By now, it’s clear that what it means to be a marketer has changed. As a discipline, marketing is more data-driven, more dependent on technology, more accountable to outcomes.

But the nature of the work has also changed. Yesterday’s campaign-driven projects with their long lead times, well defined scope and clearly delineated beginnings and ends are giving way to something more organic and continuous, something more fluid, even improvisational.

But marketing organizations, by and large, are still organized around a campaign-driven cadence.

As part of the adaptation, marketing leaders are often told their organizations should look more like newsrooms. But what in the world does that mean?

newsroom

Start by recalling the intent behind an actual, real-life news organization. The New York Times, for example. They’re designed to address roughly three factors of complexity:

  1. A portfolio of diverse subject matter—or “beats,”—which range from general to specialized, from broad to narrow in orientation;
  2. A daily reporting and publishing cycle that lives or dies by the almighty deadline; and,
  3. A geographic orientation that requires something of a fractal repeat of these same roles at the local level (think “news bureaus,” for example).

To clarify: I’m not suggesting you recreate a fully functioning equivalent of the venerable Gray Lady inside your marketing department. But I am suggesting that you consider taking some inspiration from the masthead. For example:

  • The editor in chief—otherwise known as chief content officer or director of editorial marketing, etc., this person is responsible for leading overall brand publishing efforts. Based on the essential truth that when everybody’s in charge, nobody’s in charge, this role disambiguates lines of authority and keeps a close watch on the quality, cadence, compliance and performance of your content marketing efforts. Perhaps above all else, appointing this role ensures that someone wakes up and goes to sleep thinking about the content supply chain. Without leadership, your efforts are bound to whither on the vine.
  • The corporate journalist—every content marketing effort requires a great utility writer who knows how to tell stories on human terms. This journeyman writer generally comes from a traditional reporting role and knows how to crank crackling copy on deadline.
  • The visual storyteller—a picture is worth a thousand words. Hackneyed cliché aside, it’s generally true that audiences prefer visual over textual renderings. Both media matters, of course, which is why having a graphic designer paired with your writer is often the right combination. Look for a designer with data visualization skills.
  • The beat reporter—brand storytelling is both general and specialized, which is why you also need contributors who have more than a journeyman’s knowledge of specific subject matter. How do you build up a bench of specialists without breaking the bank? Look to freelance communities—or, better yet, look within your four walls: find and deputize the natural evangelists hiding in plain sight.
  • The bureau chief—for global companies, brand storytelling often happens at a local level. How do you scale your efforts globally without building a perfect repeat of this organizational structure? Appoint the equivalent of a bureau chief to curate, time and tailor corporate content to meet local requirements. In addition, the bureau chief should source their own content, contributing it back to the supply chain.
  • The community editor—otherwise known as the social marketing manager, this person is responsible for content syndication and engagement across social communities. While this role may sit outside of your content marketing organization, ensure there are tight linkages back and forth.

News organizations are designed to react to dynamic conditions and breaking moments. They’re organized to turn mundane facts into human stories that engage audiences and stimulate community discussion and debate.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Jake Sorofman is a research director with Gartner for Marketing Leaders, from Gartner, Inc. Read Jake’s blog and follow him on Twitter @jakesorofman.

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