Not all content marketing teams are created equal. Some are made up of solo founders, others include a wide variety of people and roles. Today, we’re looking at what roles a content team should always cover, no matter its size.
Just like the teams behind it, not all content is created equal either. Setting the foundations by establishing clear roles is a great investment to keep things consistent and relevant in the long-term. Remember, a role does not necessarily equal a team member. In case you run a small operation, one person can fit different shoes (as long as they know how to).
Nine times out of ten, startups and new brands don’t set clear roles for their content team, leading to founders scrambling for content and pieces drastically underperforming. This can (and should) be prevented by assigning clear roles to your team members.
Once you do, stick to them. Give other people the responsibility to create amazing content and they’ll surprise you with things you’d have never been able to produce yourself. Or… get it all done on your own! Just make sure to define who does what beforehand.
The six roles your content team can’t do without.
Content creation (and marketing) is a process. You can’t get it done consistently if you don’t define the roles that have to do with the process. That’s why, today, we’re bringing you the six roles that your content team can’t do without. Here they are:
1. The Chief Content Officer
Yes, this is a thing. And yes, it matters (so much so that the Content Marketing Institute created an entire publication based on this). Take Ann Handley from MarketingProfs for example. Her career is nothing short of inspiring, and the way she engages her following on Twitter or LinkedIn is often times eye opening for content marketers and creators alike.
Ok, but what is a Chief Content Officer (CCO) exactly? Simply put, it’s the person that overlooks the entire content marketing strategy, starting with topic choice, alignment of business and marketing goals, and content prioritization. This role carries a big responsibility and should only be thrown out there if you’re serious about your content marketing efforts.
The skills of a Chief Content Officer are:
- Full-stack knowledge on the content process. CCOs can personally write, design, or edit content. They won’t always do it if they have more important parts of the content strategy to tackle, but they’re at the very least proficient writers in their own right.
- CCOs are marketing visionaries. They take a product/service and connect the dots between what an audience wants to consume vs. how a buyer perceives your offering in the long run.
- A CCO should have great analytical skills, but also a natural knack for marketing. They should have a strong educational background in marketing or, at the very least, an innate passion for it.
- Strong organizational skills are required for a CCO to get their job done effectively. This means everything from project management to delegation to task management. They not only have a wide understanding of the content spectrum, but they’re also capable of managing the entire process themselves.
The responsibilities of a Chief Content Officer are:
- Connecting the dots between sales and marketing. CCOs work their way backwards starting from a product or service offering and branching off into dozens if not hundreds of pieces of content related to that offering.
- Setting quarterly, SMART marketing goals that are highly connected to business goals. This allows them to cater the content strategy exactly to the business’ needs and prioritize content accordingly.
- Ensuring brand tone consistency and guideline enforcement across all marketing channels. A CCO should protect a brand’s identity by keeping a close eye on content produced across various channels.
- Navigate and execute on trending topics that have the potential to exponentially impact business and marketing assets alike instead of focusing on nitpicking. This is described effectively in the 10x marketing formula pioneered by CoSchedule founder Garrett Moon.
- Communicate directly with content managers to ensure that the strategy is kept consistent throughout the various stages of the content pipeline.
Chief Content Officer sounds like a big, scary role. No. It’s actually the “easiest” role to get into because it represents the foundation and the eventual success of your content marketing strategy. A CCO could be anybody: the CEO, the COO, a founder, co-founder, friend, solopreneur. You name it. There’s only one key requirement for them to really own this title: live and breathe content marketing.
2. The Content Manager
This is a more traditional role compared to the CCO, and it has to do with managing and organizing all marketing assets so that things get done in a timely, qualitative manner. Communication skills and team management know-how are paramount here. Do not underestimate this role if you’re planning on growing a big content marketing team. It’ll bite back.
The skills of a Content Manager are:
- Highly organized. They have a strong understanding of how to manage time and how to delegate work effectively.
- They are marketers first and foremost, monitoring the content being produced and ensuring its success compared to marketing goals.
- Magicians at spreadsheet software, content managers can turn a Google Sheet into a highly visual and well-organized data center that tells a story (at Koala Rank, we prefer to use Airtable for this).
- Can empathize with people and understand how to tackle specific scenarios related to inefficiency or lack of productivity.
- Knows how to make models, mind maps, charts, and other important visualizations to refer to the CCO. Also knows about marketing software and attribution models to help define what brought in the most business.
- They have some degree of knowledge in all the areas of content production they manage, but they don’t necessarily know how to perform certain tasks such as graphic design or copywriting.
The responsibilities of a Content Manager are:
- Actively researching topics, sub-topics, and keywords and updating the content marketing strategy accordingly. This is usually done via a keyword tool such as Ahrefs (paid) or Ubersuggest (free).
- Validating market fit for topics and keywords that would be relevant to the business and generating content ideas around them.
- Creating clear and concise modular outlines that are easy to take apart and allow the manager to assign different tasks to different people at the same time. Here is the outline we prepared for the blog post you’re reading as an example (Google Docs view-only file).
- Assigning tasks to other people in the team and monitor their productivity with time tracking and management tools such as Timecamp.
- Closely monitoring every stage of the content production pipeline and applying corrections based on management guidelines.
Please note that an outline is NOT a final draft. It is not the text that’s going to be used in the final blog post or article but rather a quick rundown of all the things that should be covered in the piece of content. This means that it doesn’t need to be pretty or super well-written but rather clear, concise, and well-structured. It’s the content manager’s responsibility to get this done for each piece of content.
3. The Content Writer
This is one of the most traditional roles in content marketing, and it’s also one of the most misunderstood. A content writer is NOT the be-all, end-all of your content marketing strategy. Their main responsibility is to research relevant sources and write an amazing piece of content based on your brand writing guidelines and your outline.
Yes, they should have basic SEO knowledge. Yes, they probably know how to run their own keyword research. And yes, they could become fully-fledged content marketers, but that’s not their responsibility as writers. Since this is such an important role in the content pipeline (it defines the engagement factor), do not confuse it for a jack-of-all-trades role. That’s the CCO.
Look at someone like Felicity Wild if you’re a bit confused by this role. She’s a world-class copywriter from Scotland, and she does content too. Her profile is a great example of what a modern copy- and content writer should focus on.
The skills of a Content Writer are:
- Advanced research capabilities. A writer doesn’t just write; they understand the context of what’s being written. This means that they first research the topic based on the outline, look for relevant sources that are trustworthy, inform themselves, take notes, and finally give their own spin to the topic by writing a polished draft of the article.
- Innate knack for writing and getting things onto paper. Yes, paper. You should expect brainstorming capabilities, an “investigative” behavior, and a passion for all things writing. Writers are the most important part of delivering the brand message to your audience!
- Great storytelling and writing. A content writer’s primary job is to retain user attention. This is done in many different ways, but it’s almost always a sub-product of storytelling. Your brand’s mission is the baseline; the writer then crafts a story based on both your mission and the given topic.
- A strong ability to engage specific audiences. When hiring a content writer, you should expect both expertise in your niche and a healthy portfolio of content related to your niche. The ability to engage specific audiences is what sets content writers apart, helping them bridge the gap between the goals set by the CCO and your readers.
The responsibilities of a Content Writer are:
- Researching the right sources and providing the hyperlinks by directly embedding them into their writing (easily done with any word processor).
- Formatting the piece of content to include headlines, headings, nicely spaced out paragraphs, numbered and unordered lists, etc.
- Delivering great writing that engages the user from start to finish and leads them to take action for the goal specified on the outline.
Please note that content writers aren’t necessarily copywriters. They could be both (we at Koala Rank recommend finding somebody who has some degree of experience in both branches), but it’s a flexible role that can change depending on the needs and scale of the organization and business they work with.
Side note: Content writers are usually hired externally as freelancers or contract workers. This is perfectly fine and works within the scope of your team roles.
4. The Content Designer
Designing content can become a real mess. You never know how many pieces you really need, where they should be published, or even when. This is exactly why you build a modular outline instead of a linear one. You want your content writer and your content designer to create things for you at the same time.
But, what does a content designer do? They receive a brief based on the outline from the content manager and create ALL the pieces necessary for the specific marketing campaign. This means blog, social media, third-party sites, and even video in case they’re good at creating small snippets of it.
The skills of a Content Designer are:
- Full Adobe CC proficiency. A content designer should be able to create a wide variety of content pieces from just one or two frameworks. This means they could have to deal with anything from simple thumbnails to more complex ebooks and even presentations or slide decks.
- Has an eye for modern aesthetics and can adapt his work to any format in an efficient manner. The focus is on efficiency, not extreme beauty or variety. Most of the times, a remake of the original thumbnail will do just fine even for social media snippets.
- Can produce great results without a ton of guidance through the use of a brand style guide. Once they receive the brief, content designers should be able to scan the requirements quickly and choose how to proceed according to brand guidelines. It pays to have an internal designer rather than a contract worker due to this heavy brand involvement.
The responsibilities of a Content Designer are:
- Ensuring speed and efficiency in creating all the assets necessary. While it would be awesome to have custom assets for everything, it is not feasible for 99% of the companies out there. Fully custom pieces of design tend to slow down the entire pipeline.
- Ensuring brand image consistency throughout various channels. This is done with the abovementioned brand style guide.
- Delivering images and assets in their final form, fully optimized, compressed or edited for web use. Each piece of content will usually require a different type of optimization process described in the brand guidelines. Designers should be responsible for this, not editors.
We recommend working with the same designer(s) for as long as possible as it will make your life easier in the long run. Of course, there’s nothing wrong in hiring a freelancer for this job, but it’s a bit harder to convey visual guidelines compared to guidelines for writing or editing/formatting.
5. The Content Editor
This role covers both editing the writer’s draft (grammar, punctuation, flow, style) as well as formatting the prepared content (text and graphic assets) into a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, Squarespace, Wix, and so on. The editing process is a bit… Well… Boring sometimes. But it can be handled more efficiently if you assign the role to a specific team member.
Granted, everyone in your team should know how to format content into a CMS, even your designer. But not everybody has to know about copy editing and on-page optimization, which is one of the reasons why the content editor plays such an important role in the entire content pipeline.
Side note: Content editors are tinkerers. They know a little bit of everything… HTML, CSS, some design, some writing. An ideal candidate for this role would be someone who’s built websites or blogs in the past on their own.
The skills of a Content Editor are:
- Full proficiency with the CSM platform that your organization uses for content management. This means knowing how to navigate the interface, create new posts, label them based on guidelines, schedule things automatically, and use plugins that are appropriate to their work.
- They know the most important aspects of on-page optimization and they can apply them effectively based on the content produced and the topics/keywords provided by the content manager or CCO.
- Is aware of the stylistic properties of your website/blog and knows how to apply all the relevant changes. This leads back to the brand style guide, but specifically for formatting—not design.
- Can deal with multiple small tasks in a working day and is capable of seeing the big picture through previewing the content, applying modifications accordingly, and testing the end result.
The responsibilities of a Content Editor are:
- Not breaking the site. This is something that happened to me personally as I was working on a client’s site (and they didn’t have any backups!). If you don’t have to, don’t give content editors full access to your CMS dashboard, only the news/blog section. However, make sure they have all plugins they need integrated within that section. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients invite me in their CMS and the tools just weren’t there…
- Ensuring consistent formatting throughout the entire platform. They are aware of how previous content pieces were formatted and even re-uses relevant elements applied to previous posts or images.
- Reporting directly to the content manager. Once they are done with the formatting, editors should schedule the posts automatically based on the editorial calendar and then immediately contact the manager for a final review of the piece before publishing.
- Moderating comments, keeping the CMS platform updated, clean of bloatware, and updating the software. When they’re not formatting content, editors should assume a maintenance role.
We at Koala Rank find this to be the most underestimated role. Many organizations don’t think about how their content looks or feels like online; they simply deal with the creation process and then dump everything into the CMS without applying a single modification or optimization. Not good!
6. The Content Promoter
Finally, we’re at the end of the pipeline. Our content is finished; it’s been formatted effectively and it’s ready to get published to the masses. But… How do you get to the masses again? By heavily promoting the content.
Most of the content produced and published online does not receive any backlinks or social shares. These things are earned through hard PR work; they are NOT given out randomly. That’s where the content promoter comes in.
The skills of a Content Promoter are:
- Highly sociable and friendly, a content promoter is great at reaching out to people. They make it feel natural and collaborative rather than forced and aggressive or spammy.
- They are capable of using spreadsheet software to track all interactions with influencers and publications, and they can write short and concise messages that inspire others to collaborate and work together.
- Capable of scheduling mentions, tweets, guest posts, and other relevant PR work before the content is ready. This usually requires a lot of prep work with contacts from other publications to get aligned. At Koala Rank, we use HubSpot to get most of our content scheduled.
- Knows how to navigate editorial calendars and create hype based on topics that would be released weeks from now.
- Loves social media and is highly effective at communicating with people on many channels: Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, etc.
The responsibilities of a Content Promoter are:
- Managing all the assets produced from a promotional standpoint and maximizing repurposing efforts by continuously looking for new opportunities on various third-party platforms.
- Reaching out to other bloggers to secure guest blogging opportunities and inbound links from websites in related niches.
- Fostering relationships with key influencers to increase social reach, especially social shares, mentions, and engagement.
- Creating hype on upcoming high-value pages such as resource landing pages by effectively communicating pre-rollout stages.
Please note that big organizations have entire teams dedicated exclusively to promotion. In this case, we’re looking at a role that focuses specifically on promoting content hosted on our website, not on third parties.
Roles are fine and dandy, but processes are more important.
In content marketing, having a mental map of the roles your team can assume is definitely helpful, but it’s not the end-all be-all of your strategy. Establishing a strong process for your content strategy is more important than envisioning an ideal organization. After all, content starts small, but it can get as big as you want it to be. If you don’t have a good process in place, you won’t be able to get there.
For example, this post is around 3300 words long, but it “only” took me four hours to complete from start to finish. That’s because I have a process in place. The other half of the day? I created all the designs necessary for the post.
Side note: Want to know what this process looks like? Sign up to our newsletter. Twice a month, no spam. We’ll tell you all about our process. We don’t offer this kind of content anywhere else!
I hope you enjoyed learning about content marketing roles for your team with me. If your a startup or a new brand and you’re ready to start crafting amazing content that builds trust with your audience, check out how Koala Rank can help you achieve that.
And if you’re in the mood for a chat, why not schedule a 100% FREE, 15-min call directly with me? I’ll be happy to help you guide your strategy towards gaining more quality subscribers. Don’t forget to share the post with friends and colleagues. Happy new decade!
Originally published Jan 3, 2020
Frequently Asked Questions
A content (marketing) team is a team of creative marketers that conceptualize, create, publish, and monitor online or “offline” content (magazines, press, etc.) A content team is responsible not only for releasing quality content that “talks” to a specific audience, but also for monitoring its performance and how it affects marketing efforts.
A content team is best run by establishing guidelines and SOPs: Standard Operating Procedures. The process involves a lot of strategizing before the team gets to produce any content.
A blog team is very similar to any other content team. The roles found in this blog post apply primarily to traditional content marketing (i.e. business blogs), but they can be applies to other forms of content marketing as well (video, audio, press, etc.)