With content becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix as brands look to engage consumers in a more authentic way, marketers are increasingly turning to ‘brand editors’ and ‘brand journalists’ to bridge the gap between editorial credibility and commercial opportunities.
A new study by content marketing platform NewsCred finds that people working in this relatively new role are already well aligned with the marketers they work for and with on the key requirements for building a content team.
Creativity is highlighted by both marketers (32%) and brand journalists (41%) as the single most important attribute for doing the job. This is followed by commercial awareness, which 20% of marketers and 18% of brand journalists feel strongly about.
Writing ability is only viewed by 12% of the 100 marketers and brand journalists surveyed as the most critical skill, perhaps surprisingly given it is a basic necessity, but NewsCred head of marketing EMEA Marcus Stoll suggests this is because it is taken as given that people will be able to write.
Recruiting talent with both creative and commercial expertise is a challenge, though, as 63% of brand editors say they struggle to hire content team members. A third reckon the most difficult task is finding journalists with the right marketing and commercial skills, although 29% say recruiting people with the right editorial expertise is also difficult.
Most brand editors plan to increase the size of their content team this year, although many admit it is hard to get budget signed off by senior stakeholders – an indication that there is still work to be done within companies to justify the investment in in-house content resources. Only two-thirds as many marketers as editors say they intend to increase headcount in content departments.
As consumers are “naturally more sceptical about anything a brand pushes out today”, Stoll reckons hiring a team of brand journalists is “one of the best ways for organisations to become more credible with their target audience”.
In terms of set-up, 82% of marketers say content is created in-house. Having a dedicated team for the purpose is rated as being the most effective arrangement, while fewer than a quarter reckon using the marketing team to create content works best.
Better brand understanding is the biggest advantage of having an in-house team, according to almost half of the survey’s respondents, while 22% think it creates more alignment with the marketing team. Only 15% say it saves money, however, which could again present challenges for securing budget in this area.
Of those marketers that don’t have an in-house content team, 56% rely on the marketing team to produce content and 44% work with an agency.
Brand journalists are more likely to report to managers within the marketing function (49% say this) than to be part of a team that works in parallel to the marketing department (31%). Content teams remain relatively small and junior, most often consisting of three to five people, with the most common roles being at the content manager and executive level. Chief content officers and content directors remain very rare job titles.
“Brands today may be looking to get their feet wet with brand journalism but they’re not willing to commit to the higher level roles that an in-house content team might need like a managing editor,” says Stoll. “They’re hiring junior level people to come in and test the water but they won’t necessarily be as engaged when it comes to finding budget for additional staff members.”
When it comes to measurement of content’s effectiveness, marketers say lead generation and sales take precedence over engagement metrics such as reach and dwell time. More than three quarters think there will soon be new metrics in place and 84% hope clearer standards for evaluating the ROI of content marketing will be developed in the next five years.
Most marketers also expect all brands eventually to have websites that are content-led rather than corporate and that content marketing will be an established part of the marketing mix.