Word on the street is that the chief content officer is on the rise. With growing frequency, my colleagues and I are hearing this title (or, perhaps more accurately, the role that this title implies) as content marketing operations come of age in the service of brand storytelling.

In many cases, content marketing programs have lacked clear leadership. Good rarely happens when ownership and accountability of any complex operation diffuse into that ambiguous space of “shared responsibility.” Policies, standards and direction are rarely set and enforced; quality suffers; and so does timeliness, as enforceable deadlines mutate into discretionary guidelines.

For many aspiring content marketers, this absence of leadership has resulted in a supply chain that’s perhaps more of a chaotic mess than anything resembling a coordinated pipeline of engaging content. But marketing leadership seems to be hearing the call: this content marketing thing isn’t likely to fade away and, consequently, it requires some care and feeding.

Clearly, the chief content officer is the senior-most staffer responsible for driving the editorial calendar, managing the supply chain and distribution strategy, and ensuring trains run on time. They’re responsible for managing a sourcing strategy, including agency and freelance relationships; discovering and harvesting resident content geniuses hiding in plain sight; safely curating third-party content; and establishing governance policies as the guardrails for fair play. In many cases, they may also be expected to collaborate with the CIO on architecture and tool chain for streamlining and automating the content supply chain and publishing workflows.

But the chief content officer will also be held to another standard: business impact. While content marketing is generally a strategic bet that pays back on relatively long horizon, it is still beholden to the burden of positive return. The chief content officer will be held to this burden.

Where do you find a chief content officer?

Think media. When you’re expected to look and act like a publisher, it’s only sensible to get help from those who know what it means to buy ink by the fifty gallon drum. So to speak.

Expect to see more chief content officers in 2014. This role is on the rise.

  1. 6 February 2014 at 2:18 pm
    Andrew (@mccauley_andrew) says:

    Good post Jake. There seems to be a number of Chief ____ Officers “on the rise”. These include but are not limited to Data Officer, Digital Officer, Customer Officer and now Content Officer. Do you see any Officers on the wane? Seems like it is getting crowded at the top. Or maybe this is just title inflation and the roles have always been there but now we’ve elevated their title. What are your thoughts?

  2. 10 February 2014 at 2:56 pm
    Jake Sorofman says:

    Andrew, great comments. More often than not, the CCO will report to the CMO. This is generally not a peer-level role, despite the fancy title. In fact, chief content officer is really meant to be a descriptor of the role and function–the senior-most executive responsible for content as the supply chain for brand storytelling–more than a formal title. Time will tell how the title story shakes out. In the meantime, the more important point is that marketing organizations are beginning to acknowledge the need to appoint a single leader to own this function.

  3. 11 February 2014 at 10:10 pm
    David H Deans says:

    In some industries with complex products and services — such as high-tech — seeking out talent in “the media” is an unlikely source of quality candidates.

    My point: within a complex business sector you’ll need deep domain expertise to fulfill the CCO role.

    Managing an editorial calendar is the least of your worries, when you can’t find the subject matter expert with time on their schedule you’ll need to write that thought-leadership narrative yourself. Therefore, you’ll need to know the topic in order to produce something meaningful and substantive.

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