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You Need a Chief Content Officer

I’ve worked deeply embedded in several organizations during my career, always focused on content strategy. And I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of smart people doing great work. But I have found that seeing content strategically is yet not a common perspective in today’s business world. Fortunately, it’s growing—I find I have to educate far less about what content strategy is than I used to. But I do not find many organizations that have someone with the title of Chief Content Officer. Most of our organizations are still aligned around older models that didn’t anticipate the need for content strategy.

And that’s part of the opportunity; content strategy is a disruptive force in most organizations. We were aligned around products or services or a production team and a sales team, not around intellectual property assets.

Make no mistake—no matter what business you’re in, you have content that is an intellectual property asset.

And that content should be overseen by a chief content officer.

I love the work done by Joe Pulizzi and his team at the Content Marketing Institute, and I give them a lot of credit for beating the drum on this idea for several years now. They’ve got an updated job description for a chief content officer that’s well worth your time.

This job description only goes partway toward what I think many organizations need, however. I do most of my work on product-related content, and CMI understandably focuses on marketing specifically.

I’m an old-school marketer who thinks of marketing in the broader sense of developing products and bringing them to market, so my thinking lines up there, but I’ve seen a number of organizations that don’t use marketing mindsets in their product development work. (Fortunately, I think the digital revolution is changing that, and I give the user experience design world the props for it. Those of us in UX and related disciplines have been pushing audience understanding as the first step in our cycle for a long time, and I think it’s making a difference.)

Regardless of what we call our work, I think it’s essential for every mid-size to large organization to have someone acting as the chief content officer.

The chief content officer must speak for the content—the content as a business and IP asset, the content as the way the brand promise is delivered to the customer, the content as a well-managed operations hub.

The CCO is a strategy officer for the business and collaborates with a multidisciplinary team to determine how content fulfills the brand promise. The chief content officer influences technology choices. The CCO ensures the marketing, technology, design, product and other related teams are aligned with subject matter experts, including the legal team. The CCO finds opportunities that didn’t exist before, from engaging repair staff with content needed to do their work to reducing calls to the 800-number with genuinely helpful help content to envisioning digital apps that engage customers in new ways. The chief content officer ensures the organization speaks with one voice, by sharing brand and style information for content creation.

I’m curious: How well is your organization managing its content? Does it have a holistic view of this work, or is it handled piecemeal in different silos? (Don’t feel bad if that’s the case; you are not alone!)

I’d love to talk to organizations looking to do this work better. Today’s technology makes it possible to do content work very well, and to truly make content the asset many of us have long believed it to be. Let me know if I can help your organization think through these issues.


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