A few months ago I created the Periodic Table of Content Marketing, to provide a handy – and hopefully helpful – cut-out-and-keep guide for content professionals.

The table was both practical and tactical, which resulted in more than tens of thousands of shares, and hundreds of thousands of views. I remain humbled by its popularity, and the feedback I’ve had since I published it. 

Since then I’ve been asked many questions, of which two stand out: 

  1. Why does ‘content strategy’ only have one element dedicated to it?
  2. What kind of skills does a content team need?

To answer the first question, it’s simply that content strategy is such a big subject that it merits a table of its own, or something similar. There is much to be said about audiences, legacy content, global vs local approaches to management, team workflow, brand guidelines, and countless other important things. Watch this space.

The second question is one close to my heart. 

Since 2006 I’ve had the pleasure of assembling a marvellous team here at Econsultancy. We box well above our weight – there are only six of us on ‘Team Content’ yet we’re averaging more than a million stories read a month. Not bad, for a niche blog.

But what would a content team look like if I were to assemble one from scratch today? What skills are required in 2014, in the post-social, content marketing, mobile age? What is the perfect recipe for success?

Here’s what I think (the royal) we need:

  • More visual design chops. Data visualisation FTW.
  • To doff our hats in the direction of Nate Silver / Freakonomics and get better at creating compelling stories out of facts and figures. Data journalism wins too!
  • To fully understand what makes the audience tick.
  • To gather feedback and react to it. Promptly.
  • To dive headfirst into our analytics tools to make sense of what works, and what doesn’t.
  • To constantly tweak our tactics.
  • Strong distribution processes.
  • Teams that support one another, and to work with other people across the business.
  • We also need technology platforms that support content teams, for content can only go so far.

I have tried to distil much of the above into a matrix, made up of 16 fast and loose ‘roles’. As a brief aside, I’m a big believer in Reid Hoffman’s quote: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

With that in mind, here it is. I cobbled it together yesterday afternoon. As a first pass I think it works, but it probably needs to be finessed. Click on the image for a bigger, clearer version.

The Content Marketing Team Matrix

Some explanatory notes:

  1. Start reading from the top left (‘Direction’), and then proceed clockwise. Broadly speaking, the cycle is along the lines of: Leadership > Insight > Execution > Feedback. Test, refine, repeat!
  2. I have been very liberal with regards to the naming of the roles. These are broad descriptions, rather than prescriptive job titles. For example, you would probably want to replace ‘Listener’ with ‘Chief Listening Officer’, or something similar. You could swap ‘Chief Content Officer’ for ‘Content Director’. ‘Writer’ might be ‘Blogger’, or ‘Journalist’, or ‘Reporter’, or something else.
  3. Skills matter more than the roles, per se. Multiskilled teams will cover off many of these 16 roles. That’s exactly the way it should be, and it’s how our small team operates. Writers with strong maths and design skills won’t be short of work in the years to come.
  4. There is a lot of flexibility and overlap in the various sections. Take the top right section: the analyst / researcher role might be a content producer, or an internally-focused analyst. It depends on your needs as a business, and the approach you take.
  5. Some roles such as ‘copywriter’ are possibly AWOL. I think ‘Writer’ covers that one, but there may be others that didn’t make the cut, or that I missed. Do shout up if you think others should be added (or roles replaced).
  6. I have purposefully avoided certain roles, notably tech and HR, which I think are largely support roles that exist within other parts of the organisation. I don’t think these merit dedicated content roles for most businesses. If you hire a bunch of ‘Content Technologists’ to sit on your content team then I suspect your tech is too complicated, or the skills on your team aren’t developed enough.

Does it make sense? Is this kind of structure an accurate reflection of what’s needed? What would you change?

Do let me know what you think in the comments area below, or via Twitter.

PS – remember to book your place for the 2014 Festival of Marketing, which takes place in November. It is a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more. 5,000 of your peers will be there.