Building a content marketing team? Tips for structure, roles and more

Achieving content marketing success isn’t simple. You need a top team to get you there.

A content marketing team should be a well-oiled machine. But creating a top team requires specific skill sets and planning.

Here are the roles and qualities you should keep an eye out for to use content to shape how your organisation is viewed, while improving your bottom line.

It all starts with strategy

Just as you should start your content marketing efforts with a strategy, start your content marketing team with your content strategist.

This may be a permanent position that, once the kick-off strategy piece is wrapped up, shifts towards managing the content team and periodically reviewing the strategy to align with shifting organisation goals, or it may be a contract position – a content strategist who comes in, nails the strategy, helps you recruit and onboard the team, and leaves.

Either way, this person should be a highly experienced content marketer – the success of your program hinges on their ability to hit the mark. They should also have strong vision for the future, and knowledge of your industry and audience (or the ability to gain it quickly).

Plan ahead

Your team structure should align with your content and channel strategy. For example, it may be important to have a social media manager if you’re building customer communities and using social platforms to amplify content.

The size of an organisation may also influence the structure of your team. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 benchmarking report found that larger organisations tend to have a centralised content team along with smaller teams throughout the organisation.

We find that some of our larger clients have a central content marketing team, as well as campaign teams across the organisation. This is great if you have the budget, but most organisations (around 42%) have a small team with a few people.

Some content marketing team structures, as identified by Hubspot, include:

  • The newspaper model: this model takes a newsroom structure and places it within your organisation. The model is a pyramid structure with content creators and storytellers making up the foundation. Creators specialise in certain topics and have their stories approved by managing editors and editors respectively. CISCO’s The Network and Dell’s Page One use this structure.
  • The new media content model: a smaller editorial team including content creators bolstered by a network of freelancers. Red Bull produces its own print magazine called The Red Bulletin using this structure.
  • The agency model: working with content marketing agencies who run or supplement your organisation’s content. Outsourcing can include day-to-day content creation or one-off content strategies or other large projects. This may be the model for your organisation if you don’t have the time or resources to build a dedicated content marketing team.
  • The small team model: a small team will be required to wear many hats and won’t be able to provide the same amount of coverage as other models. But, through targeted content strategies startups and small businesses like The Dollar Shave Club and Foiled Cupcakes have used this model to build an engaged audience. The former spent $4,500 on one video that landed them 12,000 new customers in two days.

Building the core team

While job titles vary from company to company, the responsibilities of content marketers can be broadly grouped into a few buckets: strategy, storytelling, distribution and analysis.

We believe a top-performing content marketing team involves all four, but not necessarily in different people. Small content marketing teams might have one person handling distribution/amplification as well as analytics and optimisation.

  • Storytellers: they can turn something dry, like finance or insurance, into a story your audiences will love. They are journalists or creatives who can spin tales that people want to read and share, always with an eye on the business goals. If you do find a strategist and a storyteller in one, hold onto them. Either way, it’s important to have both the skill sets in the same team and working hand-in-hand.
  • Distribution/amplification: someone who knows the platforms your audience uses (see your strategy to find out what they are) like the back of their hand, and can make sure your content gets the eyeballs it deserves.
  • Analytics/optimisation: You’re going to need to know who’s consuming your content and what they are doing next if you’re going to report on and improve ROI and performance.

Finding the other skills you need

There are many other tasks that surround those core responsibilities, including data analysis, proofreading, videography, design and more.

A big team might have dedicated videographer, or a small team with a budget might call on freelance support. About three out of five Australian marketers outsource at least one content marketing activity, most commonly content creation.

To get the most out of your teams, hire people with skills in complementary areas. The T-shaped model stresses a need for broad knowledge in many areas and depth in one. For example, a content creator may have an in-depth knowledge of storytelling along with SEO and social media skills.

Qualities to keep an eye out for

While skills can be learnt, culture shouldn’t be overlooked. Your content marketing team is communicating with your customers and your audience en masse and is doing so frequently. Everything your content team does needs to be informed by your company’s values.

It is a big problem if a team produces content that doesn’t align with your corporate identity and values. If social responsibility or equality are a large part of your corporate identity your content should reflect that. Otherwise there is a disconnect between your brand and your communications.

In the same vein, you will need people who can inspire confidence. Your content marketing team will often be talking to the highest levels of your business – a content writer may regularly interview the senior leadership team. Because of this, always get candidates to show examples of their work and talk to people they have worked with.

Collaboration is also vital to a content marketing team. You can’t have an editor who doesn’t work well with a data analyst when content needs to be informed by data. Look out for team players willing to collaborate on all fronts, and with complementary but different thought processes.

A Harvard Business Review study on cognitive diversity recently found that a more diverse team solves complex problems more quickly than a team made up of similar perspectives and similar approaches to processing information. This is because the latter is limited in its “ability to see things differently, engage in different ways or create new options”.

Finally, to create content that attracts attention for the right reasons, you need empathetic people. Your team members should know your audience inside out and be able to take a walk in their shoes to understand their challenges, fears, desires and processes.

If you can find the right formula, your content machine will be chugging along in no time – making a real difference to your bottom line and how employees, customers and prospects see your business.

Hannah Dixon contributed to the writing of this piece.

Articles you may also be interested in:

Agency, in-house or hybrid? The view from 3 content marketing camps

Design files | Why marketing teams need creative thinkers

Thomas Barta: Why your team should lead, not follow

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About Hallie Donkin: Hallie Donkin is Mahlab's Managing Editor – Brand. In nine years with the company, she's planned and created content about dogs, mortgages, project management, retirement, marketing automation and CRM, financial services, cybersecurity, and more. There's a story floating around that she got the job because she said she loved dogs. Reader, she did not in fact love dogs; she just loved words. But things have changed – her life goal now is to live with a pack of Golden retrievers.

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