Sales and Marketing Software

It's Time for Content Operations

It's Time for Content Operations

By Bob Johnson, VP & Principal Analyst

Content Marketing’s Little Secret Shows It’s Time for Content Operations
There is a great deal of visibility around content marketing today. It has become fashionable to talk about it as critical to business success. But there is a foreboding side to this topic. That is, for too many players within organizations it is not a high enough priority and/or too much work to create needed content. So we hear lip service that it is important with band aid actions and glacial movement at a strategic level. And don’t be fooled by someone saying that being strategic is defined as four new video methods you can use which I saw presented as such during a recent conference.

As reported by the Content Marketing Institute in a recent survey, the highest percentage of individuals see three key challenges - insufficient creation time, not enough assets, and a lack of engaging content. Talk about hitting the trifecta for issues that will never go away. The question should be what can be done about it on a strategic level versus throwing more bodies, agency effort and/or dollars at it.

What was telling at a recent conference on content marketing was how tactical most people are with a focus on managing existing creation processes, creating more content and adding sizzle. These are band aids on a long-term sore, they will make things look a bit prettier but do little to address the underlying issue. Someone has to own the end-to-end management of digital content and conversations as a corporate asset. That means budget, creation and management authority with centralized coordination and ownership.

Time for Content Operations: The Business Consequences are Huge

While many organizations have gotten the wake-up call around the importance of digital content, most of the focus is on tactical execution around the challenges mentioned above. But step back for a moment as you see a world that has expanding formats and content types, more complex offerings, new technology, metrics, diverse audiences and social media thrown in. This content “big bang” continues to expand if anyone who thinks that applying technology to manage the creation and curation (I see those as separate and distinct areas) or using newer content types like infographics, is going to help they are kidding themselves. It won’t unless there is a solid, organization-wide strategy in place. There are six key challenges I will address with prescriptive guidance over the next six week that all spell the need for content operations. But for this time, I want to define content operations from my vantage point.

Content operation will be responsible for a broad spectrum of focus, activities and action:

  • Audience understanding as it relates to content asset and conversation preferences
  • Content aggregation and assessment
  • Content creation standards and guidelines
  • Process management
  • Internal skill profiling
  • Creation skills development
  • New asset priorities and messaging focus
  • Content mix of both internal and external sources
  • Messaging, topic and value proposition recommendations for in-asset or conversation use
  • Technology
  • Creation process mapping by both internal and external providers
  • Pathing and linkage of assets by buying stage, role or buyer focus
  • Curation (some call it ongoing management)
  • Campaign, brand or event content access and use guidance based on activity goals
  • Organization and access
  • Training guidance for sales enablement activities
  • Usage measurement
  • Effectiveness/impact reporting
  • Portfolio mix and optimization
  • Content type and format innovation
  • Ongoing, periodic voice of the buyer research

To operationalize content marketing cuts across sales, marketing, product management, and customer service. You can see above how it can encompass a great deal of responsibilities. You don’t have to cover them all but keep in mind one thing, responsibility without authority is meaningless when it comes to digital content. Fail to give those responsible for strategy and tactics authority to set deadlines, guidelines, standards, responsibilities and spending focus and you will fail.


Think about your own past, a lack of sufficient, good quality or current content leads to sub-par performance and often finger pointing about content quality vs. lead quality. If you have someone in your organization that has a strong enough position to manage it all effectively put them in charge with the tools they need, but make sure it is clear that all content runs through them, even related to public relations.

Footnote: To move you ahead towards content operations we’ll explore some of the downside risks of alternative approaches in future postings including:

  • Silo-based Creation
  • Responsibility without Authority or Budget Control
  • Reactive Approach Based on Launches, Events or Campaigns
  • Offering Centric Rather than Decision Centric Content
  • Poor Creation Guidelines or Methods
  • Lack of Organizational Structure to Support Defined Processes


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Bob Johnson

VP & Principal Analyst, IDG Connect

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