the blind leading the literate

Content marketing is the bastard stepchild of corporate structuring.

Don’t misunderstand. As a discipline, it’s alive and well – enjoying several recent years in the spotlight, rightfully getting more and more attention.

But when it comes to where content marketing fits into the internal reporting structure every company has to deal with, the world of content marketing is like when you’ve cleaned out the fridge and you’re putting everything back and you have that one last odd-shaped Tupperware that doesn’t match any of the other stuff, so you just kind of wedge it on top of the egg carton and hope nothing comes toppling out next time you have to get a snack.

An anecdotal example. Since graduating college, I have been part of the following teams, sometimes reporting directly to the head of the department, sometimes with a step or two in between:

  • branding/advertising
  • creative
  • innovation
  • marketing
  • SEO
  • social media
  • strategy/planning

There was even a time when my company had an actual VP of Content who I reported to. It was a new position. They left after two months. The role was not backfilled.

Who is on these teams is far more important than how the teams are labeled, of course. A good manager who leads the corporate basketweaving department (the Chief Basketweaving Officer) will better direct the content marketing work than a bad manager who happens to have “content marketing guru” in their LinkedIn description.

At the core of this where-does-content-marketing-fit problem is nomenclature.

A company tries to create the best product or service possible, and (ideally) syncs with marketing efforts along the way in order to ensure the product/service is presented strategically and effectively. The software developer or food scientist or mechanical engineer does not usually have the burden of also putting together the marketing campaign, and the media buy plan, and the SEO and social media strategies.

When it comes to “content marketing,” the content is the product – yet the people creating the product/content (editors, writers, designers) are often the same people responsible for getting current and potential customers’ eyeballs in front of it. That may seem like a good thing on paper and sometimes it is – but only if its potential pain points are addressed.

Who sets and approves the editorial calendar? Who picks and approves the topics? Who reviews and approves final drafts? Who decides which content pieces go in which emails or get paid media dollars behind them? Who dictates what optimizations need to be made as the content is periodically revisited and updated?

Being aware of these potential problems is the first step, and each organization would be able to customize a solution accordingly. But the more degrees of separation between the person leading the day-to-day editorial content efforts and the person leading the day-to-day marketing efforts*, the harder it will be to create an effective, efficient content marketing program.

*Maybe make them the same person!