Anyone who’s stepped into the world of content marketing knows that the office (or collaborative workspace if you’re one of the cool kids) is often in a state of controlled chaos. There’s content to write, but wait—this design change just came in, and hold on, something’s wrong with that latest e-blast. You’re probably familiar with this little deadline dance.
Controlling the chaos to produce strong, meaningful content is grounded in good structure. While most people think of content as the domain of creatives—with their free-forming work style—it is actually based on the structure. To that end, structuring a team that can meet your content needs is essential for success.
The need for quality content—and therefore a quality content team—is only increasing, too. Traditional, interruption-based advertising tactics are losing favor among consumers. According to a study by Marketing Sherpa, online pop-up ads, podcast ads and mobile phone ads are the least trustworthy forms of advertising. It’s no wonder that 615 million devices worldwide are blocking ads, according to PageFair’s 2017 Adblock Report.
In a way, this is good news for those who take the time and energy to create owned media. But others are starting to catch up. Organizations from startups to established economic powerhouses are realizing that relying solely on traditional advertising and marketing isn’t going to cut it. Yet, there are still growing pains.
In the Content Marketing Institute’s Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America study, research showed that around a quarter of B2C marketers rated their project management flow as “fair” to “poor.” Other research indicates “managing the overall content process” is the number one challenge for marketers. Much of this heartburn can be avoided with a proper content plan and SMART goals, but it can also be alleviated by assembling a team that’s right for your operation.
From local small businesses to national corporations, we’ll show you how to structure a content team that delivers!
Running a small business can be an extremely rewarding, yet stressful challenge. All of the important decisions and most of the work fall on the shoulders of only a handful of people. Your small team is responsible for everything—sales, labor, accounting and, yes, marketing.
When you build a marketing team for a small business, versatility is pivotal. Most small businesses won’t have the benefit of plentiful funds or resources for a large-scale marketing operation. That means your full-time marketing team will be structured around one to two people, which means you’ll want to operate as productively as possible.
Building a content repository from scratch is an unenviable task. Instead of going it alone, recruit your fellow coworkers from other departments to bolster your content creation mission. Make one blog post a month a requirement for everyone in the company. People in other departments might not be seasoned writers, so it’s best to keep their blog posts on the shorter side, 400 to 600 words.
This content will need to go through a quality assurance process, so one person on your team will “own” your marketing operation. Whether it’s your chief marketing officer, director of marketing or managing editor, every piece of content should go through this person. For now, let’s just refer to this position as the marketing lead. The responsibilities of this role include coordinating the workflow, editing, scheduling, publishing and promoting content on your social media channels of choice and, of course, actually producing content.
If budget allows, a second person will fill the role of content specialist or content strategist. This position will aid the content lead with any tasks that need doing, as well as producing content and managing social media communities. Again, depending on your budget, a freelance writer or designer might be options, as well.
In regard to producing content, the content lead and content specialist will be responsible for longer, more in-depth articles each week and any graphics, photos or videos. Freelancers are a cost-effective option to help you fill in any gaps in your content. They’re also an advantage when it comes to time management, because inevitably when you’re helping run a small business, there will be something you can’t get to.
This is why versatility is a key attribute for a small marketing team. As our eBook the Brand Publishing Roadmap put it, “hire hybrids.” The best person for the job might not be someone with the perfect internships and accolades, but someone who can wear many hats.
With help from your coworkers, some adaptability, and a few helpful tools—you’ll be able to successfully launch your small business’ content program.
Working at a midsize business is a little less hectic than the startup environment of a small business. It’s a little more established, meaning a roomier budget and more personnel. The bulk of the work still comes down to a few people, though.
The definition of what constitutes a midsize business varies, but let’s say it’s a business with 100 to several hundred employees. Building a midsize marketing team will still include a marketing lead, who is responsible for overseeing all aspects of your operation. Depending on the size of the business, the marketing lead is joined by one to four people—content specialists and graphic designers—who report to the marketing lead. Like a small business, these people will be responsible for day-to-day content production and community management. Greater resources mean there’s a little more room for specialization (i.e. graphic designers), but versatility is still essential to keep things running.
However, at this stage, instead of tapping the rest of the company to start filling your content catalog, you can start looking for external help via freelancers. You might outsource work to content providers specializing in writing, digital PR, influencer marketing, video production or SEO.
A creative agency or agency alternative, as in the case of PowerPost, can also handle the bulk of the creative work. It comes down to considerations of cost, autonomy and time. Weigh the cost of full-time employees plus regular freelancers against a monthly agency fee and see which is more viable. Also, contemplate whether you’re willing to give up a little bit of control to an agency and how much the time you’ll save is worth.
By hiring individual talents or an agency to produce content, you’ll gain more flexibility to experiment and more time to focus on larger projects.
This multi-faceted approach allows your team to engage in content atomization, providing useful and cohesive messaging to your audience. Atomization is simply breaking big ideas into smaller, related ideas. In practice, this means your content specialists are producing about one long, well-researched article per week centering around one common subject or theme. Then internal or external team members produce two or three pieces of smaller content related to that theme each week. More often than not, they’ll take the form of shorter blogs, infographics or videos.
Through utilizing external resources, atomization and a managerial structure, your modest content team can produce 12 to 15 piece of original, quality content each month.
Once you reach this level, you’re playing in the big leagues! Enterprise businesses have more resources, financial and otherwise, than small and midsize businesses. But they also have more moving parts and bureaucracy.
To deal with the enormity of the organization and the increased workload, your content team will typically become more stratified with even more specialization. In this traditional model, you’re building smaller teams within the marketing team—or creating silos. Divide your teams based on your needs but some examples are editorial, design, video, PR and paid media. Each team includes several people who report to a manager, who will subsequently report to someone in an executive-level position like the chief content officer or vice president of marketing. The executive, who is a new addition at the enterprise level, is responsible for the big picture and overseeing all marketing activities, internal and external.
This structure has persisted so long because it obviously has benefits. It allows people to truly specialize and leverage their talents, and it’s incredibly easy to scale. The downside is that it can create communication disconnects. That’s why versatility is still valuable at the enterprise level. Employees adept in multiple disciplines can bring departments together and keep goals aligned.
Enterprise businesses’ resources also afford them the ability to play with that structure. An interesting, and efficient, way to structure your marketing team is around the customer’s journey. Instead of grouping employees solely by skillset (writers, designers, etc…), they’re grouped by a role in moving customers through the funnel. Marketing veteran Marko Muellner breaks down one example:
- Consumer Insights
- Monitoring and segmentation
- Content, Tools and Experience
- UX, dev, design, video, photo, audio and copywriting
- Paid, earned, community management and email
- Performance analytics and testing
- Planning and creative leadership
- Marketing, project and event managers
- CMO, CCO, VPs and directors
Even with a larger team and marketing executive leading everyone, the principles for small and midsize businesses are still applicable at the enterprise level. Look for team members that can wear many hats, utilize external resources like freelancers and marketing tools when needed and atomize your content to get the most value possible out of it.
No matter the size of your business, you shouldn’t settle for subpar content. If you need a little help getting back on track, check out our eBook, the Brand Publishing Roadmap!