Content team roles:
how to build and future-proof your team
By Kiera Abbamonte — Contributing Writer
What should your content team look like? Do you have to hire a certain number of team members? Or fill specific content team roles that are must-haves for successful content creation? How about a 'best' content team structure?
There's no one definitive answer to these questions.
As we discovered when writing this piece, content marketing teams are incredibly diverse. Depending on the size and nature of your organisation, your content team can be anything from a single freelancer to a multi-headed hydra (in a good way).
In other words, there’s no one right way to structure your content team — success here is much more about the development and implementation of your content strategy than the nuances of your team’s titles.
With that said, we know that answer isn’t super helpful when you’re trying to build or expand your content team. To help guide your team development and hiring, we talked with content leaders from across industries and company sizes to get an inside look at their teams — including what they look like today and how they plan to evolve in the near future.
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How to structure your content team
As we mentioned above, the only right answer here is what works for your brand — there are too many variables, including your budget, strategy, industry, and current expertise. The key, then, is to focus on defining your team’s needs and goals for content, then work to hire the people you need in order to bring those goals to fruition.
The important thing is to consider your content team’s mission within the context of the larger organisation. Here’s a real-world example of what that looks like, from Cathryn Newbery, Head of Content & Community for CIPHR:
[Our mission is] to create interesting, relevant content that speaks to a range of audiences: existing clients, prospects, and people who might be users of CIPHR's products in the future. This content needs to serve several purposes, including: raising brand awareness and affinity, capturing web traffic, converting web traffic to leads, nurturing leads and converting them to sale, and creating and closing upsell opportunities.
With your goals and mission detailed in your content strategy, you can then consider your existing resources and content ideas, and weigh them against the needs outlined in your tactical content plan.
Let's take a look at how to do this in more detail.
Step 1: Look at your resources
The first step is to audit the experience and skill sets already on the team — even if the “team” is really just you right now. Are you adept at content planning, but need help implementing the plan and actually creating content? Or maybe you’re a great writer but need help thinking more strategically about the content you produce? Either way, these are important things to highlight.
You should also think critically about your existing assets and pieces of content. Maybe you have a robust library of white papers and now you’re ready to invest in building out a podcast. Or you have a ton of high-quality videos that you want to turn into written content.
Thinking through what you already have — in terms of both content and skills — can help you identify what’s missing.
Lastly, don’t forget a dose of fiscal planning. It’s important to consider what your budget and open headcount look like.
Step 2: Consider your needs
If you’ve identified gaps in your current team’s expertise, it should be pretty easy to identify the content roles you may have a need for. Match those gaps up against the plans outlined in your goals and content marketing strategy.
Once you know what skills and experience you need, think about the logistics. Are your needs ongoing or ad hoc? Do you need someone in-house or would a specialised freelancer, consultant, or agency better serve your team? Does your budget allow for a full-time hire?
Step 3: Fill in the gaps
Based on steps one and two, you should have a clear picture of the content marketing roles you need and the type of people you’re looking for. Now, you’re ready to hire.
18 popular content team roles
Now, let’s take a look at some common content marketing titles and roles you may want to consider.
Keep in mind: it’s rare for a team to have all the roles listed below. In fact, 67% of the content leaders we heard from have fewer than 10 people on their team, with most having only 2–5 people.
Some of these titles overlap a little — others overlap a lot. Some of them may sit in other teams outside of content, too.
Nonetheless, these will give you a sense of what’s out there. So without further ado, here’s a (non-comprehensive) list of some of the most common content team roles, broken down into content planning, operations, creation, and distribution.
Content planning and analytics
- Director of Content, Chief Content Officer, or Head of Content: these are content executives who sit on upper-level leadership teams and oversee the entire content operation.
- Content Strategist: owns the overall content strategy and works to build out the editorial calendar accordingly.
- Content Analyst: analyses content metrics and reports on content performance to the broader team.
- Content Operations Manager or Project Manager: manages content hiring, workflows, technology and tools to ensure content can be produced effectively and efficiently.
- Managing Editor: manages the content calendar and oversees everything from delegation of content pieces to publication and coordinating distribution.
- Content Manager, Content Marketing Manager, Specialist, or Coordinator: these roles vary the most from team to team, and cover anything from high-level planning to day-to-day execution and content production.
- Content Writer: creates all kinds of written content, from blog posts and email content to long-form white papers and guides.
- Content Editor: proofreads and edits written content for things like grammar, brand voice and style, and overarching narrative.
- Email Copywriter or Email Marketing Manager: plans and manages email lists, campaigns, and sequences, writes email copy, collaborates with designers and developers as needed, and monitors email marketing performance.
- Web Copywriter: writes copy and content for web pages including your entire website, from homepage to landing or sales pages and beyond.
- Podcast Producer: manages podcast(s) from planning and coordinating of guests to recording, editing, and publishing.
- Graphic Designer or Web Designer: creates visual content to serve on its own or accompany other types of content, including written blog posts, infographics, and podcast imagery.
- Video Producer: manages any video content needs up to and including writing scripts, creating storyboards, filming, animating, editing, or working with other contributors on these elements.
- Developer: often sits outside the content team but works with content roles on any web or app development needs.
- SEO Specialist or Manager: helps with content planning and ideation based on keyword research. Also helps with optimisation of existing and new content for organic search.
- Communications, PR Manager, or Outreach Specialist: manages distribution of content to outside sources like industry publications, relevant email newsletters, and link building campaigns.
- Paid Media or Ads Specialist: may create advertising content and/or manage ad buying and campaigns across social media platforms, search engines, and other digital ad networks.
- Social Media Manager or Community Manager: manages the org’s social media presence, writes and develops social media posts, and helps distribute other content on social media or community sites, including collaborating with influencers.
How content leaders approach content team structure
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all those titles or unsure of where to start, it can be helpful to look at how companies similar to yours have structured their content teams.
So let’s take a look at how some of the content leaders we heard from structure their teams for inspiration. In our research, the three most common roles were:
- Content Writers
- Content Marketing Specialist, Manager, or Coordinator roles
- Content executives like Directors of Content, Chief Content Officers, and Heads of Content.
Those three roles cover the basics you may need to get content initiatives up and running. If you’re building a team totally from scratch, that’s a good place to start.
Only a few reported having a content analyst or other data pro on the content team currently, but many of the leaders we heard from say they plan to hire for this kind of role in the near future. Podcast producers and managing editors were also frequently cited as upcoming hires, likely a sign of plans to expand and ramp up content marketing efforts.
We only launched a few months ago, so my current team looks quite a bit different from my ideal team. [...] We’re enough to maintain a basic content plan, but we hope to grow the team exponentially as the company scales. My dream team would also include on-staff publishers, content researchers, and data specialists.
– Michal Ash, Content Managing Editor, Switchful
Here are a few other commonalities we found:
- Nearly everyone reported working with outside freelancers, most often for content production tasks like writing.
- Most of the content leaders we surveyed roll up to the broader marketing department, reporting to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or equivalent.
Growing your content marketing team
As with anything, your business, your team and your target audience will evolve — so structuring your content team isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. You can identify new or additional roles needed by following the same three steps from above.
But here’s a tip: as your team and company evolve, you may need to think less about which roles you need and more about how to divvy up work between those roles in the most effective way.
For example: if you have three writers on staff, should they all work on every kind of content? Or should one content writer specialise in lead generation ebooks and another on top-of-funnel (TOFU) blog content? Should you have a designated content strategist for each audience persona?
The more specified the roles, the more it allows each person to focus on and perfect their part of the journey to ensure the content is not just on point and what the audience wants to seek, but also boosts reach and ensures visibility to bring more traffic and generate more leads.
– Peyton Robinson, Head of Marketing, Foter
As with every part of your content strategy, this setup may be totally unique to your organisation. As Lucia Tang, Head of Content at Keeper explains:
We write and publish educational tax content for small business owners, so I'd love to have a full-time tax editor someday. This would be a credentialed tax professional and subject matter expert — an EA or CPA — who fact-checks content, taps their professional network to find expert writers, curates technical series, and continuously refines our editorial processes to maximise accuracy and helpfulness.
This is also true for Eric Ang, Director at One Search Pro.
In the future, we plan to hire more bilingual or multilingual editors/copywriters as we’re starting to take on more clients who need content in more than one language.
The point is: your most important role as part of the content team is to continuously audit needs, then work with any relevant stakeholders to ensure your team has the resources they need to create high-quality content and deliver on your marketing goals.