According to Ascend2’s 2016 State of Content Marketing survey of B2B and B2C content marketers, lack of strategy, lack of content creation resources, trouble measuring effectiveness, and lack of cross-channel integration are some of the biggest problems every content marketing team faces.
It’s nice to know we’re all in the same boat, but it’s nicer to know there’s a solution. As happiness guru Gretchen Rubin notes, the first step to finding a solution is identifying exactly what the problem is. In content marketing, our most consistent problems are sometimes due to a lack of resources, but more often they are an issue of focus.
- It’s the lack of expertise that could have turned a basic blog post into a cornerstone piece of content.
- It’s the social strategy that needs a little more fine-tuning.
- It’s the analytics that go unanalyzed—or, worse, aren’t properly set up.
- It’s the process inefficiencies that eat up time.
A good content marketing machine is a thing of beauty, each piece well-oiled and optimized for ultimate production. But like any machine, if a piece isn’t working the way it should be—or missing entirely—the whole machine will suffer. I’ve seen and experienced this more often than I’d like to admit, in the teams I’ve helped counsel and our own. What I know now is that a good content marketing team involves many more parts than we realize—or, rather, roles.
Job Titles vs. Roles in a Content Marketing Team
Content marketing operations tend to have the same combination of positions, including the standard titles like marketing manager and social media manager. These positions and job duties can vary, depending on team size and focus, but they are not always what you need. Just because you think you have a full team doesn’t mean that every necessary role is covered.
One of the problems I consistently see in these content marketing teams is checklist hiring. You know you need someone to run social, so you put out the call for a social media manager. You need content, so you hire a writer. These seem like the obvious steps. Oftentimes they are, but I believe the smartest approach to building a content marketing team is holistic. Looking at the machine as a whole, then carefully analyzing how each part contributes to it allows you to see where you can improve.
This approach lets you build a team not by job titles but by the specific roles you need to create a successful operation. It also allows for more creative collaboration and experimentation, as people feel less constricted by their particular job titles.
I like to think of each role as a particular skill or superpower. Content marketing is complicated. The devil is in the details, as we know. At every stage—strategy, content, distribution—missteps can be costly. Ensuring you have everything covered, from editorial calendar maintenance and ideation to distribution and analytics, is the best way to stay the course. So, how do you know what roles are missing in your content marketing team?
The Roles You Need on Your Content Marketing Team
Based on years of experience (and a few mistakes of our own), I’ve compiled what I believe are the most important roles in content marketing. Each of these help fill gaps, keep you on track, and provide the quality control needed to help you build a strong, healthy operation.
That said, while there are many outlined here, you don’t need to go on a hiring spree ASAP to build out your content marketing team. Most of us are battling resources, budgets, and higher-ups. The goal is always to do more, more efficiently, with what you have at hand.
For that reason, I’ve also included some resources to help you find—or better perform—each role. And for convenience, I’ve organized them according to each stage of the content marketing cycle: strategy, content creation, and distribution.
As you continue to refine your operation, I’d encourage you to review these periodically to see how your team’s workload can be arranged to support these.
Step 1: Craft Content Strategy
The strategy phase is the core of your entire content marketing operation. This is the time to craft a solid strategy, informed by data, that aligns with your company goals. (Step one there is knowing who you’re marketing to. See our guide to building marketing personas in an hour for more about that.) It should provide structure but enough flexibility to allow you to experiment or change course. (Check out our How to Build a Long-Term Strategy in a Real-Time World e-book for more tips on that.) Above all, the key to crafting an effective strategy is including the right stakeholders from the get-go. Here’s who you need on your content marketing team to make sure you do it well.
Marketing leader: Whether it’s your company founder, your CMO, or other higher up, the content marketing machine needs a driver. This role acts as the liaison between business development and marketing, as marketing’s primary function is to support sales. Marketing leaders also coordinate with company leaders, to ensure content strategy aligns with the company’s short-term and long-term goals, as well as brand stakeholders, to ensure all content reflects the brand’s voice and visual language.
I assume this role at our company. As such, I work to keep us all informed of industry best practices, build our marketing personas, and frame all our strategy discussions in terms of Column Five’s larger vision.
Marketing leader resources:
- Chief Content Officer: The monthly print and digital magazine from the Content Marketing Institute.
- The Content Strategist: Contently’s publication, covering content marketing news and analysis.
Marketing manager: There are many parts to a marketing machine, from production to distribution. A good marketing manager works as a mechanic, running point to make sure everyone on your content marketing team has the resources and direction to complete the task at hand. A marketing manager helps guide content strategy, stays abreast of industry trends, supports content creation and distribution, and does whatever else is needed.
Marketing manager resources:
- Basecamp: A project management tool that gives you great transparency into the status of projects.
- Percolate: All-in-one software to execute marketing.
- American Marketing Association: A ton of great info, especially this piece on the 5 types of marketing managers.
- HubSpot’s Blog: News, trends, and tips for marketers at all levels.
- The Content Marketeer: Kapost’s content marketing blog.
SEO/analytics expert: In the content marketing world, SEO is everything. Having a go-to expert to audit, keep track of progress, and keep pushing and optimizing your content is absolutely essential. From choosing the keywords that inform your ideation sessions to constantly experimenting and testing various plugins, this role is both tactical and analytical. Your SEO/analytics expert may be a contractor, brought in to educate the team and available for specific questions, or an in-house resource. Regardless, their expertise will guide every part of content strategy.
Of course, as you implement tactics, you need someone on-hand to track analytics. (This role may be one and the same.) This role is not just about pulling numbers; it’s about extracting important data-driven insights from those numbers. (This type of brain is also infinitely valuable to help generate content from in-house data.) Most importantly, an SEO/analytics expert influences everyone else’s role. Their work may inspire the marketing manager to tweak newsletter CTAs or convince the managing editor to produce more e-books.
SEO/analytics expert resources:
- Google’s Analytics Academy: Tons of info about how to make the most of your analytics.
- Moz: Awesome resources for all levels of SEO experts, including e-books, guides, etc.
- Search Engine Land: News and daily coverage of all aspects of search marketing.
- Neil Patel: Great hacks to increase traffic and conversions.
Managing editor: A managing editor oversees all content, manages publishing volume and cadence, and keeps the content machine running. That means masterfully managing an editorial calendar, coordinating contributors, curating a healthy mix of content, and ensuring that content strategy is properly implemented. This role is the connecting piece between content strategy and production.
Managing editor resources:
- CoSchedule: A super easy editorial calendar, social scheduling, and task management tool. (Sign up for their newsletter, too.)
- Feedly: A content aggregator and organization tool that lets you store relevant articles, blogs, and sites in one place, so you can easily peruse next time you need content ideas.
- Stormboard: A tool that helps you collaborate, communicate, and brainstorm with contributors on a digital whiteboard.
Step 2: Create Content
Once you have your goals outlined and keywords selected, you’re ready to deep dive into generating and producing solid content ideas that will resonate with your audience. This is where the real dirty work begins. Content is the most labor-intensive part of the process. I’ve heard it said that no matter how long you think a piece of content will take, multiply it by three—or even five, in my experience—and that’s how long it really takes. It’s no surprise, then, that it takes a focused content marketing team to create truly effective content. Here’s what that looks like.
Subject expert: The biggest value you can give your readers is your expertise. To create helpful and, most importantly, credible content, you need a credible source (aka a subject expert). There are many ways to find one. You may find your expert in a specific group, community, organization, or online resource. You may find an expert in-house—even if they weren’t hired for that specific person. For example, a former business development leader at our agency had a master’s degree in business analytics—very handy when we needed someone to help create and vet our data guides.
Resources to increase your expertise:
- Expertise Finder: A creative marketplace that helps put experts, writers, and businesses together.
- Qualified data sources: Our roundup of free data sources to help boost the credibility of your content.
- ClearVoice: Find expert writers and creatives to create your content.
Editor: Even though you’ve heard it over and over, a lack of editing remains a huge problem in content marketing—even among the “thought leaders” out there. Having someone who can truly edit saves you from embarrassing mistakes and helps elevate all of your content.
Note: There is a major brand in the marketing industry, which I will not name, that is a good (bad) example of this. They pump out a ton of content and have a significant newsletter audience, but the content is riddled with typos and sloppy posts. Over the years, this has degraded my trust in them.
- Grammar Girl: A useful blog featuring quick and dirty editing tips—think of it as editing 101.
- Grammarly: A great Chrome plugin that catches common spelling and grammatical errors (especially helpful for emails and WordPress).
- Upwork: A site to find freelance editors.
Designer(s): Visual content should absolutely be a part of your content mix. Whatever your needs—infographics, interactives, e-books, white papers, social content—good design communicates your brand’s visual language, makes content easier to synthesize, and enhances your audience’s experience. An effective designer should be skilled in design, as well as data visualization.
- Behance/Dribbble: Portfolio sites that give you access to thousands of freelancers. You can see their portfolios and reviews, ensuring you find the right designer for the job.
- Visage: A super easy design tool from our sister company that lets non-designers design all sorts of visual content, including charts and social assets. (Using tools like this to design the little stuff frees your actual designers up to work on more important pieces.)
- Data Visualization 101 e-book: An awesome (free!) primer for designing some of the most common charts and graphs.
- Conjure.io: An easy tool to give design feedback.
Writer: If you’re lucky, you can find an expert and a writer. However, those two do not often come in the same package. A good story is lost if you don’t tell it the right way, which is why it’s so important to hire a solid writer who can communicate your message, in your voice. A word of warning: Just because someone can type words does not mean they are a writer. You need someone who can produce quality, compelling copy.
- Ann Handley: A great blog from a content expert that includes useful tips, tools, and thoughts on creating compelling copy.
- Headline Analyzer: A handy tool that analyzes and scores headlines for emotional and SEO impact.
- Hemingway Editor: An easy way to upgrade your writing, you just copy/paste your text and get recommendations for how to improve.
Step 3: Distribute Content
You’ve heard it a million times. Good content is nothing without an audience. Your distribution team is the conduit to get your content in front of the right people. The right team will help you build a following on social, grow your email list, get placements in major publications, and gain visibility through partnerships to increase brand awareness and get conversions.
Distribution strategist: To make a big impact with you content, you need to get in front of the right people. This is where a distribution expert comes in. Someone in this role has contacts at major publications, knows what type of content is going to land with publishers, forms smart relationships with other brands, and knows how to strategize earned and paid placement. A distribution strategist should also strive to extend your reach through partnerships with publications and influencers, including guest posts, content campaigns, etc.
Distribution strategist resources:
- Muck Rack: A database that helps you find journalists in your industry.
- Boomerang: A great Gmail tool to schedule and follow-up on pitches.
- Group High: A place to find bloggers and influencers.
- The Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution e-book: Our e-book, which offers tips for everything from optimizing your content for distribution to pitching journalists.
Email marketer: There is nothing more powerful than a captive audience. Your email list is your gold mine. This role is all about nurturing and growing that relationship to increase conversions. Your email marketer should focus on best practices, effective subject lines, A/B testing, powerful CTAs, and anything else needed to strategize.
Email marketer resources:
- SumoMe: A great suite of tools to help you optimize your site to increase conversions, including heat maps, list builder popups, social sharing buttons, CTAs, and more.
- HubSpot: All-in-one marketing software that helps every aspect of your machine, from analytics and CTAs to landing pages and SEO.
- Unbounce: Easy-to-build landing pages to help you convert leads (great blog, too).
Social media expert: Remember when “social media guru” was on everyone’s business card? That title has started to fizzle out, luckily. Social, of course, hasn’t. Snapchat is here; Facebook is changing constantly. You need someone to stay ahead of the curve. A social media expert should be immersed in social culture and best practices, find tactics for engaging your audience (especially through paid social), strategize distribution, and put your brand’s best foot forward on social.
Social media expert resources:
- Social Media Examiner: An industry publication with news, tips, and tricks.
- NUVI: A helpful real-time social monitoring tool.
- BuzzSumo: Insights on the most-shared content on any topic.
While not the core players, there are other roles within your company that can contribute to content marketing success. As always, leveraging what you have at hand will help you stay ahead of the curve.
Customer advocate: You need a direct line to the problems your customers are facing. If your content marketing team doesn’t have direct access to your customers, your content will fail to resonate with them. As a brand, your primary content marketing goal is to show that you understand what problems your customers are facing and that you have experience in solving those problems. Regular conversations with sales teams, project managers, and anyone who is client-facing will help you identify those problems.
Tech support/developer: When your blog crashes, you can’t figure out how to insert an iframe, or you want to explore interactives, you need someone with the tech knowledge to pull it off.
Audio/visual expert: If you’re exploring video or podcasting, you’ll need some help. (Check out our tips for choosing a video agency for guidance.)
The wildcard: There are people who work at your company who, while they might not work in marketing, always have great ideas and a unique perspective that your content marketing team can benefit from. These weirdos can be your secret weapon; use them!
Note: Sometimes you need a little help with all of these things. If so, a content marketing agency can help. Before you start your search for the right partner, read these 12 things to look for in a content marketing agency.
Whether you’re building a content marketing team from scratch, auditing your existing team, or slaving away all alone, it’s always smart to assess your current operation to see how you might adjust job duties to ensure all areas are covered.
Want to work smarter, not harder? Find out how a divisible content strategy gives you an edge, get our fixes for your content marketing problems, and check out these 100 tools and resources for content marketing.