“I want 10,000 tough guys, and I want 10,000 soft guys to make the tough guys look tougher! And here’s how I want them arranged: tough, soft, tough, tough, soft, tough, soft, soft, tough, tough, soft, soft, tough, soft.” – Russ Cargill, The Simpsons Movie
When it comes to building your content community, it’s easy to get hung up on the numbers. The number of blogs and whitepapers you want to publish, the number of writers, designers, and editors that will be involved, and so forth. You’re seeking a predictable formula for success.
But here’s the thing: a content community is in a constant state of change. Your company adds new employees. Your go-to freelance writer takes a full-time job. One month, you get a dozen pieces of content from new guest contributors. In order to succeed, you need to embrace the chaos!
Yet while the individuals will come and go, the roles and responsibilities of those people will need to remain somewhat constant if you want to be successful. So in this post, we want to dive a little deeper into what those roles are, what they ought to entail, and how you should determine when and why you should add new people.
The Roles & Responsibilities
Ultimately, the types of contributors you’ll have will fall into three main categories:
#1. In-house employees
#3. Thought-leaders / influencers
There is some overlap here (e.g. an in-house employee can also be an influencer). But this is a good, high-level way of organizing your content community. Now onto their roles and responsibilities.
Despite an endless list of possible titles, all of your fellow co-workers will contribute to the content operation in one of the following ways:
- Manager: Someone to help determine the weekly, monthly, and quarterly content calendar and to define the brand goals, objective, voice, etc.
- Editor: Someone to edit and prepare individual content pieces, who will also likely be involved in the day-to-day content logistics (deadlines, tasks, etc.)
- Writer: Someone to write blog posts, web copy, case studies, whitepapers, and other forms of content on a somewhat consistent basis
- Distributor: Someone to publish, promote and place content for consumption on third-party platforms
- SME: Some to contribute expertise towards content, but who’s not necessarily writing anything themselves
Again, there’s going to be a lot of overlap in these roles, but those are the major functions.
Freelancers can certainly perform many of the same functions as that an in-house employee, but in an ideal marketing setting, roles like manager and editor would be staffed internally. A brand’s voice, objectives, and goals should never be defined by an outside party. The strategy should stay in-house, while the execution can be outsourced.
In other words, the best way to leverage freelance talent within a content community is via writing. As we’ve seen thousands of times in the past, most brands will lean on freelance writers for two primary reasons:
- Bandwidth: A company simply needs someone to help meet requirements around the content volume. Generally speaking, these types of writers are really easy to find and on-ramp.
- Expertise: The more common scenario is that a company needs a writer who possesses specific subject matter expertise for the purpose of producing top-of-funnel thought leadership content.
While the workload of freelancers will vary (i.e. some companies lean on freelancers to do up to 75% of the writing, while others rely on them for less than 10%), their roles should not. Freelance writers are there to help tell your story at scale.
Thought Leaders and Influencers
In the vast majority of cases, an influencer will be someone outside of your organization who’s amassed a significant following and built a name for themselves within a specific industry or vertical. If you’re lucky enough to have someone like that in-house, then be sure to leverage them for as much content as humanly possible.
The role of this person(s) will be to subtly evangelize your brand and bring it further credibility by contributing content on a semi-regular basis. Whereas a freelance might write anything from a blog post to a product one-pager, an influencer should be tasked almost exclusively with long-form, top-of-funnel content. And whereas a freelance might forfeit byline credit with the content they produce, an influencer will not (nor would you want them to).
The Decision-Making Process
Now that you’ve got a better sense of the roles and responsibilities of the key players, the next thing to decide is how many people you’ll need to have involved. As you’ve probably figured out, there can exist a number of combinations based on factors like budget, volume, cadence, quality, and others. But if we set a hard rule that content is never a one-person job, then we can start to tinker with some different combinations. For example:
A Company of 5 People:
- 1 manager / editor / SME
- 1 distributor
- 5 in-house content writers
- 2 freelance writers
- 1 influencer
Obviously, here, a few people have their names next to multiple positions, but all of the key roles are filled.
A Company of 50 People:
- 1 manager
- 1 editor
- 2-3 SMEs
- 1 distributor
- 25 in-house content writers
- 4 freelance writers
- 2 influencers
Here we start to see some division of labor and separation of roles. You can also start to see that a company of this size has an incredible luxury when it comes to getting everyone involved in content creation, even if it’s just 1-2 pieces per year.
A Company of 500 People:
- 2-3 managers
- 4-5 editors
- 10+ SMEs
- 3-4 distributors
- 50 in-house content writers
- 10 freelance writers
- 4-5 influencers
Once you get into the hundreds, it’s very likely that content production will be splintered by geography, product, or division, which makes the division of labor all the more critical.
Final Thoughts on Roles and Responsibilities
Despite the fact that no two content teams look the same, there’s a surprising amount of consistency when it comes to the actual job responsibilities, and these roles do not change even as the company grows. Moreover, your ability to scale content isn’t dependent on your internal headcount. Depending on certain factors, a company of 5 full-time employees can publish just as much quality content as a 5,000-person enterprise.
What is required for long-term content success is a keen understanding of what needs to be done, by whom, and why.