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What is a Head of Content?

In our age of digital adoption and value-driven marketing, a head of content is increasingly important for startup success. In this article, we’re going to get familiarized with major topics on the subject:

  • What is a head of content?
  • Characteristics of a head of content
  • When you need a head of content
  • Alternatives to a head of content
  • Making the right call for your business

What Is a Head of Content?

Before we talk about heads of content, we need to introduce the term ‘content.’ At its most fundamental level, content is a form of inbound marketing. The role of all inbound marketing is to drive interest, clicks, and valuable interactions with your audience. Ultimately, it turns visitors into customers and generates more revenue. No matter how far along your business is, you’re going to need strong, optimized content to set up your inbound marketing journey.

Content can take the form of text, audio, or video, and appear in almost any digital space. The brainstorming, administration, and management of content will stem from your content manager (also called a head of content). Their daily tasks fall into three categories:

  • The creation of a holistic content strategy.
  • The management of other members of the content team (like graphic designers, copywriters, and freelancers).
  • The monitoring of analytics to direct data-driven and evolving content plans.

While they may not always be doing actual content creation, they will be heavily involved with its development. By supervising content generation, heads of content work closely with marketing teams, sales groups, and the CMO of your company. Their primary objective is to actualize and promote online content, making a measurable difference on your ROI.

Characteristics of a Head of Content

These marketing gurus are ‘T’ shaped professionals, meaning they have a wide span of industry knowledge and a deep understanding of content, SEO, and content marketing initiatives. Realistically, they should embody key traits that keep your company on the cutting edge of inbound strategy, and heads of content must:

  • Stay current with the latest content platforms and trends.
  • Have a broad understanding of what makes good content.
  • Be able to enact best practices across all your content, harnessing SEO, social media, evergreen posting, and more.

As the head of content has seniority over members of the marketing department, they should exhibit strong leadership qualities. They must be quick to meet deadlines, flexible on the fly, and able to respond well to revisions. They are skilled at adapting their writing to meet your brand voice and tone, and can work with or without an established rubric.

Before you hire a head of content, you should make sure they are familiar with your niche. Even if your candidate has years of experience in content, they may not be comfortable working within your tech stack, programs, or products. Take time to source a head of content that exhibits these key traits:

  1. Detail oriented in every sense of the word. Your content manager needs to keep track of all efforts, and know where to access content at any time. They should be able to check blog posts, articles, emails, and other forms of content for proper grammar, SEO, and where they sit in the strategy.
  2. Deep experience both creating content and analyzing results. Some content creators are excellent at written content, but less comfortable tracking KPIs or other metrics. On the other hand, some marketers are incredible data analysts, but weaker at hands-on content creation. Try to find a balance between the two.

When You Need a Head of Content

The timing for hiring a head of content is critical. Too early and they won’t be able to create cohesive, cross-platform inbound strategies. Too late, and they may not be able to make a timely impact. Content marketing that takes too long could miss out on organic search trends, leaving your company in the dust.

Here’s how to tell when to hire a head of content:

  • Your company has the means to support a full-time employee.
  • The business retains both a marketing and sales department.
  • All proto-content marketing has seen traction, but not enough to move the needle.
  • Content marketing programs are seeing a great deal of traction, but your company is unable to supply higher output with more blogs, articles, etc.

If your business operates online or markets products through digital platforms with no physical presence, you’ll want to hire a head of content as soon as your goods or services are ready for launch. Physical businesses may want to wait until there is an express need to hire (meeting the requirements above). If spend is still tight, and you don’t have the ability to retain a full-time head of content, you may want to invest in some outside help.

Truthfully, heads of content cannot work best in isolation. If you want to take advantage of content and its benefits, your company will need a wider marketing team. It’s important to hire out a marketing and sales team long before investing in a head of content. Since your content managers rely on cross-platform collaboration (metrics + sales + marketing campaigns), having fully stocked teams allows them to do their best work. Plus, a mature and well-oiled system will help your head of content integrate into your company much faster.

Your company may start to show growing pains in the months leading up to hiring a content manager. You may want to accelerate your hiring plans if:

  • Your company is unable to source organic leads from the web, or create enough content to move the needle accordingly.
  • Members of your team are unable to measure the scope and impact of your inbound marketing tactics.
  • Your content rollouts are becoming more and more infrequent, or difficult to promote after their initial debut.
  • Your sales team lacks the content tools to convert leads with case studies, white papers, technical content, or related work.
  • Your buyers’ journey or marketing funnel is ‘leaking’ (i.e. not optimized correctly and suffering from a low conversion rate).

Alternatives to a Head of Content

For companies that don’t require a head of content yet, there are three alternative options:

1. Internal Hiring

Use the skillsets of marketers in your company to generate content marketing initiatives. This method has the potential to save thousands of dollars in spend, and can help businesses scale quickly without hiring for new positions. Bear in mind that internal hiring or multitasking could create overstretch, or distract your employee from their primary role. It may be simpler to pass the ‘torch’ around from place to place, and have multiple marketing employees manage content marketing within a certain period of time (per week, per month, etc).

Whether or not you have a head of content, having someone on standby for writing services will be paramount. Your content manager should not be expected to create content and content outlines. That’s why it’s important to keep a list of talented employees, contract workers, and freelancers on hand to help with the nitty-gritty of content creation.

It’s important to remember that internal hiring can never replace a full-time head of content. Although your employees will be able to create and manage some content marketing, they shouldn’t be expected to know the ins and outs like a professional manager. Internal hires should be considered a temporary solution while your company grows.

2. Freelance Work

Sourcing freelance or contract work is an excellent method of generating content. Freelancers can be content marketers, SEO pros, or strategy experts who position your content in line with marketing initiatives. Unlike full-time employees, contractors work on an as-needed basis, and can be extremely cost effective for growing startups.

Contract work may not be the right choice for every startup. Freelancers juggle multiple clients at once, and may not always be available when you need them. Additionally, not all content creators have the skills to handle every aspect of the content generation process (SEO, KPIs, etc). Consider exactly what you need before signing any contracts.

3. Agency Outsourcing

Agency outsourcing is one of the best options for established startups. If you have a greater marketing budget, a higher content need, and specific industry requirements, agencies like Draft.dev could be your best bet. We develop blog posts, articles, and other inbound marketing collateral with technical audiences in mind, capturing the attention of decision makers.

Outsourcing content to agencies like Draft.dev doesn’t fit every situation. Agencies carry a higher price tag, typically on a monthly retainer, while freelancers usually charge per project or per word. Understand how much you can dedicate to an agency before you sign on the dotted line.

Making the Right Call for Your Business

Content is a vital part of modern business, regardless of a company’s size. Whether or not you choose to hire a head of content, the production of inbound marketing still needs to take place. For some companies, this could be done by hiring a content manager. For others, it could be through hiring part-time workers, freelancers, or an agency.

If your startup company isn’t quite ready to hire a full-time head of content, you may want to consider alternatives while you mature.

If you’re a technology company trying to reach software developers, we have the tools to help you thrive. Book a time to discuss your technical content marketing plan with us, and let’s talk about how content can help your business.