How to build a content delivery team
The problem a lot of embedded teams experience is the roles within their businesses haven’t kept pace with the rapid development of content norms. Equally, sourcing the right talent externally can be a challenge, as there are few resources providing networking for content professionals.
Tailor your team to the project
One of the best questions you can ask early on is:
What are the key skills needed to ensure my content efforts are going to be successful?
Sometimes you will have a clear-cut view and sometimes you won’t.
No two projects are alike, so it’s likely you’ll want to design a team that matches what you need. Creating and maintaining content is expensive so you need to make sure you have the right skills covered in your content projects. Getting this bit right will ensure success.
Designing your content team
Before you even consider the people you need, is there a blueprint to construct your A-team of top talent? To quote Blue Peter, here’s one I made earlier... and given there’s some flex in the naming conventions used, I’ve tried to give a functional overview too:
Start with a content strategist
(Some businesses call this a content project lead). The strategist will build relationships around the organisation to get crucial ‘buy-in’ from senior leaders. The content strategist defines the overview of what’s needed, developing the specifics around output, channels and messaging. They also identify who in the business has the knowledge needed, works out the content lifecycle (including governance) and sets out publishing workflows. In some instances, this role will also have a view on external factors like reputational risk. For certain businesses with a defined brand, internal factors like house style or brand guidance will be a consideration.
This is the person who creates the content for projects – and their skills go beyond just copywriting. A content designer asks questions about the audience, considers how the content will be consumed, gets the information needed (from people and other materials) and is responsible for checking accuracy. For example, if they are using a report, they’ll checked it’s up to date and reliable or if a video is being used they will check that clearances have been sought.
They typically do the deep-dive on information gathering, liaising both internally and externally with key stakeholders and subject matter experts. Dependant on the budget, scale of project and time constraints, sometimes this work will be picked up by the content designer.
Subject matter experts (SMEs)
These can be both internal or external to your organisation. They give the project critical information or data and authority. You’ll often have at least one, but sometimes a project will require juggling the input from several SMEs. The management of SMEs can require a great deal of diplomacy, especially if your situation means you’re balancing opposing viewpoints. In some cases, the failure to strike the right collaborative tone results in the piece of content being abandoned or disowned after publication. It’s really important to make sure the content designers (and where relevant content researchers) support the SME and build a relationship early on.
You’ll need a content editor with a wider, more holistic view of the content, making sure output meets the editorial and style standards of the commissioning organisation. They’ll review the content prior to publication, checking to see if the content is on brief and supports the goal of the overall strategy. They’ll also manage much of the operational checks, providing a final qualitative review – including spelling and grammar.
The content editor will work with an overall content manager (sometimes referred to as a content project owner). The content manager is on the operational side, making sure content is delivered according to agreed timescales and budget. They seek updates from the team, make sure deadlines are kept and report on progress (or not) to other parts of the business. They also work to protect the team from other risks, for example, changes to the brief (scope creep) or adding in too many sign-off procedures.
They manage the publication of all content. If it’s web-based content, they’ll need to know the content management system or web platforms you use to manage the uploading. If it’s a digital whitepaper, they’ll build the document in a desktop publishing package. They should be able to work with any type of content (text, audio, video, graphics etc) and make sure it has the required descriptions, metadata and that it meets search engine optimisation standards. The content publisher may also have an input on formatting. This ranges from doing things like making sure there is enough white space, the font size helps readability and asking for embedded subtitle tracks for videos for accessibility.
Other content specialisms
Depending on the specifics of any given content production, your delivery team may feature specific roles, such as language translators, paid amplification experts, photo-journalists and illustrators, but the above blueprint gives you the right foundation for typical content projects.
If you need some advice on putting together a content delivery team, we can help. Get in touch and we can talk teams and tactics.