Gini Dietrich

Where Does Content Marketing Belong?

By: Gini Dietrich | March 9, 2015 | 

Where Does Content Marketing Belong?By Gini Dietrich

There is an interesting fight happening in marketing departments around the globe: Where does content marketing belong?

Does it belong to the PR pros because they are natural storytellers and are trained to craft a great story?

Does it belong to advertisers because, without distribution, your content goes nowhere?

Does it belong to marketers because it helps generate leads?

Does it belong to a new role—the content marketer—so it can apply a very specific skill set?

The problem with this kind of thinking, of course, is it creates silos.

Silos, by their very nature, are harmful to an organization and weigh it down when it really needs to be flexible to the constant change of technology.

Silos also create fiefdoms that prevent colleagues from talking to one another.

A concept discussed in great detail in Marketing in the Round, digital communications must exist to break those silos down and let content marketing belong to the entire organization.

The Content Marketing Role

The other problem is a good majority of organizations want to give content marketing a role instead of hiring for skill. That’s why there is the “where does it belong?” argument.

  • Do you have a really good writer? Let him create content and distribute it.
  • Do you have an introvert who gets her social interaction online? Let her build relationships with all stakeholders and influencers to distribute the content.
  • Do you have a receptionist who is brutal with a red pen? Let him edit all of the content for consistency and voice.
  • Do you have a sales person with a really deep rolodex? Let her discover new ways to approach new readers.

The content marketing role should be defined on skill set and not on department. Once you find where people have strengths around the myriad content roles (planning, creation, distribution, and engagement), you begin to get the entire organization involved in its success.

Which leads to the Golden Ticket so many can’t seem to find.

The Content Marketing Process

By sheer necessity, smaller organizations have this process down already. Everyone in the organization is responsible for content marketing because there aren’t resources for departments, let alone departments to fight about it.

The Goliath organizations can learn a thing or two from the Davids in their industries.

A 10 person software as a service company in Pennsylvania serves the education market. Their focus is on content marketing for business development and client retention.

  • The CEO leads the charge by creating drip email campaigns and writing two blog posts per month. He also serves as the central hub for ideas, approvals, and distribution.
  • The technology manager handles data, metrics, and analysis.
  • The customer service manager writes two blog posts per month, develops long-form content (eBooks and white papers), and handles the social media (including a very effective Pinterest campaign—see #10).
  • The educational specialist works with customers to create testimonials and case studies.
  • The director of sales contributes content and distributes it to his deep rolodex.

In the past three years, the results they’ve seen from having everyone involved in the content marketing process is astounding:

  • Blog traffic increased 260 percent.
  • The number of people who took their free trial increased 570 percent.
  • The number of conversions increased 50 percent.
  • They increased from one percent conversion on free trials to eight percent.
  • Revenue, from these efforts, alone equals $1.5 million.

As they continue to work together to improve the content marketing process, their results continue to increase.

Plan for Success

Just like any other business initiative, you have to plan your content marketing process.

To start, if you already have an accountability chart for everyone in your organization, start there. If you don’t, create a quick spreadsheet and fill in the strengths of each team member.

In some cases, you’ll want to ask every employee to fill it in—and tell you what they really love to do. In other cases, you’ll want supervisors to provide this data.

However you get it, it’s important to determine where people’s skills lie and then build the content marketing process.

Now it’s time to start working with everyone in the organization to break down the silos and make content marketing part of the job of all.

Create a content marketing plan that follows the decision-making funnel: Top-, middle-, and bottom-of-the-funnel content.

  • The very broad content at the top that helps a prospect become educated about an issue, challenge, or solution. This should build industry awareness, attract links, and reach new audiences.
  • The discovery content is in the middle and this is where a prospect begins to trust you. This is where you create awareness of a solution you have to an industry problem, awareness of your organizations, and help prospects to remember you.
  • The consideration content is at the bottom. They are ready to buy…and have likely narrowed down their choices to you and one or two other organizations. This is where you can begin to talk about yourself, but not from your point-of-view. You have to do it from their perspective, which is why case studies and testimonials are so powerful here. It should build product awareness and convert prospects to customers.

Every employee should be responsible for content at each level.

This will create a flexible organization that can be fluid with technology changes, break down silos, and improve culture because people will feel like they’re all in the organization’s success together.

A version of this first appeared on the Relevance blog.

photo credit: Shutterstock

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • allpointspr100

    Thanks for the post, Gini. I personally think that advertising, PR, and marketing teams can all benefit from content marketing because they can all use it to their advantage. Consumers don’t think, “Great content marketing but because an ad team wrote it instead of a PR team, I’ll ignore its messaging.”
    Jamie I
    All Points PR — Chicago PR agency

  • allpointspr100 LOL!! Literally, I laughed out loud. The PR team didn’t read this so it sucks. Very, very good point, Jamie.

  • Interesting, Gini. I love the idea of everyone on a team contributing content, since, in my experience, “content creation” tends to fall with the writer, even though content is more than that. But breaking out of silos isn’t easy. Did the CEO in your example lead that charge, too? How do you encourage team content creation when higher ups aren’t thinking that way and others have the mindset that it’s not in their job description?

  • prblog

    A timeless discussion…in some ways we’ve talked this for blogging, new media and then social media at some point, right?

    I’ve found it can’t be silo’d. Let’s oversimplify and note there is, at a minimum, an art and a science to this. We have folks who are focused on nothing more than placing our content on discovery networks like Outbrain (disclosure: our parent agency is a media buying agency). We also have content engineers who help us get the data, analyze it (on the front end) and repeat the process when we report performance to the client. They help us look at the performance data and optimize the next batch of content. Then, on the art side, we’ve got traditional publishing operations….editors, writers, producers, designers, developers. 

    If anyone asks, Where does content marketing belong? I can tell them where to put it. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Seriously though, the answer just isn’t as simple as saying….in this silo.

  • ginidietrich, I think we’re overthinking the issue.

    There’s no real such thing as “content marketing” — it’s just a new buzzword created (admittedly) by digital marketers to give the impression that we’re doing something new and different. But we’re not. “Content marketing” is just the creation and distribution of marketing collateral — what is now called by the cliched term “content.” Same as it ever was.

    Where does content marketing belong? The creation should sit in the Creative department, under which sits writers and designers and videographers. (The Creative department gets its direction from management or a strategy team that creates the overall messaging and positioning.)

    Then, the promotion of those creatives should be done by advertising / publicity / etc. departments. (And those departments can use social media, e-mail, and countless other channels to do their advertising and publicity activities.)

    I really don’t want to come off as a spammer, but since it’s relevant I thought people would like my recent Moz essay on The Marketing Department of the Future:

  • samemac

    ginidietrich Looks like you poked a bear!

    I think the statement “The content marketing role should be defined on skill set and not on department” hits the nail on the head – and that when we quit thinking in silos, we will actually be more productive.

    I would also add that while Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising all have their distinct places in the mix of all the things – it’s absolutely okay when they overlap. The convergence of such, IMO, makes us better as professionals – better as departments – adding to the final bottom line. But if we all accepted that, then there wouldn’t be anything to fight over – and well that’s just not any fun. [/sarcasm] (I really need a sarcasm font)

  • I love this approach, Gini, and think stealing the model from a smaller organization makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, without the “necessity” to drive leaders of large organizations, they often don’t see the value in content creation. It’s viewed as the task of one of the silos you referenced, regardless of skill sets. And we all know what happens without leadership buy-in, especially since content marketing is being implemented across functions, or by skill set as you’ve described.

    Despite my agreement with Samuel’s assertion that content marketing isn’t new, I do see the trend/buzzword as an opportunity to establish cross-functional work groups focused on publishing branded content  and driving in-bound leads and funnel conversions. Even without total leadership buy-in, it’s happening along the lines you’ve described here: subject matter experts provide the content, PR helps tell a compelling story and sales/marketing help distribute. I’ve seen this work in a large organization spearheaded by corporate communications and digital marketing and in smaller organizations where all hands are on deck.

    I think “old school” industries are struggling the most with this (think auto parts or manufacturing) and will only move forward as individual contributors are motivated to feed the cross-functional efforts. Receiving spreadsheet tallies is one way, but I think personal branding/individual bylines is just as strong of a motivator, especially among young generations who want to see their name in lights.

  • csledzik

    ginidietrich Great post and perfect example with the small SaaS company. Excited to follow the comments on this one, Gini.

  • samueljscott I totally agree with you. I say this all the time when I speak to business leaders: It’s still marketing. Nothing has changed. The tools have changed and they make you more efficient, but it’s still marketing. And, I agree, content marketing has been around at least since the 1800s. John Deere has been publishing a magazine for a good century. 

    That said, business leaders hear this stuff and they fall in one of two camps: 1) Oh my gosh! We have to do better with this. Now’s our chance! or 2) This won’t affect my industry until after I retire so I don’t have to worry about it right now. Everything can stay the same.

    It’s for the latter group of people that we have to convince … and why I write content like this.

    Also, as a moz subscriber, I read that post when it was published. Very smart.

  • Word Ninja He did lead the charge and, I think you’re right, that makes a huge difference. Either the business leaders have to lead this charge or be so wrapped up in seeing it succeed that it does. If they don’t see the value, no amount of cross-discipline work will help.

  • prblog You’re exactly right. I have nothing else to say. I hate to agree with you, but I do. 🙂

  • samemac I like poking bears! I’ve been writing about the scavenger hunt for a month. It’s time to get my stick back out!

  • ChrisSledzik We all want to see our name in lights. Every, single one of us. Your point is very salient. If you can show people how they’ll get that ego stroke AND maybe even grow their careers, they’ll participate every time.

  • ginidietrich

    csledzik I think I poked the bear!

  • prblog

    ginidietrich – Re: hating to agree with me…I’ll quote Star Wars. “Give in to your anger.” – or something like that.

  • prblog Yes, master.

  • ginidietrich

    MediaLabRat Were your ears burning this morning? lkpetrolino and I were talking about you

  • MediaLabRat

    ginidietrich lkpetrolino I felt the heat!!!

  • lkpetrolino

    MediaLabRat ginidietrich LOL!

  • I always place my content marketing out in the garage. This way it doesn’t smell the house up and if I need to put it outside I can just open the garage and let it wander the neighborhood.

  • Howie Goldfarb good idea, it does spoil really quickly. And rotten content marketing is really grotesque

  • ginidietrich prblog Oh dear…..

  • Another one of our client’s discusses content in each week’s staff meetings. It’s a natural tie in as they are discussing innovation, customer needs and issues, sales, etc. She started out by yelling “Blog Post” whenever they would discuss a topic that would translate well into content. Now she has the team trained so well they call themselves out on it.

  • Howie Goldfarb I don’t know what to do with you. Between you and @prblog, I may start yelling at you to get off my lawn.

  • LauraPetrolino Who is that? Whitney?

  • ginidietrich Howie Goldfarb

  • ginidietrich LauraPetrolino Amy!

  • samueljscott  Great in depth post on your moz blog!

  • Diana Combs

    As a content writer, I found this really interesting.  The content I’ve been asked to produce varies according to its purpose.  The purpose seems to feed which department in particular oversees the content.  Or, put in another way, the buck stops somewhere.  The department most vested in the content is the one where the buck stops.  BUT there are distinct assertions that there is shared responsibility.  There just tends to be the need to manage the content by fewer people, rather than by a committee.

  • Digital_DRK Howie Goldfarb EXACTLY

  • Diana Combs But you are developing content for several departments? Not just sales, for instance?

  • garymcintire

    ginidietrich #EverybodyWrites Creating content that engages communities is everyone’s job yet few are allowed to do it. #EmployeeAdvocacy

  • Sigh. 
    Remember when we saw a job advertisement, we went along, and the interviewer said, “What do you do?”
    “I’m great with yarn.”
    “Excellent, you’re our new pullover maker.”
    Simple. Jobs with the people that had skill sets for these jobs. The world was good. Sensible. Happy.
    Then social media came along. Now everyone wanted a piece of everyone else’s job.
    Why? Why is it so effin’ important to try and take over? Because you think you can? That’s how companies go bust!
    I’m with samueljscott – “content marketing” as a term is nothing more than a soundbite. It’s a tactic in the bigger marketing strategy. Let’s stop pretending otherwise, just to try get some shiny gold stars for our “don’t know what I’m doing but I’ll interfere anyway” portfolio. 
    Good luck with that.

  • Diana Combs

    ginidietrich Sorry if I wasn’t clear, but yes.  The buck still stops with one person, and several signing off on it before-hand.  Also, I rarely write for sales.

  • Danny Brown samueljscott I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before, but one of my favorite quips is, “A social media expert is a person with a Twitter account and a keyboard.” Which is my point of this blog post. If you’re a really great writer, it shouldn’t matter if you’re the janitor or the VP of sales. WRITE!

  • ginidietrich

    KaryD Woo hoo! Work out today?

  • KaryD

    ginidietrich Maybe later.

  • ginidietrich

    KaryD MAYBE??

  • KaryD

    ginidietrich I’ll try.

  • ginidietrich

    KaryD I do not like this attitude

  • KaryD

    ginidietrich Oh, trust me, I don’t either.

  • ginidietrich

    KaryD Hrumph

  • KaryD

    ginidietrich I’m definitely going to try. This has helped. Thank you.

  • KaryD

    ginidietrich pst…got it done.

  • csledzik

    MoninaW I was just chatting about ginidietrich’s post. It’s inspiring me to find more blog authors even if I have to shake them down. 😉

  • ginidietrich

    csledzik MoninaW you guys!

  • ginidietrich

    KaryD YEAH!!! Atta girl!

  • You’re right, it shouldn’t matter. Problem is, until the internal pissing matches over who owns content and social stop, these writers won’t have to worry about being heard because petty bickering will stop any initiative.

  • DNNCorp

    ginidietrich We agree, Gini. We think content should be ingrained in culture. Related post:

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