Imagine that you own an American-style family restaurant—burgers, triple deckers, chef salads, meatloaf, that sort of thing. You hire an awesome restaurant manager, Kate, who kills it. She keeps the restaurant running smoothly, the customers happy, and the health inspector at bay. She’s amazing at her job, and you don’t know what you’d do without her.
But over time, you notice a trend. People are less into burgers and meatloaf. Your regulars keep talking about the trendy new cuisine they’ve been eating elsewhere—short ribs with kale, seared ahi tuna, dishes that include “cauliflower steaks.” So you make a decision. You’re going to evolve past traditional fare and get into the trendy food game. To pull it off, you turn to Kate and say, “You’re our new sous chef.”
This would be insane decision. Kate’s a great restaurant manager, but she’s not a chef. Yet, when it comes to content marketing, brands make this same insane decision all the time. Repeatedly, they turn to their restaurant managers and ask them to be sous chefs.
“I see an organization make an announcement, ‘Okay, we’re going to focus on content marketing,'” said Baron Manet, founder of Per Se Brand Experience. “‘Hey, Debbie, yesterday you were the senior brand manager. Starting Monday, you’re going to be the director of content.’ These people are excited, but they’re scared.”
For years, I’ve been baffled by the way some brands refuse to hire an experienced editor to run their content marketing operation. First of all, we’re pretty cheap! But more importantly, managing and editing a publication is a specialized skill refined through years of training and experience. It’s not something your brand manager can pick up overnight just because he took a couple of writing classes in college. No matter what Neil Patel might say, you can’t hack your way to editorial greatness through BuzzSumo and CoSchedule’s headline analyzer. (Great tools, though.)
Even worse, forcing an internal transition like this takes your marketing folks away from what they’re really good at. Ultimately, your customers suffer if you take away an awesome restaurant manager so she can go overcook some short ribs.
If you examine the companies that do stellar content marketing, you’ll see a common trend: They all have great editors or someone with serious media experience. GE Reports has Tomas Kellner. Dollar Shave Club’s Mel has Zak Stone. Marriott has David Beebe. BarkBox has Stacie Grissom. Find a content marketing program that you admire, and I guarantee that there’s a great editor behind it. An editor’s impact shines through: in storytelling instincts, in creative use of platforms, in content that’s always focused on the needs of the audience, not the brand.
Whats more, those editors have a ripple effect. You’ll retain better writers because they like working with a good editor. You’ll have someone with vision for how to create video, infographics, and other multimedia. And when you decide to grow your content operation, that editor will be able to spot and nurture great storytellers.
If content is the new kale—and, boy, do I hate myself for writing that—you need someone to cook it just right.