The Rise Of The Chief Content Officer

By Bill Kolbenschlag November 11th, 2013

Content may be king, but for a long time, it didn’t have a representative in the executive court. That’s quickly changing.

“Chief Content Officer is a role that is sneaking up on senior management as the growth of multimedia publishing grows,” writes David Edelman of Forbes. “As budgets shift to digital, a tidal wave of content is infiltrating online and offline channels to personalize customer experiences, inform a range of communities, or enhance customer education and service.”

Mo’ money…

Many organizations are indeed adjusting their budgets to meet the growing demand for content.

According to a 2013 study by the Content Marketing Institute: “B2B marketers are spending 33 percent of their marketing budgets on content marketing, which is up from 26 percent last year.” The study also revealed that “54 percent of those marketers plan on increasing content marketing spending next year.”

This will become a business priority as companies seek more discipline in how stories are conveyed – not to mention cost savings that come with more disciplined sourcing, curating and production.”

As for B2C marketers, 86 percent say they use content marketing, compared to 91 percent of B2B marketers. B2C marketers spend an average of 28 percent of their marketing budgets on content marketing, and 55 percent are planning to increase the amount they spend on content marketing over the next 12 months.

… Mo’ power

Chief content officers are being hired at most corporations to address consumers’ growing demand for quality content, explains Adam Charlson, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of DHR International, a top five executive search firm that places top c-level employees in major companies like Microsoft, Google, and PayPal.

“We are finding that chief content officers are the next revolution of marketing,” Carlson said. “The trend of having a chief content officer is a result of audiences and users wanting more content. It’s no longer enough to just put your product out there and let it speak for itself; you have to be able to speak about your product.”

The most important thing a chief content officer does, Carlson said, is creating and sharing a brand’s story and ensuring that a brand’s content supplements that narrative.

More than just a trend

One of the latest big-name companies to bring in a chief content officer is Time Inc. The company announced in late October that Norman Pearlstine, who was Time Magazine’s editor-in-chief from 1995-2005, was returning as chief content officer.

In a company-wise email, Time CEO Joe Ripp explained the decision. “We are confident this new structure will create a strong partnership between business and editorial, promote creativity and result in a cohesive vision for each of our brands that will be essential to long-term growth,” he wrote.

Petco, Netflix, and Coca-Cola are three other major corporations who have recently hired chief content officers or someone in a similar position.

Most recently, Maker Studios, a leading YouTube content network, brought in Erin McPherson, a former Yahoo executive, as chief content officer.

“This is a key position for Maker as we plan to break the mold on traditional programming concepts and produce and distribute a large slate of original video content across our vertical hubs,” explained Executive Chairman Ynon Kreiz in a statement.

Looking towards the future

We will see more and more organizations add chief content officers over the next few years. As more companies go online they will want to keep people on their websites. And they say ‘content is king,’ so the person running it is going to have to be management level.”

Many large corporations have decided to bring a chief content officer aboard to boost content marketing, but organizations with a smaller budget haven’t followed suit.

However, experts say hiring one person to oversee content efforts can actually save money.

“This will become a business priority as companies seek more discipline in how stories are conveyed – not to mention cost savings that come with more disciplined sourcing, curating and production,” writes Chris Perry of Forbes.

One option some companies are taking is to hire someone to manage content campaigns but not necessarily making them part of the organization’s management team.

“Smaller business, startups, and non-profits will often hire one person to do it all,” said Charlson. “But they don’t have the budget to hire that person as a chief content officer, so they bring them in at a lower level.”

While this might be the only option for companies right now, Carlson believes that chief content officers are the wave of the future, and that eventually most companies will have one.

“Its just the beginning,” he said. “We will see more and more organizations add chief content officers over the next few years. As more companies go online they will want to keep people on their websites. And they say ‘content is king,’ so the person running it is going to have to be management level.”

What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.

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