Content has come a long way since the days when marketing teams needed to heavily justify the case for investing in and creating it. 

Happily, in 2023, most organizations appreciate the value of ‘content’ by default. In turn, this means that the case for hiring additional people to produce and manage that content has likely become an easier conversation to have in many organizations.  

However, once you have authorization to build a content team, the real challenge follows —  how do you ensure, for example, that you’re hiring enough people for your team? That you’re getting the best out of them? And that you’re doing it all quickly enough in order to service the new and emerging content demands from the business?

In comparison to other aspects of content marketing, Content Science recognizes that there still isn’t a great deal of information and guidance out there about how to lead a content team to success. 

So, once again, we decided to run our What Makes Content Operations Successful? survey and conduct a number of 1:1 interviews; both of which enabled us to assess the current state of organizational content operations and identify the existing challenges facing content teams right now — as well as any factors that they believe are leading them to success.

Considered along with the current prevailing research on leading teams (in any discipline), our resulting study provides you with a valuable picture of  how content teams are working, the obstacles they are trying to overcome, and exactly what they need to do in order to thrive.

The essence of a team is common commitment. The best teams also translate their common purpose into specific performance goals. Harvard Business Review (HBR)

These key factors come from the groundbreaking 1993 article, The Discipline of Teams, a classic that still tops HBR’s reading list on ‘leading teams’. 

“This kind of commitment requires a purpose in which team members can believe,” states the article; an insight reflected in our own findings that content teams need a leader who unites the team and stakeholders with a clear vision. 

We found that:

  • Leaders who communicate a clear vision for content are five times more likely to achieve success than those who do not.
  • 59% of leaders who have communicated their vision indicated their content operations are very or extremely successful.

“Content is critical to an impactful B2B experience, so a simple content vision can help all of the teams involved in creating, delivering, promoting and / or governing content stay aligned during the complexity of execution.” – Ben Quigley, Sr. Director, The Home Depot.

Speaking more broadly about leader communications, recent HBR research — which surveyed c.2,300 front-line leaders from a number of global organizations — suggested that there may be a gap in training opportunities for frontline leaders when it came to certain capabilities, including that of ‘communication’. For example, only 50% of respondents said they had received training that allowed them to ‘communicate for influence and impact’.

43% of organizations surveyed set a clear vision for their content. — Content Science

The vision for your content should always be your content that is ambitious, motivating, and clear. 

“Doing content well starts not with strategy but with vision.” — Colleen Jones (taken from her book, The Content Advantage)

It takes some solid time investment to set out an effective content vision, and our study indicates positive signs that this is an area organizations appear to be prioritizing more and more. Because, 43% of the organizations we surveyed stated that they were working with a ‘clear content vision’ they had established — up by 59% compared to 2021.

Hiring dozens of writers and editors will probably not give you the capabilities you need. Instead, consider hiring people for a variety of content jobs. — Content Science

As Aaron Agius (a Forbes Councils Member) sets out in his article How to build your content marketing team from scratch:

“Jacks-of-all-trades are often masters of none. Avoid the temptation to save on payroll by hiring one team member who claims to do it all. Quality will suffer. Developers should develop, writers should write and designers should design.”

And whilst the results of our latest study shows that team sizes still vary widely, we’ve seen a slight decrease in the number of content teams with a headcount of more than 10 people — equating to a 21% decrease compared to just a couple of years ago. 

This may signal that, whilst there is still recognition that organizations need to invest in the right level of ‘manpower’ in order to consistently create high quality content, factors such as budget pressures may have led to recruitment slowing down, or recruitment taking place for fewer content team members overall.

Nevertheless, we’re still witnessing a healthy quantity of role types across organizations, though some trends within this have shifted slightly. 

Our recent findings saw:

  • Content leadership roles decrease by 15%
  • Writer roles decrease by 8%

Great content leaders offer content-specific training. — Content Science

In fact, we discovered that, yet again, all organizations that described themselves as ‘thriving’ when it came to their content operations maturity level were also running a programme of content-specific training for their employees. 

And, following on from this, this year’s research also revealed that — compared to our 2021 study — organizations have been placing a far bigger training focus on ‘content execution’ compared to that of ‘strategy and planning’, with:

  • A 48% increase in content writing training
  • A 60% decrease in content strategy and planning training
  • A 68% decrease in leadership and content operations training

Teams with an open work style are 60% more likely to achieve more, faster. Atlassian

Atlassian recently surveyed over 1,000 team members across a range of industries and found that trust and transparency lead to higher achievement.

Their ongoing research on teamwork uncovered that when honest feedback, openness, and mutual respect were part of the work culture, levels of emotional well-being in team members were 80% higher, compared to team members in workplaces where these values weren’t in play.

HBR echo this trend with their The Neuroscience of Trust research, revealing that people at ‘high-trust’ companies report:

  • 74% less stress
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 13% fewer sick days
  • 76% more engagement
  • 40% less burnout 

— than people working at ‘low-trust’ companies.

Content teams that regularly evaluate content effectiveness were much more likely to have achieved success with their content. — Content Science

According to recent research from The Content Marketing Institute:

“It’s difficult for many marketers to connect content, experiences, data, and measurement across platforms.”

And our latest survey results seem to confirm this; with only a third (33%) of content teams stating that they regularly evaluate content impact and success — slightly down (by 2%) on 2021’s figure.

‘Vague objectives and goals’ was cited as the most common reason for teams not evaluating their content. In 2021, ‘lack of time’ was the top reason. That reason decreased by 27% this year, suggesting content teams better recognize the importance of investing time in content evaluation and measurement.

Interestingly, the same reason rated highly in The CMI’s B2B Content Marketing research paper (2023), with ‘lack of organizational goal-setting KPIs to measure against’ placing as the second highest factor in preventing teams from measuring the performance of their content.

Our findings also reiterates a strong connection between ‘having a vision and strategy’ and ‘efficiently defining what to evaluate or measure’.

The facts and statistics above are just a few highlights taken from our full report, What Makes Content Operations Successful? — which you can download now.

The Author

Content Science partners with the world’s leading organizations to close the content gap in digital business. We bring together the complete capabilities you need to transform or scale your content approach. Through proprietary data, smart strategy, expert consulting, creative production, and one-of-a-kind products like ContentWRX and Content Science Academy, we turn insight into impact. Don’t simply compete on content. Win.

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