I’ve been having conversations with many of our clients, and I’m glad to see all of them placing more value on great content. Some of them are even creating a new role: Chief Content Officer, responsible for the company’s content strategy, quality, and distribution (across both channels and devices).

Some marketers may be surprised. A C-level exec dedicated to content alone? Is content really that important?

Absolutely. Excellent content is proven to equate with sales, brand reputation, and growth – which demonstrates the need for a dedicated, C-level content expert.

“Being heard” has become a C-level issue.  It’s not marketing’s problem, it’s the whole company’s problem – requiring someone in the C-suite dedicated to constantly solving it. Great content marketing means: 1) Telling a good story, and 2) telling it in the right places. That is the role of the CCO.

Overwhelming volume demands high quality content

Digital and social have increased the volume of content to previously unimaginable levels. There is more to read/ watch/ listen to/ explore than ever before, and from more sources. Everyone is a publisher, vying for an audience.

The more noise, the better content needs to be in order to attract an audience, because they have an impossible volume of content to choose from. Great content, told in the right places, gets people sharing – so the best bubbles to the top, above the noise.

We often write that brands need to become publishers. But how does the CCO decide which stories to tell? Creating content worth “being heard” is both an art and a science. The right stories connect with audiences on some emotional or utilitarian level by being helpful, heartwarming, educational, entertaining… by eliciting a reaction that makes the story worth hearing and sharing. Stories that create strong brand associations with these desirable reactions build brand affinity and loyalty.

The best way to determine what can inspire deep emotional reactions is to listen to customers themselves. I’ll go more in depth on using customers to stimulate content in part two of this CCO series.

Multiplicity of channels requires omnichannel storytelling

In addition to the exponential growth in the volume of content, there’s been an explosion of channels in which to share those stories: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, brand sites, retail sites, news sites, StumbleUpon, and on and on – and that’s just in digital. Even traditional channels like TV have been disrupted by DVR, online streaming, etc. Print magazines cross channels through QR codes and image recognition.

There is no one channel that reaches every audience, and no channel that works in isolation any longer. Stories can’t stay isolated as just a commercial, just a social campaign, just a branded microsite; all channels must blend together to tell a cohesive tale, building off of each other for maximum engagement. As Wendy Clark, Coke’s Senior Vice President, Integrated Marketing Communications and Capabilities, puts it:

“None of our plans are simply social, or TV, or mobile, or experiential. On the contrary, it’s the combination of owned, earned, shared, and paid media connections – with social playing a crucial role at the heart of our activations – that creates marketplace impact, consumer engagement, brand love, and brand value… No single medium is as strong as the combination of media.”

So, while a CCO’s first responsibility is to determine the shareworthy stories their brand can tell, and create that content, their second (and equally important) task is to determine where those stories should be told – and how to weave each channel together in ways that make the story deeper. Should a TV campaign encourage audiences to post their pictures to Instagram? Should a brand site gather and display that conversation? And what is the end goal: Awareness? Engagement? Sales?

Again, the best way to answer those questions – as I’ll detail in part two of this blog series – is to listen to customers.

For now, it’s clear: Rising above the noise and getting heard is an organization-wide issue. Elevating it to the C-suite isn’t some fad – it’s recognition that the problem will only become more complicated. Making content a priority now will help future-proof an organization.

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