I’m allergic to complexity, at least when it comes to content.
So when I tried to find a simple org chart to help organizations visualize their own content team, I couldn’t find anything quite simple enough.
I didn’t major in PowerPoint, so I drew one with a Sharpie instead. (Also, my artistic “skills” reinforce my need to keep my day job. Ha.)
Here it is:
Right now, you are probably thinking two things:
- Ann should stick to writing;
- There are six heads in this org chart… Holy Toldeo! Does that mean we need to add six people to payroll?
Rather, these are roles not staff positions. Each role might be filled by one person or perhaps by a dozen, depending on the size and complexity of your own organization.
That chart is based on a conversation I had with Michael Brenner a year or so ago (and that’s my rendering of Michael in the lead position there) when I asked him to share what his team looked like.
Michael is VP of Marketing and Content Strategy at SAP, and he graciously sent me back something that looked like this tangle of pasta.
I’m joking. It wasn’t quite that convoluted.
But the chart Michael shared was… substantial. I was looking for something more streamlined, with the functions more distilled.
In other words: What is a model that would help any organization visualize their content team, even without the budget of an SAP. (Or without Red Bull’s or Chipotle’s billion dollars.)
Why does your content org chart matter?
Because I want every organization to embrace the incredible opportunity that all of us now have as publishers. Publishing is a privilege; we shouldn’t squander it. Yet many companies are. As my friend Joe Pulizzi said:
“Every company is already a publisher. But there are two types… those that know it and those that don’t.”
I love that.
I hope the simplicity of this chart underscores the idea that making the leap to publisher is doable if you know what you’re… well, doing. And as I learned in my journalism days: “No one will complain because you made something too easy to understand.”
Here’s the content team org chart breakdown.
This might be a chief content officer, or a content manager, or a VP of content. I favor a C-level title, because it’s just that critical to any organization.
This is the person who sets the content strategy throughout the organization, the one who answers these big questions and more:
What is our bigger story? What are we trying to accomplish here? Who are we talking to? How are we going to produce and sustain a content program? How will we know if it’s working? Where are we putting all this content? What are we going to do next?
If you were trained in journalism, like I am, you might notice that the bigger questions a content strategist considers are not unlike the overarching Who-What-When-Where-Why questions that every news article answers.
It’s a similar sensibility, which is why I like the idea of journalists as content strategists, such as at Kapost, HubSpot and Qualcomm. Only, instead of answering those questions on a particular news story, a strategist answers them more broadly on behalf of the organization.
Worth noting is that this person often doesn’t touch any content: They don’t create or produce much content at all.
That said, please hire a content strategist who nevertheless does create content on a regular basis. Producing content might not be part of his or her current job description, but content creation is still so much in their DNA that they can’t help themselves.
For more on this role, see:
- How to Hire a Chief Content Officer: 11 Key Traits
- Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson’s book is a rich, substantial look at content strategy and the strategist, kind of like the bock beer of content.
This might be called a managing editor, or (sometimes) a content director. This person is a doer, implementing strategy.
In my experience, many brands skip the content strategist role and go straight to hiring a doer like this. Which is fine, assuming that the editorial director also has an eye on big-picture strategy.
This is the person who maintains an editorial calendar and hires or nurtures content creators (writers) and content producers (video and audio creators) and designers (who can and should differentiate the look and feel of your content).
Those creators might be freelance or staff—again, depending on your budget.
This role also understands search, and he or she believes that the world would be an inherently less confusing place if it had more copyeditors scouring every bit of content produced on the Web, in print, and on restaurant menus and municipal street signs. (I’m kind of joking about that.)
(But not really.)
For more on this role, see:
- How to Hire a Great Editorial Director in Kapost
- We talk a lot about this role in Content Rules, too.
This is an often-overlooked role in the content team, but it’s an important part of the content publishing process. Often, it’s not a separate role, it’s part of a job above and/or below.
Your content curator scours sources on the Web for the news, developments, and resources that your audience will find interesting, or that your content creators can use to enhance their expertise and (therefore) create better content. He or she is constantly watching and listening for information. Filtering the best stuff and sharing it with your audience either directly or through your content creators makes you a go-to source; in other words, it enhances your credibility.
There are tools—free and not—that help you streamline the task of finding and sharing good content to share or inform other bits of content. Some are free or low-cost—like Feedly, Scoop.It, Newsle—and some are geared more toward the mid- or enterprise market with more functionality and higher pricing, such as Curata and TrapIt.
For more on the role content curation plays, see:
As the Curator pulls the great stuff inside an organization, the Syndicator shares it out.
Content syndication is the process of sharing your content with third-party sites or in social media—either in full (in partnership with other compatible Web properties) or as a link or teaser (such as on social media platforms liked Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn, or through tools like Outbrain.)
And speaking of sharing, make sure all of your content is outfitted with social bling (or sharing buttons) to allow stupid-simple sharing on the major social platforms. (I’m always surprised at how often this simple step is overlooked.)
(This is probably a good time to point out that the syndicator is not a snowman, as depicted. I just ran out of hair options to draw. See the part about “keeping day job,” above.)
For more, see:
Content Analytics Expert.
This is pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?
How will you know what’s working unless you are constantly looking at your data? Is your content meeting the objectives your strategist set?
How’s your audience reacting? How well is your content fulfilling stated business goals?
For more on what metrics matter, see this content marketing research:
This person is the one who physically puts the content onto the website, or uploads it to YouTube, or figures out how to syndicate your podcast on iTunes. He or she ensures that your website works, in other words: ensuring functionality, handling software and platform updates, monitoring and assessing website performance, updating content.
You might have someone from IT handle this, or your website designer might continue to manage your site for you after the initial project, or your editorial director might handle the day-to-day “putter-upper tasks,” as Gerry McGovern once called it.
If this sounds low-level, it’s not. This person is the glue that holds the operation together. When he or she goes on vacation, everyone should panic.
So that’s my simplified, distilled look at a content team, with necessary data, creative and social components baked in.
Again, these are roles, not necessarily people.
You might have many site managers, for example, with various areas of expertise. You might have a few Editorial Directors, too, with various responsibilities. Or you might just have one or two people to fulfill all of these rolls.
The bottom line is this: Be sure someone is responsible for every role in this process. And, below, let me know below what I missed.
Gretchen Newby says
Hello Ann — thank you for your insight and humor. The spaghetti org. chart probably happens because these roles often seem to be spread throughout various departments in an organization. For example, an employee in charge of social media (your content syndicator) could end up in the marketing, PR, or web department. Do you think it’s important that most of these content marketing roles exist in one department? If so, do you see this as a function of the marketing department? Or an entirely new department? Thanks again for the post.
Ann Handley says
Gretchen — True enough. There’s quite a lot of fragmentation right now.
At larger companies, I like the idea of a cross-functional content “center of excellence” that exists across the organization as a kind of consortium of various groups, including marketing, PR, digital/UX, customer service, human resources, etc. I think of the Content lead (or Chief Content Officer) as Switzerland across the departments, because he/she really “reports to” the customer. In other words, his or her first priority is always the audience. (Ultimately, that serves the business more than reporting to, say, Marketing or even the CEO.)
Doug Kessler of the UK’s Velocity Partners talks about the Content Center of Excellence here:
David @ Growth Hero says
Great post Ann! I’ve worked with teams where content is run by one person, and others where it’s run by 10. Yet this is my first time seeing a defined role for “Content Strategist.” It totally makes sense and I’m surprised I’ve never come across it – this role is usually it’s run by VP Marketing or split up amongst various people, which don’t give content the weight it deserves. Thanks for the insight!
ps – have you read “Unfolding the Napkin” by Dan Roam? Your drawing style immediately reminded me of the book.
Ann Handley says
Thank you David! I do know Dan Roam’s work but never really considered whether our styles (if you can call my Sharpie efforts a “style”!) are similar. I consider Dan talented in this area and me… well, not so much. 🙂
Doug Kessler says
Love it. It’s simplified but not simplistic.
Every content team should have these hats.
(And the Guild of Illustrators can sleep soundly tonight.)
Ann Handley says
LOL… true there, Doug. Thanks for the vote of confidence. 🙂
Rick Sanders says
Love this org chart. No company I work with has the kind of marketing depth to make it all work together like this. Often we create content based on a good strategy, but it falls short of producing results because of limited curation, syndication, and analytics. Can be frustrating.
Ann Handley says
I know it can be frustrating — but it helps me to remember that this is a brand new muscle we are working out. So some discomfort and pain goes with the effort. (Or so my trainer tells me. LOL)
Thanks for chiming in here!
John Novaria says
Thanks for the great illustration. I’m curious about the content creator(s), or writer(s). I don’t see a clearly-defined role for the person who writes. And it’s an important function. Am I missing something?
Ann Handley says
Hi John — Writers and content creators are indeed very important. I put them below the Editorial Director (and Curator and Syndicator) in my drawing, above. I think the positioning is right. But I can see how (at the same time) it might discredit their importance to the process.
That wasn’t at all my intent (especially because good content creators really ARE key!) So perhaps in the next iteration of this, they stay where they are but I explain their role a little more (as well as give them a character, after I practice more hair options on round heads… lol)
Thanks again. I appreciate your input on that!
Frank Barry says
Thanks for the reply Ann! Sorry I missed that comment above. Read the blog post you mentioned. Awesome! Very useful line of thinking and lots of great insight.
What I’m struggling with (now) is where the CCE Ives in the enterprise and how it’s measured. 🙂 it would seem that for the CCE to be most effective it would have to be ties to revenue.
Jenny Clift says
My last two contracts for work have involved coming into an organisation to ‘tidy’ up their content, therefore wearing a lot of these hats. It astounds me that websites are created with little or no strategy behind them, but a philosophy of daily firefighting to get content up there that someone requests. I’m really hoping that these content roles become more prevalent which will lead to more work for me.
Ann Handley says
Exactly! …and more effective business websites, too. : )
Thanks for chiming in Jenny!
Frank Barry says
I’ve been thinking about this exact this Ann. Question for you … Where would you place this team in the enterprise?
Ann Handley says
Hi Frank — I talked about this above, too. But here’s my take:
At larger companies, I like the idea of a cross-functional content “center of excellence” that exists across the organization as a consortium of various groups — including marketing, PR, digital/UX, customer service, human resources, etc.
I think of the Content lead (or Chief Content Officer) as Switzerland across the departments, because he/she really “reports to” the customer. In other words, his or her first priority is always the audience.
Nenad Senic says
I know this isn’t a substantial comment. All I wanted to say is THANK YOU for this post. 🙂
Jay Acunzo (@jay_zo) says
Another manager at HubSpot just sent this to me since I’m growing the content team. LOVED it! I think it hits on a larger trend too: it’s time to talk about individual careers and the teams supporting those careers.
Lots of us like to talk about adoption of content marketing and rightfully so – lots of companies/individuals struggle and need direction there. But for those who don’t (an increasingly large number of companies/individuals), they need help structuring, scaling, and growing careers and teams.
I wrote about this idea of scale over on CMI recently ( http://goo.gl/gjrcQN ) and my biggest reaction was “this is a new take.” Yikes! We need to make it a common take: best practices for team building and career growing.
I can rest easier knowing folks like you, Ann, and others I’ve talked to are starting to have that discussion more regularly and loudly. Thanks for a great piece!
Ann Handley says
Thanks for your comments, Jay, and for including the link to the CMI piece. Sounds like we’re on the same page! I liked your various personalities as part of the team, too (the Sprinter, etc.), which dovetails nicely with what the larger organizational challenges I’m talking about here.
Kim Furukawa says
Having set up content marketing organizations at companies of various sizes, I think this is a great post. The one thing I would add would be to establish a very clear chain of editorial command, which can be challenging but hugely valuable. Tools like Kapost and DivvyHQ can help. There’s also a new one called EditChain that I’m testing as a beta user.
Ann Handley says
Definitely, Kim. Good point.
Pam Moore says
Love this Ann! I agree that it isn’t a head for each but a role. One person can fill multiple roles when needed. Good stuff!
Michael Brenner says
Ann, thanks so much for including this. You made the complex simple and presented it with your usual flair!
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Tricia Travaline @travwin says
Nice post Ann. We’re finding that more and more of the organizations we speak with about content marketing are seeing the need to rethink their organizations. It’s time to break down the silos in large marketing departments.
Great post, Ann. Thanks helping me understand what a content team is made of through your simplified org chart. It’s terrific that you point out each person can also have multiple roles within the organization as well.
One of the best posts I’ve read about content marketing.
Abigail Denham-McQuillen says
Thanks for a very informative and entertaining read!
Simplicity is so important with the web, often things are over complicated bc they are over thought.
One question, where would you see site marketing – ie brand & search – fitting? With the Syndication function? Our teams structure is not too dissimilar to your role splits – we have a commercial angle (revenue management & sales) in addition. The marketing function looks at syndication & search & brand & recommendations.
Ann Handley says
Hi Abigail — Without knowing details of your specific team, I’d say the brand function is really owned by the Strategist. From a strategic perspective, search is owned by the strategist and editorial director, in cooperation with the site manager, who implements/monitors/reports on/makes recommendations for improvements.
Mike Kissen says
Thank you so much for this piece. A colleague of mine just passed this along and I am so happy they did. I work with many brands, agencies, and associations helping them put strategies like this in place so they to can see the return on content as I like to say. The way that you have laid this out so simplistically is fantastic and I will be passing this along to many others.
Cheers to you!
Thelma Harcum says
Thank you for this article. I suppose this org map is for those that are working as a team for magazines and special articles as in guest blogging.
The map you have shown give great insight on how the article specks are broken down or how they should be broken down to make the content great.
When you don’t have a team, it is great to know how to focus on the whole picture as you have illustrated.
I find the best content is from the heart-with humor,spirit, and truth. Research and trend searching is also a great tool to really keep up with what’s going on in today’s world.
I love being a grandmother now, and try to learn as much as possible about their world because you can lose learning about a whole generation’s culture and interest that often crosses over to accepting values of others in our multi-cultured. society.
If children and adults for that matter let you in to their world, you might be surprise what you learn and that it is not as black and white as we think.
So, great content is all about how one identify with another (your audience) to touch a common value that one can relate to.
I believe the word “triggers” could be an important word to associate with the emotional appeal of readers to content A trigger commands an affect. If you can do that, you have done your job as a writer.
Parker Trewin says
For smaller orbs that’s still a fairly large head count. We streamlined to director/strategist, editor (who also curates) and social media marketing person who helps amplify and syndicate. Everyone should be looking at the data and iterating from it. The web team provides design support and we borrow from programs when we need lead capture and form support.
Parker Trewin says
Excuse the typo. Looks like auto correct got me twice on “orgs”.
Caroline Eaton says
I love how you broke this down – it is so simple, but depending on the size of your team can seem a lot more complicated! It is good to be reminded how you can break down the jobs and simplify the process!
Tammy Nienaber says
Thank you for concisely translating the spaghetti in my brain. I’ve been noodling on this a lot lately, and your post provides great clarity. You’ve acquired a new fan!
Tom Murdoch says
A little late getting here, but from someone who finds social a rapidly growing part of our service portfolio, I appreciate how you’ve laid out the organizational aspects of producing content, and our art director appreciates the inclusion of designers.
Stephanie Riggs says
After reading this content marketing organizational chart, it has become very easy to understand the flow and working of content marketing for capturing more traffic. Those people who don’t know the ABC of content marketing can perform this job easily with the help of your mentioned chart and information. By the way, big thumbs up for your great post about content creation and marketing as well as its working 🙂
Maciej Fita says
Content marketing definitely requires organization when things start to pick up.
Leanne Fournier says
I’m a huge fan and this article underlines why. Provides crystal clarity for the many roles some of us need to fill in our own organizations as well as in providing guidance for our clients. I was wondering how you would describe the content creator role in this context?
Sonia Anand says
Great post Ann. The way you have added humor to the article makes it more interesting to read. I work in an organization where content is handled by one person. Your chart just explains it so well why we need a content team.
Thanks for sharing. I have shared this article with my Boss too 🙂
Sirket Ekle says
Thank you very much, really useful informations.