The Content Convergence Dilemma: Where’s the Content Department?

By now most companies have figured out that good content is critical in a digital presence.  That content can take many forms – user-generated, interactive, structured (data), marketing, conversational, and others.  What I’ve seen in the last month is that most companies still struggle internally with content ownership – who owns the generation?  Who owns the publishing?  Who owns the maintenance?  Someone please tell me, where is the Content Department?

Legacy organizational functions are aligned around different types of content, but they converge on the end customer.  Marketing organizations are historically built around generation of “finished” content.  This includes web pages, banners, ads, emails and in some cases video.  PR organizations can be built are “unfinished” content, including press releases and snippets prepared to help media organizations generate their own finished content.  Conversational content is managed across many organizations who touch social media functions – PR, marketing and customer service, for example.

There are two major challenges I’ve seen for companies struggling with the ownership of content: Integration of content creation efforts across departmental functions in a truly collaborative way, and the ‘B’ word: Budget.

Integration requires each department to be candid about their objectives (example: blogger outreach vs. strategic messaging) and to be willing to give and take around a content plan and calendar.  If product marketing teams operate independently, they won’t have the benefit of getting the most out of content and to the customer they may appear disjointed or out of sync.

The budget question comes down to the fact that content generation requires funding – manpower, skills, assets.  I’ve seen clients put all the funding for that in marketing, and others in PR.  The latest version is a suggestion at a client to pool resources to have a joint ‘fund’ for content (in this case video), so that each video produced can serve the purposes and goals for both marketing and PR at the same time and each has a vested interest in allocating resources.

How has your company solved the budget and integration challenges?  How do you hire for content creation roles?  I’d love to hear success and lessons learned stories.

photo credit: atrogu via Flickr

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  • Paul Brinkman

    Thoughtful post, Adam. The Changemaster’s Dilemma. We’re growing and fairly well-positioned because we make a habit of hiring “hard-skilled” people with a soft skills (ITers who know business and communicate well) and “soft-skilled” people with hard skills (PR/sales with a solid tech base). We make misjudgements along the way, of course, but we look for that sweet spot of breadth and depth and generally do well by this hiring philosophy. Also, we avoid pigeon-holing people during and long-after the hiring process. We remain open to the potential in people, share everything, give them room and keep expectations high. Everyone’s in sales and, as you know, sales responsibilities are growing exponentially. It mostly works and works well – our customers always tell me we have great people – if you’ve invited the right folks into the fold.

    • Thanks for the feedback Paul. You make a great point about the backgrounds of IT vs PR/Sales and the importance of working through the sweet spot overlap – tying back to who owns content, those folks have to work together to make it work well in context.

  • Great post Adam, and incredibly timely for me given I just jumped over to a content marketing agency. Definitely a set of challenges I’m learning about quickly from the agency side. If you hear of any great examples or answers to your questions, please do share!

    • Thanks for the thoughts Kevin and congrats on the new role. I’ll gladly follow-up – I’m going through this exact scenario with a couple of clients and will see if we can share the stories about how it plays out.

  • Jane Hiscock

    Adam – a great post and I like your synthesis of the
    challenges of content ownership as integration and budget.  I was reflecting upon a similar challenge
    that perhaps is a driver of this issue, which is the question of who owns the
    customer?  In our work with clients we
    stumble upon this regularly and it leads to a series of follow-on challenges
    such as – who owns customer data?  Who owns
    the content and campaigns for each customer segment?  

    Perhaps these questions are impossible to answer because the
    answer is no one and everyone.  And yet we
    know that without a place of ownership – a department as you suggest – that we
    will have content that isn’t connected to a larger mission and worse that isn’t
    connected to the customer.  But I still
    go back to answering your question with a question: 

    At its core is it who owns the content or is it who owns the
    customer that is the driver of this challenge? 

    • Jane – thanks for the comment and question. Some thoughts…

      While one could make the argument that every department of every organization should own the customer, in reality I believe it’s the CEO who is accountable to the customer, and the CMO who owns the assets that face the customer. (In many organizations, PR rolls up to the CMO, so conversations with the customer also fall under that space). Across departments, there are many ways to package up and generate structured, unstructured (think typical PR releases) and conversational content. Someone should be driving an integrated plan or governance to assure consistency, right? But usually that same person doesn’t control a P/L line item for content creation and management.

  • Brian Hayden

    Hi Adam – just found your site through a random search for an image of a sales funnel.  Glad to have arrived.  At my company we have one person who owns the creation of marketing content, but everyone is asked to be a content producer.  I think it’s extremely valuable for everyone to push themselves to create – it’s a smart professional development investment for each individual, and provides richer content.  Good questions…interesting to read what others say.

    • Thanks Brian – that new marketing funnel post has been by far the most popular here 😉 Thanks for the feedback as well on what your company is doing.

  • That “B’ word can be one of the scariest parts of using content for a business.  The budget always seems to have limitations that are just hard to overcome.