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how to pick a chief content officer

Image source: Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay

Quality content is more important than ever for marketing and public relations. Consumers demand authentic, informative and interesting content.

As brands have better appreciated the value of content, they’ve swamped digital channels with blog posts, infographics, videos, memes and white papers. All that content increases competition for consumers’ attention and places greater pressure on PR and marketing teams to produce quality content that consumers crave.

Content marketing may be inefficiently dispersed across the organization, and marketers may lack time for measurement. Chief marketing officers generally focus on overseeing the overall marketing program, including budgets and measurement with little inclination to supervise content creation and distribution. Content development becomes a marketing stepchild.

The solution: a chief content officer (CCO). A CCO can consolidate content creation and content marketing efforts, ensure a consistent brand voice, and bolster marketing measurement to determine ROI.

More companies are hiring CCOs, says Jessica Weber, who co-leads Russell Reynolds Associates’ global creative Practice. Almost half the executives were hired in the past two years. Popular brands hiring CCOs include Airbnb, Glossier and Tinder, Dollar Shave Club, Hilton, and Blackrock. While firms in the consumer and financial services sectors embrace the new positions the most, companies in nearly every industry are creating the CCO position.

Like other executives, good CCOs have strong organizational skills and the ability to work well with others. Savvy organizations also seek these qualities in CCOs:

Journalism backgrounds. Most content officers hired recently were previously journalists, Weber notes. Some firms hire former TV producers or editors in chiefs to build in-house studios or newsrooms to produce podcasts, documentary films or magazines — in essence, transforming their brands into media entities.

Journalists have first-class storytelling skills and can create compelling content that resonates with consumers. Ask job candidates what they’ve written recently. “If the answer is an email or a short blog post she wrote six months ago, that should be a red flag,” says Joshua Johnson at Influence & Co. “Your ideal CCO should enjoy writing and do it often — regardless of whether it’s part of her job.”

A commitment to learning. The best CCOs can constantly adapt to the ever-changing digital marketing landscape by reading industry-leading marketing blogs, attending webinars or completing online courses.

Analytical skills. The ideal COO can select appropriate metrics and use social media listening and social media analytics tools to measure content marketing campaigns and track and monitor ROI. In addition, they can combine qualitative and quantitative data to extract actionable insights and predict future trends.

How to Support COOs

As the CCO role is still relatively new, it continues to evolve. Allow the content officer leeway to craft the role within your organization. New hires in first-time CCO positions often write their own job descriptions.  Reporting structures and job scopes vary between organizations. “Companies need to be comfortable with this ambiguity and trust their chief content officer to bring best-in-class media expertise to their organizations,” Weber says.

Provide them the resources they need to perform their jobs, such as a CRM system, a comprehensive media monitoring and measurement service, and funds to hire outside content producers if needed.

“A chief content officer is just a job title — you can call the role whatever you want,” writes Emma Siemasko, a content marketing consultant and founder of Stories by Emma. “Ultimately, the function of a CCO is to bring content marketing to the next level in your organization. Hiring a CCO gives content a seat at the table and suggests that you’re invested in creating an effective content marketing strategy for your brand.”

Bottom Line: More companies are hiring chief content officers, often creating new positions. CCOs can unify and energize the brand’s content, including the creation, distribution and measurement of content across all channels.