But with more budget comes more responsibility. Modern content marketers are accountable for actual revenue, and their team must be structured in a way that has … well … a structure in order to hit their targets. What that structure looks like can hugely impact your program’s effectiveness — whether a fledgling content program takes off in the first place, or whether a successful program stalls or tanks.
While there’s no single “best practice” to follow when structuring your content team, there are some things I’ve seen work well from organization to organization, and they tend to align with your business size and stage of growth. I’ll break those down below, but I’m curious how other companies out there running revenue-driven content marketing programs structure their content teams — so please share your structure in the comments.
For a startup or small business, there’s likely not enough budget to justify a formal content team. Your marketing team is probably a 0-2 person organization, as it is. With this in mind, your content “team” should actually be formal in its informality. Here’s what I’d recommend:
You’re in a perfect position right now to create a content culture that will feed your content marketing machine for years to come. To do this, it’s important to have very few restrictions on who can create content, and what that content should look like. Encourage everyone in your organization to write — in fact, make it a requirement. Set a company-wide blog post quota, and a quarterly “offer” quota for those in leadership positions or those looking to move laterally or up in the organization. These will help not only foster the content culture you need to get your content marketing program off the ground, but will also help mitigate the reality that you probably don’t have the headcount and budget to run the content marketing program you’d see in larger organizations.
Too many content cooks in the kitchen can easily devolve into utter chaos, so it’s critical to have one point-person in Marketing through which all content marketing assets flow — whether that’s your Director of Marketing, a marketing intern, or something in between. I’ve seen a trend toward startups hiring a content creator as their first entry-level hire in order to manage this influx of content from across the company, and to have the benefit of one person dedicated to actively growing the content marketing program. If you have no formalized marketing hire yet, select the person who is typically responsible for executing marketing initiatives when they come up.
Whoever you select, this content-team-of-one will be responsible for coordinating the influx of content coming in throughout the company, performing quality control on that content, and scheduling the publishing and promotion of that content. Over time, the entire company will benefit from the knowledge on how to be better content creators, the clout that comes from being a published author, and a burgeoning content marketing program that generates actual leads and customers.
For the sake of this post, we’ll define midsize companies as those with 100-999 employees, or those making more than $50 million in annual revenue. But please use your judgment if, after reading this description, you think you better fall into the Enterprise bucket, or the SMB bucket.
At this growth stage, you should have at least one full-time content marketing headcount. If you’re on the smaller end of this “midsize” definition — right around 100 employees, $50 million in annual revenue — one FT hire might be just fine to maintain your content marketing. The only structural difference I’d recommend here compared to the startup/SMB team structure is discontinuing compulsory company-wide content contributions, and restricting it to just the Marketing team — not only is managing 100 contributors a massive time-suck, but at this size, you should have a few people on your marketing team. Asking a few people to contribute content at a higher frequency will give you enough content to continue to grow your content marketing program, all bubbling up to your dedicated content marketer. (If you didn’t hire that dedicated content marketer in the startup/SMB phase, now is the time to do it.)
If you’re any larger than what I just described, I’d recommend a very different content team structure. The biggest differentiation is that the team should be larger than just one person. (I’m assuming if you’ve made it this far, your content marketing program has proved out it’s ROI and can justify more headcount.) These are the hires you should have on your team, and what they should be responsible for:
Your writers/editors will have a combination role — all writing and editing each others’ content, both long and short form. One designer should be on the team to help create visual content assets, lay out content offers, and perhaps do some basic front-end web design. If your needs skew more to visual content than editorial, you may shift that writer/editor headcount to another designer. If your needs skew the other way, you may decide to hire a writer/editor that has design experience, and eliminate the FT designer headcount entirely.
All of these editor, writer, and designer hires should report up to a content team manager. That’s right: At this stage an official “Content Team” is born! This content team manager is not an executive-level person, simply a team lead that helps set priorities, communicates with the larger lead generation team and executive team, and yes, contributes content on a regular basis. At this growth stage, one layer of management helps keep the team organized and motivated; but multiple management layers aren’t necessary.
Technically the Enterprise should be defined as a company with $1 billion in annual revenue or more, but large midsize companies with aggressive content marketing and inbound lead generation goals may find themselves in this bucket, too. So again, I ask you to use your judgment here if you fall outside the definition I’ve offered of Enterprise, but still identify with these scenarios.
At this stage of growth, your content team will develop another layer of management, sub-teams will emerge, and roles will become more specialized. Technology will also likely become more sophisticated to help teams communicate and stay organized. Your content team should have either two or three sub-teams, headcount determined by growth goals:
Long and short form editorial should remain as two sub-teams on the larger content team. I recommend design does, too. However, I’ve seen companies keep design as a separate team in a different department entirely, fostering an agency-client relationship with the content team. This works well, too, and may help your team remain more agile, as projects that don’t align with your lead generation goals can remain off your plate entirely.
The hires on each of these subteams should report up to a team manager — and each sub-team’s team manager should report up to an executive-level hire. This will likely be a VP or SVP.
At this stage of growth, communication and alignment on goals will be the biggest challenge, particularly if agility remains a priority for your teams. Investing in integrated cloud technology will help remedy some of this, but short, frequent in-person meetings are critical to keeping the team motivated and productive.
Alright, these are three content team structures that I’ve seen work at companies of all sizes. But they aren’t the only options. What have you seen work well? Please share your recommendations in the comments.