans, and procedures that support and extend marketing and communications initiatives, both short and long-term, and establish a continuously evolving content practice
- Set comprehensive goals for performance and growth for content as a strategic function in the business
- Leverage market data to develop content themes/topics, then execute a plan to create the assets that support a point of view and lead to critical behavioral metrics
- Supervise the management and maintenance of audience personas, content inventories and audits, customer journey maps, SEO strategies, and competitive audits
- Establish standards, systems, best practices, and workflow processes for managing the content lifecycle, including requesting, producing, distributing, promoting, measuring, and retiring content, including ensuring all content is consistent with brand, style, quality, tone of voice, and optimized for the various user experiences and across all appropriate channels
- Collaborate with the company’s senior creative team leaders and channel owners on all initiatives to identify content needs and opportunities to ensure efficiency and consistency across channels, verticals, and functional departments
- Work with the company’s technical/digital teams to implement an efficient content management system (CMS), digital asset management approach, and other essential technology systems (e.g., marketing automation, email management, social media management, analytics, etc.)
- Create an organizational structure and hire/supervise leaders in all content verticals; manage the efforts of other team’s writers, editors, producers, and content managers
- Conduct ongoing usability tests to gauge content effectiveness; Gather data and handle analytics (or supervise those who do) and make recommendations based on those results; work with owners of content to revise and measure content and marketing goals
- Establish performance goals and oversee ongoing measurement protocols to evaluate and optimize content effectiveness. This includes gathering data and handling analytics (or supervising those that do), as well as making recommendations based on performance results
- Ensure a consistent global, enterprise-wide approach for content, including implementing taxonomies, meta tag structures, structured content, and localization/translation strategies where appropriate
- Participate in content expansion activities (investments, acquisitions, alliances, etc.)
Performance expectations should be based on the continual improvement of customer nurturing, converting, and retention through storytelling and increases in new prospects brought into the enterprise through consistent development and deployment of content.
The primary criteria for success are customer and employee affinity, measured by lifetime customer value, customer satisfaction, and employee advocacy. Additional criteria for gauging success may include:
- Positive brand recognition and message consistency across chosen published channels
- Gains in defined customer engagement metrics (measured by users taking the desired action – conversions, subscriptions, purchases, etc.)
- Website and social media traffic growth
- Conversion metrics definition and growth
- Improvements in positive social media sentiment
- Positive customer feedback and survey data
- Increases in significant search engine keyword rankings
- Reductions in the time it takes customers to move through the sales/buying cycle
- Creation of new up-sell and cross-sell opportunities through content analysis and application
- A stronger enterprise-wide focus on driving sales, saving costs or creating happier customers through content
What we left out of the CCO description
You might notice that we omitted some things usually included in job descriptions: education requirements and years of experience.
No one college degree covers everything you need to be a CCO today. A liberal arts degree might help. So could a communications, journalism, or marketing background. Then again, expertise in your organization’s industry might matter more.
Similarly, the number of years of experience probably matters less than what someone learned and accomplished during those years.
Does your organization have a role that handles all these responsibilities? What would you add or change about this list? Let me know in the comments.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute