Why Companies Need a Head of Content Strategy, Creation and Distribution

Data mining their own information

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Content is marketing, we all know that. But marketing is also content. So are HR manuals, social media policies, annual reports, analyst reports, research studies, customer evaluations, product reviews, employee testimonials, customer testimonials, videos from conferences, CEO blogs, tweets, updates and check-ins.

Every piece of communication that companies create is potentially an asset that can be shared. Every piece of communication can help dimensionalize a company, further define its brands and tighten bonds with customers. But very few have that kind of macro perspective on and exposure to all the content they produce. At larger companies, which are often siloed and matrixed, few people even think about the kinds of content that can be shared with customers.

When we first wrote our social media policy a few years back, I tweeted it. It was retweeted and helped position us as a thought leader around social media and modern HR policies. A number of other agencies did the same thing, including Razorfish, whose policy was even more widely shared. I knew that our policy could address a number of check boxes. But it’s not easy for most companies to take similar actions, which is why I think it’s time for companies to create a new position.

They need a head of Content Strategy, Creation and Distribution. This staffer should be at least vp level and report to the CMO. It makes sense that this person live in marketing, but he or she is going to have to build relationships and bridges to every part of the organization and teach companies to think about all published materials as content. Very importantly, they must evangelize the importance of content in driving business results and help the entire company think about whether or not a piece of content is worth sharing.

I bet many senior executives think this person already exists in the organizations, but I’m pretty sure they’re wrong. I think a number of people—creative directors at fashion companies, CMOs at just about every company and vps of advertising at companies lucky enough to have money to invest in media—think they manage content. And to some extent they do. But their telescope into content opportunities is very narrow. I’m also convinced that these executives are thinking about advertising content or content created specifically for promotional purposes. There’s a much bigger opportunity for companies when they start to think of any asset as a content opportunity, and very few people at even fewer organizations are tasked to think about content in the broadest sense.

At first, I imagine these people will be very inward facing. They’d spend their first month or so going through archives and cataloging all the manuals and policies that the company creates. Their mission is to determine how these assets shape and define promises and connections to consumers.

For example, the head of content at Hermès could surface the RFP used by the head of purchasing in the 1800s to buy leather and described the painstaking process of evaluating each and every hide. Such a unique artifact would make great content. I can also imagine the head of content at P&G looking through the company’s patents and finding the original formula for Tide and then somehow turning it into a science experiment/contest in high school classes across America. That would certainly enhance Tide’s reputation as innovative and customer focused.

After spending some time facing inward, these heads of content will help the CMO develop a calendar and gap analysis. They’ll figure out when content needs to be released to sync up with larger marketing strategies, and when it still needs to be produced. They’ll work with a variety of partners—from publishers to agencies to customers and employees—to create programs and activations. In order for them to be truly effective, they’ll need to have access to every part of the company.

To ultimately be successful, these staffers must be curious—part journalist, part marketer and part anthropologist—with deep institutional and intuitive knowledge of the company’s mission. They need to be creative, and they have to be awesome team players.

And it goes without saying they need to understand modern communication networks and devices. I think it’s a pretty cool gig and one with a great deal of upside for the companies that get it.

Barry Lowenthal (@barrylowenthal) is president of The Media Kitchen.

Illustration: Sergio Membrillas