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August 28, 2016

How to build a content generation team

The essential skills and roles you need to get an in-house content team up and running.

As more and more brands shift marketing spend towards content, there’s a parallel move towards developing in-house content generation teams. While it requires more up-front work and investment than working with an agency, it can help brands keep up with demand, streamline costs and ensure scalability. And there are some high-profile successes to take inspiration from, not least Red Bull and Marriott.

The problem? In-house marketers don’t always have publishing or media experience, which means they often aren’t sure exactly what a content team should look like. How many writers do you need? What should the ratio of sub-editors to writers be? Given that many publishers are shedding subs, do you need them at all?

Take a step back

Before addressing any of that, you need a clear content strategy. Base it firmly on business goals. Use it to set out the purpose of your content production, where and when the content will be published, who the target audience is and how you plan to reach them.

Once you have clear objectives in place, you can start to identify which content roles you need to fill. A great content team requires several skill-sets and the leadership of a good content strategist, who can ensure that content creators never lose sight of key messages and underlying business goals.

Here are some of the key roles to fill:

Chief content officer: the team leader

Every team needs a leader. In a content generation team, that’s usually the chief content officer. They’re responsible for the operation and management of the content team and how it collaborates with other departments. They set the overall strategy, allocate budgets and responsibilities and manage the team. They won’t be involved heavily in content creation, but will likely contribute to idea generation and review all creative work before it leaves the department.

Managing editor: the tightrope-walker

The managing editor balances creative and operational concerns, ensuring all content is delivered both on brief and on budget. While managing editors usually have a strong track record in writing and journalism, they also have a head for figures, and will be responsible for managing the budgets the CCO has set. They also need to be highly organised in order to effectively manage the content calendar. They’ll schedule work, assign tasks to content creators and ensure deadlines are met. It will also be their responsibility to guarantee all content is search engine optimised through the use of relevant keywords, meta-data, titles and tags.

Content creators: the artisans

There are two core questions when assembling your content creators. First, what kind of content will you be creating? Second, what volume of work will you be handling? The answers to those will steer the mix of skills on your team and the balance in-house and freelance resource. Content creators can include copywriters, journalists, illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, audio experts and videographers. With visual content marketing and video quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to engage with an online audience, it is worth either building a strong relationship with good suppliers or hiring your own video expert.

Ensure that your in-house creators fulfil your most urgent business needs, and turn to freelancers or an agency for less frequent assignments. For instance, you’re likely to use graphic design more regularly than illustration, so consider having an in-house designer and a roster of independent illustrators to call on when you need them.

Copy-editors: the gatekeepers

In newspaper and magazine publishing, every piece is read by at least two people in addition to the writer – and for tentpole features or contentious articles, the number can be much higher. Your content generation team might struggle to achieve that, but you should stick to the cardinal rule that a writer never approves his or her own copy.

Copy-editors aren’t just spelling and grammar nerds. They’re there to catch all sorts of issues, from logical inconsistencies to poor structure and weak intros. They’re also the keepers of the style and tone of voice guides. It’s their job to keep them updated and know them inside-out. Departments that produce a high volume of written content and regularly use freelancers should have at least one copy-editor in-house.

Fill these four slots and you’ll be well on the way to having an effective in-house content generation team. One of each will give you a solid skeleton that you can fill out with freelance resource, bringing more heads in-house as your requirements grow.

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