Is It Time to Hire a Chief Content Officer? Here’s How to Know

As content marketing matures, companies find themselves needing someone to run the content show. Emma Siemasko explains what a CCO can do for your brand and provides a sample job description.

When content marketing began, it was a niche field that was really just an offshoot of SEO. Search marketers recognized that content gave them the power to rank in search, gain more leads and create a connection with prospects and customers.

In 2016, content marketing is big business 89 percent of B2B businesses are using it, according to the most recent B2B content marketing report from CMI and MarketingProfs. Many companies have used content as their marketing foundation (think Buffer, Help Scout and Groove), proving that great content is the ultimate way to getting attention in a busy online world.

As content marketing matures, companies find themselves with the need for a person to run the content show. Traditional CMOs focus on budget, metrics and the overall marketing program. Companies focusing on content need someone else.

Enter the chief content officer.

Why the need for a chief content officer?

chief content officer

Eighty-nine percent of B2B organizations may use content marketing, but according to the same CMI/MarketingProfs study:

  • Only 37 percent have a documented content strategy
  • Only 34 percent believe their content marketing is effective

When content marketing is relegated to an individual contributor managed by a CMO, it can be difficult to get company-wide buy-in for what it takes to create a successful content marketing program.

And without buy-in, content marketing isn’t going to work. Case in point:

  • Only 52 percent of marketers believe their leadership is realistic about the time it takes to get results from content marketing efforts
  • But 77 percent of brands who run successful content marketing programs believe their leadership gives ample time to reach results

When a company has a chief content officer, content has a seat at the table. (highlight to tweet)

A chief content officer focuses on the company’s overarching content strategy and creation and brings this strategy to other executives. Usually, a CCO has a background in marketing, digital media and editorial/journalism.

Signs it’s time to hire a CCO

If you want to invest heavily in content or are struggling to get your efforts off the ground, it may make sense to hire a chief content officer.

10-27-16_timetohire_a“If a company is making a strategic decision to invest in content, it’s always important to hire someone to oversee for accountability,” said Trisha Antonsen, chief cocktail officer at Drizly, an online alcohol marketplace. “You want one person or department that can push the initiatives through and track improvements over time.”

Antonsen notes that having content strategy and production sprinkled throughout an organization rather than consolidated under a CCO can lead to a poor grasp on content’s overall effect on the business. And without an individual or team in charge, she adds, “It can be hard to grow and hard to scale.”

Here are the signs it’s time to hire a chief content officer:

  • Willingness to invest in content marketing but trouble executing
  • Content marketing efforts spread out across multiple departments
  • Desire to consolidate content efforts
  • Need to create a singular branded voice
  • One (overwhelmed) person is running the content show
  • There’s no time to track metrics and prove ROI
  • There’s no strategy (or your strategy is, “Throw it against the wall and see what sticks”)
  • Your content isn’t getting shared/engaged with, and no one has time or expertise to figure out why
  • You don’t know how to find better writers, designers or other essential content creators


How a CCO can help with your challenges. They can:

  • Develop a comprehensive content strategy based on what’s working, what’s not and industry best practices
  • Consolidate existing efforts, uniting individuals and teams
  • Advocate for content’s needs among key stakeholders such as the CEO, COO and other C-level execs
  • Determine KPIs and put analytics solutions in place to track and monitor ROI
  • Determine a “brand voice” and overall goal for content
  • Lead creative, coming up with innovative ideas and challenging team members to do the same

Whom to hire for the role10-27-16_ccohelp_a

A chief content officer is a special blend of a lot of skills. They:

  • Are knowledgeable about digital marketing and advertising
  • Appreciate the value of good writing
  • Understand the customer mindset
  • Value analytics and believe in determining ROI

“A CCO knows the best practices of advertising and traditional KPI measurement, but they also know how to cut through marketing BS and speak directly to customers as they want to be spoken to,” said Antonsen.

At a large organization, teamwork is necessary, so a chief content officer should work well with others and be able to manage a team.

Antonsen reminds anyone who’s hiring a CCO to “find someone who is passionate about your product.” She’s always loved the storytelling, history and traditions around beer, wine and spirits, so working at Drizly was a perfect fit for her.

An example job description for a chief content officer

Imagine you work at Meaty, a company that sells BBQ grills, and you want a chief content officer to manager your content marketing efforts. Here’s an example of a job description you might use:

Job Summary

Meaty is seeking a chief content officer to lead our content marketing, brand communications and overall editorial strategy. We’re the most popular BBQ grill in the country, and we want to solidify our message and get the word out to more meat-lovers (and even convert some vegetarians!).

Requirements

  • 5-10 years of experience in content marketing, digital marketing, advertising, and/or new media 
  • Experience managing marketing analytics (particularly Google Analytics, Salesforce, and other marketing platforms)
  • Can pivot on a daily basis from strategic to tactical and is comfortable dealing with ambiguity 
  • Knowledgeable and passionate about food, BBQ and cooking meat

Core Responsibilities

  • Build and lead a team of smart and savvy content marketers
  • Evaluate Meaty’s existing and prospective content partnerships and create new connections
  • Measure and improve the breadth, depth and timeliness of content to drive retentiveness for Meaty’s content
  • Work with cross-functional teams to develop the key performance indicators for content engagement.
  • Identify and analyze influencers for partnerships
  • Serve as the main liaison to collaborate with the content, sales, marketing, engineering, product and finance teams to drive our content initiatives
  • Work with content operations and marketing to develop and implement editorial plans to highlight relevant content through browse banners, push notifications, featuring within a specific format genre.

We’re looking for a chief content officer who:

  • Wants a seat at the C-Suite table and is comfortable advocating for and leading new initiatives
  • Is an expert in using technology to analyze ROI of campaigns
  • Is data-driven; you like understanding the numbers and are eager to measure your success in both quantitative and qualitative ways
  • Is a strong communicator who can put yourself in the customers’ shoes and listen and engage with others in a variety of contexts

Is it time to hire a chief content officer?

A chief content officer is just a job title you can call the role whatever you want. 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.

Is your company looking to hire a CCO? How did you know it was time? Let us know in the comments.

Tags: chief content officer

Category: Strategy

About Emma

Emma Siemasko is the founder of Stories by Emma, where she works as freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She helps companies share their stories, and writes words that are cuter than puppies and more delicious than chicken wings. Emma has worked at a top-tier tech company, as well as in-house at an agency.
  • Tim Woods

    There is no logical reason to have a Chief Content Officer unless your company relies almost exclusively on creating/curating/syndicating materials for multiple purposes including brand awareness, revenue generation and more.

    Because of that, the job description that was provided is satisfactory for a Senior Content Marketing Manager at most.

    To reach the C-suite, a CCO should be either be an Editor in Chief of a leading web property or a Director- or VP-level Digital Marketer of a company that relies heavily on content as part of their marketing efforts and has managed large budgets, ideally with some P&L responsibility.

    If anything, we need less C-level execs as it stands.

    • Thanks for your insightful comment, Tim!

      I think the need for a CCO depends a lot on the organization. Sometimes the c-suite is already 100% on board with content, and someone like a COO has a vision and is happy to oversee content as a whole (acting as editor in chief). Sometimes a COO has the best intentions but doesn’t know a whole lot about the digital marketing environment, and doesn’t have the creative savvy to figure out how to use content to make an impact. In that case, a CCO could be a good option.

      And as you said, a CCO doesn’t make much sense unless your company relies “exclusively on creating/curating/syndicating materials.” But many companies *are* relying on these efforts. That reliance might not be exclusive for most, but it’s still an important source of lead generation and sales. As these companies see ROI from content, they want to find ways to increase it. A CCO can help scale things up.

      But let’s not get lost in the semantics here. The name of the role (CCO) is less important than the function. What’s important is that companies who are investing in content have someone who can lead the efforts, and that this individual feels that they have the power to get c-suite buy-in for budget, projects, etc. That may be a senior content marketing manager, a director, VP, or someone else.

      • Tim Woods

        In general, the COO is not the right person to lead content efforts – that lies squarely in the CMO’s (perhaps CRO’s) charter.

        When you attach a C-level title to a job, it usually means it is strategically important across an entire company. You just said that content is a source for lead generation (a precursor to sales) and sales – that immediately makes that job a Director level job at most.

        Don’t get me wrong – I understand the benefit of content creation/curation/syndication by all departments in a company – engineering, operations, even IT, finance, accounting, support, training and even HR. If your proposed CCO is responsible for that, perhaps it could make sense — otherwise it’s little more than an honorific which sounds as appropriate as “ninja”, “guru” or “wizard”.

        PS Please reread what I wrote – I think you missed represented what I mentioned.