It wasn't long ago that the position of "chief content officer" was merely a glimmer in the eye of a few particularly tech- and trend-savvy marketing executives. Some time around the turn of the century, as digital media was beginning to cement its foothold in the worlds of marketing and commerce, and as the social media revolution was in its most nascent stages, the idea that a company should employ a director -- or a team, or even a whole department -- to create custom branded content to compellingly and coherently represent their organization in all of its prospective media channels was born.
One woman who has sometimes been credited with bringing the concept of the CCO into the world is Ann Handley of MarketingProfs (see, "The Rise of the Chief Content Officer"). MarketingProfs is a company that creates instructional and informational content on the subject of marketing, in the form of web articles, newsletters, seminars, podcasts, and other content. Handley's role is to oversee the creation-and in turn the quality and the cohesion-of that content.
In what is a not-uncommon career trajectory for content professionals, Handley arrived in the field of content marketing after a long and accomplished career in journalism.
"I went to school to study story, writing, and journalism and was drawn, in due time, to business," she says. "I was a business writer and editor as well as a daily news reporter for The Boston Globe, among other publications. I started as a writer and evolved into a marketer, but content has always been at the heart of marketing for me."
Joe Pulizzi, a consultant, writer, and speaker on the subject of content marketing, says that the migration of people from journalism to content-creation is an emerging trend. "We are seeing the transformation of the marketing department into something that looks much more like a publishing department," Pulizzi says. "Companies that are creating branded content want to employ someone to serve as the editor/publisher/content-creator/marketer, and they're filling that position more and more often with an editor or journalist. Companies that want to tell compelling stories are turning to journalists and storytellers more and more frequently to do the job."
Evidence of the trend is not hard to come by. On March 20, 2013, Mike Volpe, the chief marketing officer of HubSpot, an inbound marketing company, hired Dan Lyons, a former editor at Forbes and writer at Newsweek who is perhaps best known as the author behind the satirical blog by "Fake Steve Jobs."
In announcing the hire, Volpe wrote about a "paradigm shift in the world of marketing and illustrative of the drastic changes happening in the universe of advertising, marketing, and media." He pointed to the decline of advertising as a source of revenue in the media industry-and the evolution of consumers expectations that they will be able to consume content that is free of overt advertising-as the primary impetus for the shift of the center of gravity of content-creation from media to business. That shift, Volpe said, is why an accomplished and well-regarded journalist like Lyons "was interested in getting out of the media industry and working for a software company."
There's plenty of value on the company side as well, of course. By creating branded content that feels more like a news article, or a blog post, or multimedia feature-in essence, content that feels more like the media-produced content that consumers are used to experiencing-the content, and thus the message, will be more effective.
"I'm a fan of hiring CCOs with a background in journalism," says MarketingProfs Ann Handley. "Journalists are the only people, in my mind, who put the needs of the audience first. Paradoxically, that serves a company's needs far better-because the content they create is customer-driven rather than corporate-driven."
For now, the migration of writers, editors, and storytellers from the ranks of the Fourth Estate into the plush chairs of the corporate suite is less of a deluge and more of a steady trickle. But given the speed at which the fields of journalism and content marketing are changing, it's a trend worth watching.
(Content Marketing Cycle image courtesy of Shutterstock.)