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Does a Rise in Chief Strategy Officer Role Give Hope for Chief Content Officers?

Deloitte discovered fascinating new insights into businesses’ approaches to continuous innovation and change in its recently released 2023 Chief Strategy Officer Survey.

If your immediate reaction is, “Hmmmm … Do we even have a chief strategy officer?” or “Where do we get one of those,” you’re not alone. Despite the title’s familiar sound, the function is relatively new – though growing in popularity – at even the biggest companies.

Of the 117 respondents to the CSO survey, 74% say strategy has a formal function with a dedicated team and leader in 2023.

CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose shares his thoughts in this week’s CMI News video. Watch it below, or keep reading for the highlights:

Strategy becomes core to business operations

“What’s interesting is the function of strategy as a core operational element in the business and how that’s quickly evolving,” Robert says.

He points to several key findings in the Deloitte survey that relate to content marketing practitioners. First, as noted earlier, 74% of surveyed businesses now call strategy a formalized function. That’s almost 20% more than the 2021 survey takers.

Strategy now sits as a formalized function in 74% of businesses surveyed by @Deloitte via @Robert_Rose @CMIContent. Share on X

Plus, strategy as a centralized function serving the enterprise dropped astronomically (61% in 2021 vs. 50% in 2023). But strategy grew exponentially as a federated function serving both the enterprise and business units within it (27% in 2021 vs. 42% in 2023).

Also worth noting is Deloitte’s choice to use “intersection” as the word for CSOs in 2023. Instead of strategy working as the esoteric think tank issuing directions to other functions in the business ecosystem, strategy is part of the ecosystem.

“It’s not the chief strategy officer’s job to be good at developing and implementing strategy. It’s the CSO’s job to make the business good at developing and implementing strategy,” Robert explains.

CSO shares similar goal with CCO

That thinking should sound familiar to CMI readers, as Robert’s been evangelizing that operationalization of content strategy for a while. “Businesses have more success by creating federated models where an enterprise team provides and enables a standardized way of operating so each functional business unit’s content can be made better, innovated, and optimized,” he says.

Think of the oversight role in this federated model as a chief content officer or chief content strategist. The little-used title has goals similar to a CSO. Robert explains, “The content team’s job is not just to be good at creating content. The content team’s job is to enable the entire business to be good at content.”

The #content team’s job is to enable the entire business to be good at content, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Share on X

Having a bigger impact

The Deloitte research also finds that top-quartile organizations adopt an ecosystem mindset more than their lower-performing counterparts – 81% of this group note an active role in the business ecosystem, not just their company’s ecosystem.

In addition, all respondents (top, average, and below average) rate changing/improving their company’s growth trajectory as an important topic – more than any other topic.

That, of course, aligns well with what Robert sees in content and marketing strategy.

As Deloitte concludes in the study: “CSOs have an influential seat at the table today, but to hold onto that position, they must continuously evolve their role – adapting at the same pace as, or a step ahead of, the rapidly changing world in which they operate.”

Robert’s advice for content marketers? Replace CSOs with content and marketing leaders, and the same holds true. “Today’s content is truly not only a rapidly changing strategy but one where practitioners need to stay a step ahead of the business,” he says. “Businesses that don’t treat their content with that level of strategic function miss out.”

Businesses that don’t treat #content as a strategic function miss out, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Share on X

What do you think? Can content elevate to a chief strategy officer? Do companies need a chief content officer? We love the term, but it has yet to catch on in most businesses. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute