Research

December 19th, 2011

The Rise Of The Chief Content Officer

Some time around the turn of the millennium, media-savvy companies and organizations realized they needed to reach customers in an increasingly online world and that strategies would need to be, well, different.

In 2000 Ann Handley, of MarketingProfs, turned her attention to the evolving nature of this kind job, writing about what any online publisher should look for in a site editor. She then went one step further and invented the concept of Chief Content Officer.

In 2002, KQED in San Francisco understood that it needed a top-level executive in charge of content on its emerging new media platforms — websites, blogs, mobile apps and messaging. They created their business’s first Chief Content Officer and gave the job to John Boland, who went on to become the CCO of the Public Broadcasting Service in the U.S.

A decade later, CCOs are becoming more and more integral to corporate marketing strategies.

A Big Job

“It’s becoming a more important role in organizations because creating and managing content is a big job,” says Katy Ryan Schamberger, who joined V3 Integrated Marketing in early 2011 as their new CCO.

“Not only do you have numerous pieces of content in production at any one time, for your own company as well as for your clients,” Schamberger says, “but you’re also perpetually on the lookout for new, fresh material that you can incorporate into your presence, and your clients’ presences, in the social space.”

The whole point of content is relationship building. Businesses want people to come back and to associate their brand with excellence. But like any relationship, companies must base strong growth on good communication by sending the right messages and keeping things interesting.

“Plus, it’s vital that a CCO stay on top of new content-related technology, whether it’s curating content using a site like Scoop.it or creatively sharing your output via sites like Tumblr or Pinterest,”Schamberger says.

A New Face of Corporate Marketing

“Content is in the center of it all,” explains Chris Perry, at Forbes.com. ”Few organizations have an overarching strategy that channels all this branded content into a consolidated planning model. In parallel, we see lack of defined leadership for overall orchestration and accountability for content-driven programs.”

If that’s a problem, Jon Gelberg, Chief Content Officer at Blue Fountain Media in New York, is looking to solve it.

“I think there is an understanding that, in today’s world, businesses need to broadcast their key messaging through a variety of channels and those channels need to have a unified voice and message,” Gelberg says.

“Content takes many forms, from white papers to blogs to videos to media outreach and social media,” he notes. “While VPs of Communications and CMOs traditionally handled pieces of this, it became apparent that corporations needed someone who could take the 30,000-foot view of all of these platforms.”

Flexible New Strategies

The old models of marketing need new muscle in an online world. The dynamic approach to all those channels is augmented, it seems, by CCOs who bring multifacted skillsets to the table.

For example, Gelberg is no cookie-cutter marketing grad. He holds a law degree from Columbia; he’s argued First Amendment cases; he’s been a journalist (and earned accolades in the world of sports writing); and he’s worked tough crowds as a stand-up comic.

That’s exactly the kind of mix that Schamberger says a Chief Content Officer should embody (and, frankly, what Handley was calling for back in 2000). Yes, Schamberger, too, comes from a non-marketing world into this new kind of position. Why is it good?

“I think journalists are … equipped with an inherent drive to research and learn,” Schamberger answers. “[It's] a skill that has proved beneficial to me as I push myself to adopt new tools, learn how to optimize content and work within a larger digital marketing strategy to ensure that clients see the results they seek.”

A Changing Game

As the vanguard — people like Schamberger and Gelberg — forge into the future of the Chief Content Officer, one thing is certain: the playing field is changing as technology evolves.

“Business has morphed into a social enterprise and, as such, the need for brands to tell their stories, engage, inform, education and entertain their customers and prospects will continue to grow and evolve,” Schamberger says.

“We are still in the infancy of the digital age,” says Gelberg. “Those who will thrive are the ones who are always looking to see where things are heading and who adapt to the changes most quickly.”

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