Content marketing is increasingly becoming a key area of investment for organisations in all sectors. Digital marketing channels, such as search and social media, increasingly require original content in order to be effective and as a result, brands are crafting increasing quantities of content to fuel these channels.
Like any other business operation, content marketing requires a series of robust procedures and skilled resource that is able to achieve results within those procedures and frameworks. But, as many brands still appear to be simply dipping their toes into content as a marketing channel, these two key elements have been somewhat lacking in some key areas. Typically, these brands are guilty of one, or more, of the following failings:
- Has poor production values, typically due to being irrelevant to the brand or audience, unoriginal or lacking in any real purpose.
- Is not correctly targeted at the correct audience.
- Is not distributed to that audience effectively, usually due to a lack of earned or paid coverage or poor brand reach.
- Is not delivered in the right format for that audience or medium.
- A lack of review and appraisal of the content and/or campaign. Brands need to understand how the content works, how it contributes to each stage of the purchasing process and how they can improve each content piece or campaign.
The consequences of these failings become increasingly acute when the production of content is scaled up; the more content is produced, the more these errors are multiplied. Therefore, ensuring that these skills and procedures are in place is vital to ensuring that the return on investment is maximised.
Stickyeyes’ latest whitepaper, Get Serious about Content Marketing, discusses how brands can overcome many of these core challenges, ensuring that they are making the most of their content activity.
The skills gap
But there is an issue we have to address, and that is that there is currently a significant skills gap in digital marketing skills.
An Econsultancy report, published in June 2015, found that 62% of marketers believed that “finding people with the right skills” was a challenge for their organisation, whilst 30% of those surveyed believed ranked it as one of the biggest headaches in their role.
As digital channels converge, finding people with a strong understanding of these technologies and disciplines is becoming a big challenge for organisations. Whilst there is no shortage of people describing themselves as “social media gurus”, organisations are finding that individuals with both the core technical skills and the experience in brand marketing are something or a rare commodity.
Different brands are addressing this challenge in different ways. Some major brands are turning to the world of journalism to address their content marketing skills shortages. Starbucks is perhaps the most notable example of this, having hired Rajiv Chandrasekaran, National Editor of the Washington Post, to head up a new brand storytelling start-up. Others, meanwhile, are adopting new ‘Centre of Excellence’ models to champion digital skills throughout an organisational culture.
Whatever challenges your brand faces in terms of skills, you need to seriously consider how to resolve them.
Building the team
Critical to the success of your content marketing strategy are the skill levels that you have within your content teams. Whilst many brands have taken steps to employ dedicated content marketing specialists, the ideal situation is to create a team of marketers with a wide range of skills that can contribute to a holistic content marketing effort.
Generally a team structure can be defined into three distinct layers of responsibility, with individual roles then linked to deliver operational and analytical output. Our model shows the importance of having people skilled in multiple content disciplines. A content marketing strategy based on one form of content, for example written copy, is unlikely to be as successful as one that uses a variety of formats to target different points in the purchasing process.
The Content Director takes ownership of the content marketing initiative and strategy. They are aware of the broader business and marketing objectives, and they are tasked with ensuring that the content produced serves these objectives.
The role of the Managing Editor is to ensure operational delivery of the campaign. They are responsible for managing deadlines, ensuring that the brand style guide is established and adhered to and that the content produced conforms to the required standard and purpose.
Subject Matter Expert
The role of a subject matter expert is one that is often overlooked, but this individual is an invaluable member of your team – particularly if your brand operates in a highly technical or regulated industry.
This person will have a strong knowledge of the industry and is responsible for ensuring that any content or campaigns are technically accurate and compliant from a regulatory perspective.
The Creative Leads will typically generate content ideas and themes, within the parameters set by the Content Director. They will also be responsible for supporting with content production and written output.
Copywriters, Digital Designers and Multimedia Designers
These three roles are very distinct skillsets and disciplines, but they are all focused around the production of content.
Think carefully about the types of content your audiences consume, and build a team that can deliver these types of content. If your audiences values visual content, don’t just build a team of copywriters.
This person is responsible for measuring the success of your content. They will be tasked with monitoring hard statistics, such as traffic, click-through rates, bounce rates and conversions, as well as ‘softer’ statistics such as social reach, engagement and interactions. These statistics will then feed into the review and appraisal process, allowing your team to constantly improve the campaign.
Content Publishing Managers
Once you have your content, you need to make sure that people can actually see it, and that means taking it to the masses. These managers are responsible for ensuring that your content is distributed to the right audiences, on the right channels. This team will include people with strong skills in PR, social media and paid search, allowing your brand to achieve the right blend of owned, earned and paid media coverage.
Creating the process
With the correct skills in place, you now need to appraise your current content marketing workflow. This is a process that runs throughout the business to ensure that the brand treats content as a structured and integral part of the marketing operation.
It prevents teams from creating a situation where, primarily due to resource issues, content becomes an ad-hoc or reactionary exercise. It also ensures that content becomes a fully functional operation by developing content themes, editorial calendars and publishing workflows.
This process provides a clear framework within which your content marketing team, and your wider organisation marketing team, can operate. This can help you to overcome key resourcing challenges, including identifying where your organisational capabilities may not meet the necessary standard.