The Ugly Truth About Beautiful Content

If you plan to join your competitors and the leaders of your industry in the move toward content marketing, there is something you should know. 

If your aim is to produce really good, informative, and nurturing content (and that should be your aim, because what’s the point otherwise?), it’s not going to be cheap. Or easy. You’re not Coca-Cola; no one expects you to hire the world’s best creative minds or to spend billions on marketing. 

But you will have to pivot your organizational and philosophical focus to embrace content. You will have to hire, or find among your existing employees, true content craftsmen

You will have to build a content team.

Unfortunately, businesses can’t become content marketers simply because they decide to do so. 

Like any product or service a company offers, content must be the result of deliberate organizational focus, infrastructure, research, and planning. To create a productive and sustainable content operation, the sales and marketing departments must be on board. Business leaders must be convinced of the importance of content. 

Resources must be allocated to build the processes, teams, and strategies that will be the foundation of the content department. And perhaps most importantly, there must be an institutional willingness to test, try, adapt, and make mistakes. The sales process was not developed overnight; content won’t be either. 

So what should a content team look like? What are the important roles and responsibilities?

The following is a list of the bare minimum components of a content department. If your organization is really small, one person can play more than one role—or you can outsource content creation, as 44% of companies do.

 1.    Chief Content Officer/VP of Content/Content Manager: This person is responsible for hiring or otherwise building the content team, driving the content strategy and mapping it to the editorial calendar developed by the marketing department, and ensuring the overarching quality and consistency of the content. 

2.    Content Developer: This person may also take part in the development of the content strategy, and their primary responsibility is to execute that strategy by writing (or filming, coding, designing, etc.) the content itself. 

3.    Designer: This is your HTML, web, and graphic design guru. This person should embody a combination of design talent and technical skill. 

4.    Content Analyst: This person monitors how your audience engages with your content and analyzes data to find actionable ways to improve your content strategy and optimize your distribution methods.

5. Content Distribution: This person works relationships with media, channel partners and paid media to promote content that attracts new audiences. 

Building the Culture of Content

If you are trying to spearhead a content culture at your organization, you may experience resistance in many forms: fear of the unknown, budget concerns, ignorance/confusion about the need for content and how it is made, and lack of confidence in the process. Again, no one said it would be easy. You may also disagree with your main content person a lot, especially at first. At the very least, you will probably find that person weird or hard to understand (more on this below)—but that’s a good sign. You’re trying to overhaul your marketing strategy to catch up with trends, be more competitive, and make more sales. It makes sense for such a major transition to feel uncomfortable—an overhaul to your strategy often involves an overhaul to (at least some of) the way in which you do business. 

What’s more, if you’re really committed to a content-driven approach, you should consider hiring someone without (gasp!) a traditional marketing background. Here’s why: 

1. Traditional marketers create traditional marketing. 

You want someone to create innovative content that will knock your socks off. You want someone who thinks in formats that don’t occur to anyone else at your organization, someone who can connect with your audience in ways you have never been able to master before. (Prepare yourself for some content format/topic/production ideas that will seem foreign to you, and try to embrace the change.) 

2. Someone who doesn’t speak Marketing-ese won’t create content in Marketing-ese. 

Your prospects are tired of marketing and sales jargon. To engage them, your content should be accessible and easy to consume. Someone with a background in, say, writing or publishing will not be tempted to lapse into tired, unwelcome formats. The key is to find a creative type with an innate understanding of how to sell. Don’t worry if your content doesn’t sound like your competitors’ content—isn’t differentiating your brand the whole idea? 

3. Outsiders have a unique perspective that can be better aligned with that of the prospect/customer. 

Unencumbered by entrenchment in the marketing establishment, a non-traditional content craftsman is better able to think like a lead: What does the lead want to know? What is the best, most digestible format for each piece of content? (Remember: the goal of content marketing is to learn about the lead, not to talk endlessly about your brand.) 

The Art & Science of Demand Generation

None of this is to suggest that you should hand over the creative reins to an unapproachable paint-splattered artist, or a free spirit with an uncontrollable creative impulse. The best content creation has always been a combination of art AND science.

Science means having a method. Marrying interpretation and methodology is what has made media alluring and successful for centuries. It’s that combination that a successful content program requires. 

That art-science combination will also be reflected in the way your content and marketing departments work together. 

There may be friction between the two, particularly at the beginning. This is normal. Just keep in mind that content and marketing are not different or opposing forces—they are two sides of the same coin. Your goal should not be to replace marketing with content—it should be to bolster, empower, and enhance marketing with content. The marketing department is still critical for defining the market, the target prospects, and the unified messaging approach of your brand. 

Change is tough for anyone, especially those who have built a career and a reputation on marketing and selling a certain way. But when the model evolves, you have to evolve with it. That means taking an honest look at your marketing efforts

If you’re doing something that is clearly not working, why not divert resources away from it and toward content creation? If you think someone who already works for your organization is really a content craftsman at heart, why not talk to that person about creating content? 

Remember, you’re not Coca-Cola; you don’t need to revolutionize marketing. But you do have a responsibility to your employees, your stakeholders, and your customers to do what works.