content marketing team
Marketing Content Strategy

What the Content Marketing Team of the Future Looks Like

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Companies love their departments.

They are neat, little (or sometimes, huge) bins that let everyone know exactly what their purpose is from nine to five o’clock. Accounting should be sorting, counting, and reviewing. Sales should be driving revenue. Marketing should be driving leads and keeping everything on-brand. In this, the traditional content marketing team has acted as gatekeepers—opening the doors for qualified leads to enter while ensuring only the most strictly brand-compliant material goes out. A place for everything and everything in its place.

But then, things changed.

Automation began taking much of the grunt work out of managing social media and generating leads. Audience demands for content not only became more frequent, they became more discerning in responding to quality and creative visual content. Marketing teams, for the most part, adjusted in one of two ways. The first kind of team redoubled the efforts of its normal content pipeline, taking on additional staff and pressing harder deadlines to ensure enough content could be pushed through at any given time. This method has had trouble keeping up because of a key bottleneck at the top, where despite increased creation and need for content, a select few remain responsible for ensuring that all material remains on-brand. The future does not look good for such teams, as audiences everywhere become even more discerning in quality of content.

On the other hand, another type of marketing team has grown out of this need. Rather than trying to force more content through old pipelines, these teams have turned each member into a storyteller. Brand became an integral part of every phase of production, so the need for a gatekeeper at the top was lessened. Members from all across the company, not just the marketing department, became potential sources of content. Audience demands were no longer strictures, they were welcome opportunities.

Does your content marketing team still operate on a rigorous content pipeline, or have you adapted to become true brand storytellers?

How did this look in practice? Of the teams that reorganized in the past year to accommodate brand storytelling, 26 percent reported being “extremely successful” in their marketing, as opposed to 9 percent of teams who didn’t reorganize. Audience needs are changing. So what does it look like for a marketing team to adapt?

Pillars of the Adaptive Marketing Team

Adaptive marketing teams appear to be keeping pace with their evolving audiences. Many of the tactics such teams employ are similar to those already in use today, but with changing emphasis. Rather than strict workflows that produce cookie cutter content (and likewise, cookie cutter results) these teams embrace fluid structures and content that allow for improved creativity that can meet the ever-changing needs of an audience the moment data points them in the right direction.

The content marketing team is no longer just about production efficiency and strict branding. Here

Tactically, adaptive teams often end up looking something like this:

  • Centralized Automation: In the past, marketing teams have comprised numerous managers and editors to support channels like email marketing and social media. However, for every manager on a team, there is an additional step for review before material can be disseminated and a bottleneck for capacity that cannot scale beyond the worker’s capabilities. In response, many teams have begun to eschew the social media marketers of the past and instead opt for smaller teams of automation specialists who focus on keeping the nuts and bolts of the content marketing team running smoothly and scaling effectively as audiences grow. In just the past year, enterprises have begun hiring managerial-level professionals (about 60 percent of companies, according to Skyword’s study), while positions like social networking marketers have fallen to less than a quarter of company hirings.
  • Flexible Capacity and Outside Help: While many teams continue to try and keep all their efforts in-house (often holding to the strict brand management of old), adaptive marketing teams work to cultivate external networks that can support and/or grow their campaigns. Freelancers can bring valuable expertise to a team that normally isn’t in-house— photography, videography, musicianship— while a focus on tapping influencers helps marketers bring already established audiences into their fold. This allows marketing teams ample room to scale capacity based on the ambition of a project, while only leaving the work of review and targeting to their in-house specialists.
  • Passive Visibility Growth: Adaptive teams are also brand investors. Gone are the days when a marketing campaign existed to serve a single goal and then fall away. Rather, adaptive teams understand that almost any content can effect visibility past its usefulness in a campaign, and that in the same way audience content needs are changing, so also are their search needs. By making sure that all content serves to support SEO in the future, SEO managers are given new tools to leverage with every new piece of content, bringing what has traditionally been a technical position closer to the storytelling fold.

Staying Storytellers Into the Future

As with all things marketing, it’s possible the adaptive content team will one day be replaced by some other, better-suited model. Whatever such a change brings in terms of organization, however, there are two elements of this most recent team that are likely to remain. First is the comparatively fluid department structure that allows for every member of a marketing team (and sometimes even members from outside of the marketing department) to have a say in branded material. This is a hallmark of rapidly developing tools that allow individuals to take on ever-increasing capacity, but also a recognition that a worker’s job title doesn’t necessarily limit the creative input they can have.

But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the emphasis on a team of storytellers. No matter what the future brings for marketers, no matter how well developed the tools become, two things will remain the same: Audiences will continue to seek connection with brands through their content, and people will always be necessary for generating content that can connect. It is by measuring the strength of a team to tell story that marketers may also measure their ability to stay relevant in the future.

Interested in more data on adaptive marketing teams? Check out Skyword’s Brand Transformation Study to see exactly how brands have adapted their marketing teams to new audience challenges.

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  • Marv Dumon

    Advanced analytics tools will make it easier for brands to find top performing content (i.e., most number of social shares, etc.). They should benchmark these “high ROI content assets.” Just as the NFL is a copycat league, so is the content industry.

    Top performers will be mimicked and copied until the formula doesn’t work anymore. New startups are analyzing the content structures that result in optimal engagement for current audiences. The holy grail of optimization is a continually moving target, and setting the right vision is key if brands have any hope of structuring their teams correctly.

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