James Parsons is the founder and CEO of Content Powered, a content creation company. He’s been a content marketer for over 10 years and writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and many other publications on blogging and website strategy.
The Roles and Members of a Full Content Marketing Team
Content marketing is critical for modern businesses, but not all businesses handle content creation in the same way. There’s a huge world of difference between the content team at Disney and the content team working for your local furniture shop.
The way I see it, there are specific roles that need to be filled as part of a good content marketing team. In small teams, multiple roles are filled by individuals. In larger teams, one role can have many people working within it.
How does it all get divided up?
While this isn’t exactly a content marketing team, it tends to be a common choice for businesses who need to get some articles up on their website and are starting to understand the importance of a blog: enter the outsourcer. This is typically what happens when the brand either does not want to invest in content marketing beyond a bare minimum amount of time or when they only have a minimal amount of financial resources to dedicate to the craft.
In this arrangement, you have one person putting on pretty much all of the hats of the content marketer. They guide the blog strategy, they come up with content ideas, they perform topic ideation, they write headlines, and they handle all of the back-end stuff like SEO and images.
When it comes to producing the actual content, however, this person outsources it. Typically, this means they turn to Textbroker or another content mill, where they can purchase content that is thoroughly mediocre at best, but cheap. It’s more of an expense than not having a blog, but it’s about the cheapest way you can run a blog without writing everything yourself.
I don’t like to recommend this approach. All of the non-writing work is still a ton of work, and buying content from a content mill is generally a bad idea. Unless you’re paying for premium writers, you’re getting low-quality articles that are very poorly written and miss the mark entirely, and that makes it impossible to grow a blog. It’s success is also predicated on proper topic ideation and SEO knowledge for formatting, which is often left to the outsourcer. The article is half the battle, and if the outsourcer is simply uploading it and skipping the optimization, they will start to run into issues.
One step up from the outsourcer is the superhero content marketer. This is one person who does everything, and I mean everything. This individual researches topics, guides the top-level direction of the blog, and integrates the blog with other forms of marketing. They handle the keyword research, the SEO, the images, and the writing. Everything, from establishing the blog to writing the content, is done by this one person.
This can be fine for small businesses, but it typically only works with low-volume blogs. Writing one blog post per week isn’t particularly that difficult, even with all of the extra stuff going on behind the scenes. It is, however, generally not the business owner taking up this role. The business owner generally chooses a writer with experience managing blogs to handle it all while they do other business management stuff.
The biggest downsides to this approach are the lack of scaling and a poor division of labor. While some superhero content marketers can pull back and take on a more management role as the team expands, others try to maintain an iron grip over every aspect of the process, and end up throwing off the balance of an expanding team. And, of course, if the business owner doesn’t want to hire to expand the team, the superhero will quickly reach capacity and risk burnout.
While we’re on the topic of burnout and reaching capacity, how often is it a good idea to put all of your eggs in one basket? If this superhero gets sick, decides to quit, or gets injured in a freak hot air balloon accident (a very common situation for content marketers, oddly enough), the business is left without a blog or the knowledge to keep it going.
Lastly, when you have someone that wears many hats, it’s difficult for them to expertly perform all of those tasks. Writers may learn Photoshop to crop images for their posts, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a Senior Graphic Designer. They might do some research with keywords to get ideas of blog posts to write, but that doesn’t mean they performed thorough competitive research to the same extent that an SEO expert might have done.
That doesn’t mean it’s not possible to find somebody that can truly do it all (and more importantly, in a way that competes and achieves stellar results). It’s just very difficult and expensive to find these people and keep them around, and even more difficult to scale a content strategy with a single person.
The Small Team
On a more realistic level, you’ll often see a business hire a small team to do blog management. At the bare minimum, I consider a two-man team to be a good place to start.
With a two-man team, the division of labor looks a little something like this:
- The Marketer. This is the person who develops the overall content marketing plan. They do the keyword research, they monitor the analytics, they give reports to the business owner. They’re the person responsible for coming up with topics, posting the content, dealing with technical SEO, and so on.
- The Writer. This is the person who does the legwork of actually writing the content. They act as the writer and the editor, often using tools like Grammarly to enhance their work. They have institutional knowledge of what else has been written on the site, so they can handle interlinking and references. They also become experts in the field.
In this scenario, the dividing line can blur and shift over time. For example, when the writer is first hired, the marketer might handle editing, but the writer takes over with it when they gain more experience. Images, likewise, might fall under the purview of the writer as a content creator, or the marketer as technical SEO. In some scenarios, the writer might write their content directly into the CMS with formatting and basic SEO, so the marketer doesn’t have to do as much individual hands-on work for each post. It varies depending on the team and how comfortable they are working together.
As the Small Team model grows, it can scale up easily. The marketer can hire someone to do promotion, for example, and can focus more on handling the technical SEO and research, guiding the overall blog plan without having to worry about nitty-gritty details. At the same time, more writers might be hired on, and the existing writer becomes the Head Writer and Editor, managing the content and funneling it to the marketer, who has become the blog manager.
Again, all of this is very flexible. None of these roles are set in stone, and every team forms boundaries, a division of labor, and a balance that works for them. They might also outsource some aspects of blog management, like outsourcing blog images to a dedicated graphic designer, or hiring a designer to handle them in-house.
The Mid-Size Team
As a small team grows, or as a company with a budget decides to invest in a content marketing team, you start to see more defined roles working in conjunction with one another. It becomes a more corporate structure, with roles and expectations for each person involved, a stricter division of labor, and more modular responsibilities. This is also where redundancy kicks in, so a company isn’t entirely relying on one person to write all their content, one person to do all their management, one person to hold the keys.
At this point, you generally have several roles that make up the content team:
- Blog/Content Manager. This is your overall guidance, the person in charge. They’re the one who manages the overall team. They’re also the person who does topic ideation, keyword research, competitive research, rank tracking, analytics, and technical SEO.
- Graphic Designer. This is the person who handles blog images and may also handle other images and graphic design for the business. They’re part of the content marketing team and might do things like design infographics or landing pages as well. In some teams, this is still an outsourced position.
- Editor. This person works as the interface between the blog manager and the writers. They do your typical content editing, with grammar and spelling checks, plagiarism and duplicate content reviews, and formatting. They may also handle link auditing, fact-checking, and other high-level work on an individual post basis. They may edit directly, or request revisions from writers.
- Writers. At this point, the team will often have several writers, usually three or more. This allows for more volume, a selection of different styles, and different areas of expertise within the overall niche and industry. Writers either pick or are given assignments by the editor. They do their research, create their posts according to an overall style guide, and submit to the editor for review. They may be on-staff writers or they may be freelancers, and they may or may not be ghostwriters.
- Promoter. This is the person who does the marketing and outreach for the business. They might handle social media accounts, they may be given a budget to handle paid advertising, and they handle emails and contacts from readers. They’ll do outreach and link building, line up guest posting opportunities, and network with other bloggers. This person typically works closely with both the blog manager and the business owner to guide the overall marketing strategy of the business.
In this kind of business scenario, you’re looking at a fairly flexible group of people within their boundaries. The content manager can offload some responsibilities on the promoter and the editor while focusing more on the high-level guidance and tasks associated with content marketing. The editor does a lot of the manual work that the content manager would have been doing (while taking some responsibility off of the writer). The writer is a pool of writers, which broadens expertise, gives a deeper resource for style and knowledge, and helps increase volume without risking burnout.
This team, on some level, is what the vast majority of content marketing teams look like. Small to mid-size businesses build up to this point. Large businesses use this as a starting point.
However, there is a larger team that is more common at large companies.
The Enterprise Team
At the enterprise level, there tends to be even more division of labor, with more codified roles and a more corporate structure. This is what happens when content marketing becomes a department, not a team.
Large businesses, multinational brands, and global enterprises end up with this structure, though of course there’s always some variation between them (for example, variations in the total number of writers and editors). No two enterprises are the same, after all.
- The Chief Content Officer. The CCO is the C-level executive of the content marketing department. They might be subordinate to a Chief Marketing Officer, or working in tandem with them, or as a replacement for them. This is the person guiding the overall marketing and content direction of the business. They choose overall topics and perspectives, but they leave the details to…
- The Blog Manager. The blog manager is a role similar here to the mid-size teams, but with a little less responsibility. They take the overall guidance of the CCO and turn it into specifics with broad-level topic ideation, competitive research, keyword research, and so on. They use high-level tools for research and development of an overall content strategy.
- The Analyst. This person works with the blog manager to perform research and analyze data from the blog. They study Google Analytics and generate reports. They monitor rank tracking and performance, and they may monitor things like online reviews and reputation management. They generate reports for the blog manager to use, and for the CCO to present to the CEO. Note that in extremely large teams, you might have a lead data scientist and multiple data analysts below them specializing in particular kinds of data.
- The Graphic Designer. This might be an individual designer, or a “creative asset team”, depending on the brand. At this level, they are often hired directly rather than freelancers, because the brand wants overall brand style adherence. There may be several graphic creators with different specialties, like a painter, a vector artist, and a photographer on staff here as well.
- The Head Editor. The head editor is, again, the person who takes the overall directives from the blog manager and converts them into individual assignments. In “smaller” enterprises, they do all of the editing. This includes the proofreading, duplicate content reviews, link audits, and other technical details just like the editor in other teams. In larger enterprises, they do the high-level editing work and offload the rest to…
- The Section Editor. In very large publications, particularly those with numerous overall sections (think Forbes here), you have section editors. These are editors are generally editors of their own respective columns, and work with both the head editor and the overall blog manager to take assignments and deliver them to writers. They receive what writers submit, they edit or request revisions, they handle what technical details need to be handled, and they send the finished product up the chain. Often, the head editor is the one actually publishing the content, though the section editors may handle that as well, with input and overview from the blog manager where necessary.
- The Writers. The people who take assignments, do the research, write the content, and submit it to the editors for review. They do the hard work of producing the content, but that’s all they do. Even the responsibility of editing is lifted, beyond what is necessary to produce quality content.
- The Social Media Manager. In larger organizations, there’s often one person who handles social media for the brand. In much larger organizations, there may be several social media managers, one for each position. There may even be a dedicated social media team for each platform. After all, social media platforms have business accounts with team features and individual roles for a reason.
- The Promoter. This is your overall marketer, and at this point, they might not even be part of the team anymore. In small content marketing teams, it pays to have a promoter. In larger enterprises, the business generally has a whole marketing team, and things like outreach, link building, and guest post networking are handled by the blog manager. This is one of the few roles that “disappears” from the content marketing team at the upper scales, but that’s just because they’ve moved to the paid marketing department.
Of course, none of this is set in stone. The transition from a small team to a large team to an enterprise is never smooth, and there will always be quirks of how an individual business evolved to the point it is now.
Where does your team stand? What roles do you consider essential, and how are your responsibilities divided? I’m always curious to see a glimpse inside other organizations, so let’s talk in the comments!
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