Why the Most Visionary Companies Have a Chief Content Officer

What is a chief content officer?

The CCO reports to the CMO (chief marketing officer) and manages the strategy and execution of all content within the enterprise. The CMO gives the ‘what’ and the CCO gives the ‘how’ and ‘when’. Content is broken down into language, message, story, and medium.

Marketing is storytelling

The real importance of content marketing

The most pressing reason you need a CCO is content marketing. Content marketing gives your company a stake in the ground about its opinion on the space it inhabits. It gives colour to your brand, and becomes the thread your customers and potential customers latch onto when they start to engage with you, trust you, and then purchase from you.

The audience is now hypersensitive to being sold

The real reason content has become the gold standard for selling is because consumers have become hyper-aware of being sold to – and they don’t like it. Before consumers show true buying signs, they’re in ‘gather info’ mode and don’t want to be disturbed. This can take days or months. If you are aggressively getting in front of this traffic you can turn them off your brand and, because there is more choice now than ever before, they will go elsewhere.

To avoid driving your traffic away, you need to build trust. A key way of creating trust is to become a thought leader in your space. Companies are available to be connected with, and there should no longer be a fear that we need to capture potential customers and force them into our sales funnels. We can now create sales ‘clouds’ and let them meander through our content and become more and more comfortable with us. Then it’s time to get in touch when they are at the buying stage (sometimes with a little gentle persuasion).

Your story must make sense across all channels

The CCO’s main focus, and the real importance of the role, is to keep a consistent story across all channels. This is far harder than it seems. The complexity comes from first creating a fundamental story for your company, and then reframing how that story is told through different channels, and knowing how to best use each channel’s idiosyncrasies to convey your message.

Cohesive threads for people to follow in different places

It's a jarring experience to follow a company's story on a blog, get a feel for the brand, the language, and the voice, and then come across a tweet that sounds like a totally different person, with a different message. This lowers the chance of trust, engagement, and conversion.

Content must fit the medium (the medium is NOT the message)

Quote: All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. – Marshall McLuhan

Dissecting messages and stories into their fundamental parts and then designing which medium is used to disseminate them is another key part of the CCO’s role. You need to be very aware of what each channel or medium does to a message; i.e. how does Facebook change the way a video is understood and consumed vs as a pre-roll advertisement in a cinema? Both are a medium for displaying moving images and audio, but a video that’s optimized for one medium has a high chance of bombing on another.

Storytelling is craft, and craft is hard

Above all the strategy and creation/dissemination management, the CCO has a deep understanding of craft and how the process of crafting can create content that converts at a far higher rate than poorly-produced work. Supporting creative teams and enabling them to do their best work while still driving strategy is what sets a great CCO apart from an average one.

The mechanics of content

Content is to support a marketing strategy, which in turn supports a company's growth strategy. This in turn supports the sustained ability for that company to offer its product or service to the market and create delightful experiences while solving painful problems.

The CCO always has one eye on the success metrics (engagement, conversion, retention) and one eye on the content (quality, cadence of creation, themes, threads, use of media, journeys). The mechanics of content is the constant check between hitting goals and milestones, and creating a cohesive thread throughout all the content that new and existing customers can follow (produced at a high quality).

The companies that will fail

Note that in this section I’m assuming your company does marketing, and doesn’t rely on a small number of customers, or direct and referral selling.

If your company is only dabbling in content, or lacks a content strategy, you will almost certainly be beaten by your competitors. We are at a time like never before: the ability to learn all about a company is now immediate, and the ability to build trust through openness is a must. Why would you buy from the company who you’re not sure how they produce their wool sweaters, when there is a competitor with a video series all about how they source the wool and use artisan dyes to get the color ‘just right’?

The new world

Content is now the winner in marketing, and the winner in content is video. The most visionary companies have a CCO who has a whole team dedicated to rapid video content creation and delivery while tracking the success of this content. In the future we will see more companies creating entertainment and educational works that speak to their ecosystem, create trust and start traffic on a journey to becoming a customer. Anything else will be viewed as old-fashioned.