Who doesn’t love Altimeter Group, right?  Low cost (FREE!), high-quality research on relevant industry trends.  Plus Susan Etlinger is just, like, the nicest.

In an April 25th report entitled Organizing for Content: Models to Incorporate Content Strategy and Content Marketing in the Enterprise analyst Rebecca Lieb takes on – you guessed it – different ways to organize for kicking out kick-ass content.

Rebecca identifies six different models.  Below, I’m going to advocate for the one that, in my experience, I think is the most broadly effective no matter the size of your organization.  But, before we get to my advocating and analyzing, a little background on the report and some nuggets of wisdom (I read it so you don’t have to!).

About Organizing for Content: Models to Incorporate Content Strategy and Content Marketing in the Enterprise:

  • The report looks at “scalable organizational models for addressing content needs across the enterprise and makes recommendations for a holistic program…”
  • It is based on “…78 interviews with executives actively engaged in the evolution of content strategy and/or content marketing in their organizations.  The qualitative interviews were conducted with representatives from B2B and B2C companies between October and December 2011 and January and March 2013.”
  • The research notes that, “New channels and platforms, coupled with a trend that de-emphasizes the written word in favor of visual and audio-visual content, creates new skill demands.”  Translation: maybe you should swap that intern blogger for a videographer (hey, that rhymes!).
  • Why do you need to organize for content strategy?  Well, this is why…(duh)… Because brands, “…divide up content responsibilities between divisions that are not necessarily interconnected or in regular communication with one another.  This fragmented approach leads to inconsistent messaging, huge variations in voice, tone, brand and messaging and an inconsistent customer experience.”

Nuggets of Wisdom:

  • 57% of respondents identified content marketing as their “top external social strategy objective” for 2013
  • The average organization is responsible for continual and increasing content demands of 178 social media properties
  • “Brands have evolved into media companies.”  You’ve no doubt heard this before.  And you might’ve also heard Red Bull referred to as a publisher who makes energy drinks.  But, did you know that Red Bull tweets up to 200 times per day?  No matter how you slice it, generating even just that many tweets – never mind all of their other content, takes strategy and coordination.

Elements of Content Strategy:

According to the report, these are the elements every enterprise needs to first consider before tackling how to organize for producing and distributing content:

  1. Strategy: both a vision for message, but an understanding of the tools and organization you need; also clarity on approval and publishing processes.
  2. Authority/Management: an executive or governing body must have cross-functional and multidivisional visibility and purview to efficiently operate and call the shots.
  3. Staff: At Dell, Executive Director Marketing Marissa Tarleton says (according to the report),“Over half of my organization is responsible for content.” – skills folks should be staffing up for content-wise include copywriting, journalism, video production, graphic design, photography, etc.
  4. Technology: tools for production and measurement (like ShopIgniter!), collaboration and management, content curation, aggregation, publishing, etc.
  5. Measurement: this is obvious, yet lack of over-arching, cross-divisional strategy was common problem.
  6. Audit: regular cross-organization audit of all content that exists is critical.
  7. Unified Guidelines and Playbook: you need things like an editorial calendar, style and brand guide, rules for voice, tone and brand and persona map.
  8. Training: Dell rigorously trains anyone who writes or publishes on behalf of the brand.  Wells Fargo teamed with an industry trade organization to create a “university”.

Models for Content Marketing Organization:

  • Content Center of Excellence: A consortium of experts from a variety of organizational divisions working cross-departmentally
  • Editorial Board or Content Council: Content creators and/or marketing executives from divisions, including marketing, communications, PR and social media working collaboratively
  • Content Lead: An executive who oversees an organization’s content initiatives.  Titles range from editor-in-chief to global content strategist
  • Executive Steering Committee: A cross-functional strategic group comprised of senior executives
  • Cross-Functional Content Chief: Chief Content Officer, Head of Digital Strategy.  A senior executive who is the Boss of Content (this person has cross-departmental authority and is more centralized than the Content Lead model)
  • Content Department/Division: in-house or agency; large scale, high-volume content creation

This is the part of the show where I encourage you to read the entire report in depth to better understand the Pros & Cons of each of these models and how they would actually operate, which Lieb explores carefully and thoroughly.

Obviously, different models may work better for different organizations.  If you’re a Dell and have both large budgets and large staff, you can probably support a Content Department – and you probably need one to pump out the high volume of content that you need.  But, not everybody’s Dell.  Dell’s Dell.

What do I think is the most broadly applicable model?  Good question.  Let’s take a look at, in my experience, what the common challenges are in creating and sustaining an effective content machine:

  • Cross departmental cooperation
  • Centralized strategy, vision, messaging & tone
  • Consistent creation of high quality, innovative, fun, interesting content

In my experience, the Cross-Functional Content Chief model – as expressed by the title Chief Content Officer or Head of Digital Strategy, etc. – probably works best for the largest number of organizations.

Assuming that person is granted the appropriate cross-departmental authority and visibility that he deserves, and can staff up appropriately to fit his or her needs, this model best addresses the challenges I’ve outlined above.  They should be senior enough to move the chess pieces they need to move cross-functionally throughout the enterprise, they solve the ‘unified vision, strategy, messaging & tone’ issue and, assuming that they’re a modern day Don Draper, the content that they drive should be great.

Don Draper

Now…finding a modern day Don Draper to run your content marketing machine…that’s a different story.

I’m available.  But, it should be noted, I don’t have Don’s hair.  On the plus side, I don’t have his drinking problem, either.

How is your enterprise organizing for content marketing?  Are you using something that looks like the models identified above?  Or have you found your own way or a better way of tackling the content marketing strategy and organization challenge?