There has been a huge shift in the notion of ‘content’ in recent years. No longer simply a line on somebody’s to-do list, content has grown into a practice in itself, with a rapidly emerging trend for new head of content roles within organisations that want to showcase their personality. As technology and consumer expectations have advanced, so too have the opportunities and more organisations are switching on to the importance of creating compelling content to stand out in their market, grow their audience and build better relationships with customers.

For an example of innovative content strategy in action, let us look at the rebrand of travel giant Thomson to TUI, the name of its German parent, which called it to consider a novel approach to digital. Getting this right through the transition period was especially important due to the need to protect its strong SEO credentials for – which gained 50% of its traffic through SEO – when moving to the new TUI site.

If done wrong, the brand knew it could experience a significant decline in bookings and so it finds itself somewhat ‘reinventing the wheel’ through content. TUI’s ambitious plans involve pioneering emotionally intelligent technology that will deliver more personalised and user-generated content (UGC) for holiday shopping. Of course, TUI is not alone pursuing this approach. Across sectors, the value of delivering engaging content and spurring UGC is being recognised, driving salaries and competition for creative, challenging and action-orientated individuals, reflective of the pace of the industry they work in.

Balancing skillsets

The importance of securing the best talent to fill newly emerging leadership roles such as head of content can no longer be underestimated, but the emergence of such roles and their subsequent elevation into a key leadership position does not come without its challenges – both for the employer and those seeking the role. A lot of professionals within the sector are escalating their careers very quickly – and commanding sizable salaries – because they understand how to overcome the challenges of creating engaging content quickly and effectively - whether written, visual or auditory, across owned, earned or paid distribution channels.

Yet, often they lack the leadership skills required at that level. Head of content for a large consumer organisation, for example, would need to combine that technical competence with commercial insight, leadership skills and an understanding of different business models – especially when they are trying to explain the validity of their department to senior board members.

Unlike an agency model, where a senior head of content or content strategist might have an influence on a quarter of the entire workforce – all of whom have a creative or marketing background of course - the same role for a brand could mean many thousands of employees, with influence on only a small proportion. It would require planning, budgeting, strategic workforce management and internal stakeholder engagement on a far more complex scale, with agency side individuals often underestimating the requirement.

Senior heads of content need the gravitas and commercial nous to justify not only the strategy they put in place, but the time it will take to deliver on that strategy. Building an engaged audience is not a quick process – but how do you explain that to the financial director when you are trying to influence an organisation to spend more money?

Shaping positions

Another interesting point about the emerging head of content role is the fluidity still afforded to candidates. With no precedent and with so much scope in terms of what you can produce, often there is no job description. It is more about the vision of the individual, what they can create and, crucially, how this vision will support or drive other brand goals. Don’t forget, great content acquires and engages customers, which in turn will make money for the brand.

Content as a discipline is still changing immensely because technology is changing. From voice searches to artificial intelligence, augmented reality to personalised content, the ability to produce content is changing and so too do the roles. But the same constant remains as it would for any leadership role; business understanding, financial acumen and commerciality.

Ultimately, what makes a successful appointment is the organisation being clear about what content means to them, but unlike many other senior roles, companies are not in a position to dictate outputs. It is still up to individuals to shape their own evolving strategies - just one reason why these roles continue to prove so competitive.


By Kathryn Gallan, head of digital practice at Berwick Partners

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