How to Assemble the Ocean’s 11 of Content Marketing

Few teams, fictional and non-fictional, have collaborated as well as the team from Ocean’s 11. For those unfamiliar, the film’s plot starts with the protagonist, Danny Ocean, and his friend Rusty Ryan finding and recruiting nine teammates. Their goal is to pull a heist on one of Las Vegas’ most well-protected casinos. While the film is fictional, the principles behind it aren’t: the team was successful because it was built around well-defined roles and functions.

Image: Copyright Ocean's 11

For instance, since Danny needed to somehow disable the security systems, he recruited Basher to do it. Danny also needed to manipulate the casino’s technology, so he found Livingston. Each team member has a very clear function, whether it’s funding, decoys, inside information, or some other specialty. This principle can similarly be applied to building your content marketing team.

Let’s break down an effective content marketing team’s roles, and where you can recruit teammates:

1. Content Creators

Content creators are generally the writers on the team (although it can also include graphic designers, audio/video producers, etc.). In essence, their work resembles that of the the Malloy brothers (a pair of extremely talented mechanics) or Frank Catton (the inside man): their roles are absolutely crucial, and are very focused on execution. In order to qualify, they must excel at their craft.

That’s one main reason why you should avoid content farms, or outsourcing sites (such as Elance and oDesk) to recruit content creators: while there are a few talented and experienced freelancers amongst the less experienced, budget-friendly options, separating the wheat from the chaff can be a time-consuming (and unrewarding) task.

Conversely, you can find a ton of qualified writers or content marketers by using LinkedIn’s search function. Similarly, many enterprises are hiring journalists from media companies in their niches to contribute on a freelance basis or to work as an editor.

Once you’ve found a journalist or content creator, use this neat hack from Moz to qualify them by looking at their past work. Past work speaks volumes — Danny Ocean already had relationships with most of his team members in the past, or had at least kept his eye on them. Conduct a simple Google Search query with inpostauthor:“Author’s Name”. If they’re regularly contributing their content to websites, or have done so in the past, they are likely more open to writing for your site.

2. Subject Matter Expert

One major goal of all content marketing is to build thought leadership for your organization. Thought leadership helps build the company’s reputation as a group of experts, which puts potential clients’ minds at ease and can generate more inbound leads. Danny Ocean is essentially the subject matter expert of his team; the team wouldn’t have assembled without his credibility, and he is the one who draws much of the mark’s attention.

A subject matter expert is a client-facing representative of the company, such as a company leader (e.g., CEO, CMO, or other executives), a high-ranking salesperson, or an individual who focuses on business development. By building this trust with potential clients and delivering value through content, subject matter experts can build credibility and gain exposure necessary to generate more revenue.

Lastly, content can be the reason for sales teams to get in touch with potential clients and already-existing leads. Sharing an insightful blog post provides more value than simply reaching out and checking in. Your sales team will stand out from the dozens of other sales teams who constantly ask prospects for meetings, without providing anything of value.

3. Content Lead

A content lead needs to take direct responsibility for content marketing results. They will work closely with subject matter experts to create a strategy. They will also be responsible for leading the execution by managing the editorial team and content creators. This is the Rusty Ryan or Linus Caldwell (in a smaller capacity, later in the film trilogy) of the team.

Cisco’s head of digital media solutions for services marketing and communications Heather Meza describes a major part of the content lead’s role as helping to execute strategy and maintain order. (Note: Meza calls the content lead a “content evangelist”.) Introducing a new content marketing strategy could require constant reminding of your purpose for the project, and encouraging teammates to stay focused. It also means keeping an eye out when content creators or subject matter experts are making mistakes, ensuring the team works well together, and updating the stakeholders from various other departments.

In addition to content strategy, content leads also need to develop and refine a workflow that works for content creators. This cadence will contribute significantly to the success of the content marketing initiative and how frequently readers are engaged. The process of finding Rusty Ryan won’t be easy: according to The Next Web, Kinvey CEO Sravish Sridhar calls finding his content lead the hardest startup hire in his city. Sridhar had snagged his content lead from Eloqua. One of Intel’s content marketing initiatives, Enterprise Efficiency, is led by a former senior editor of an industry trade organization. Similarly, in order to find your content lead, get in touch with content leads and marketers from other companies, or editors from media companies and trade organizations.

4. Editorial Staff

While content leads can take charge of the content initiative, they can’t be everywhere at once. When Rusty was executing on his own important projects, he would have Livingston Dell stay behind the monitors and keep an eye on the team via surveillance cameras. Livingston would keep everyone accountable and walk them through their tasks on their earpieces as necessary.

Editorial staff’s roles are to manage strategy, often in the form of an editorial calendar, and to refine the content workflow of the content creators. They can be found under the title of managing editor, content strategist, or something to that nature. To give you an idea of team proportions, iAcquire’s marketing team consists of “four content strategists, three assignment editors, seven writers, six editors and one infographics specialist.”

As a starting point on refining workflows, here are some sample workflows from Content Marketing Institute and Buffer. Much like content leads, you can find editorial staff by finding editors from magazines, online publications, or trade organizations.

5. Distribution Specialist

Remember: you can have the greatest content in the world, and it wouldn’t matter if no one read it. Godfather author Mario Puzo avoided interviews for 20 years. When he finally started doing interviews, as he explained it on Larry King Live on CNN, it was because he realized marketing became more important in building awareness. Similarly, if you want your content marketing initiative to make an impact, ensure that readers consume it. You’re going to need people like Basher (explosive specialist), Saul (experienced con man), and Yen (superb acrobat).

Essentially, distribution specialists are here to help you meet your reach metrics. There are a variety of ways to drive traffic to your content marketing initiative: for example, if you choose to write guest posts, connect with bloggers and divert some of the content creators’ resources into this tactic. (Should you choose this route, here’s a helpful resource from SearchEngineWatch.)

Alternatively, will you use public relations and stunts to get media coverage? Many authors and fast-growth companies have leveraged the press in order to get as much exposure as possible for their dollar. Whichever type of distribution you decide on, find a specialist who will help lead the effort. For example, if it’s PR, then look into senior journalists and editors who have a lot of relationships. If it’s guest posts, find a business development specialist who can secure sponsored posts or a columnist who can easily write for publications in your industry.

Closing Thoughts

Image: Copyright Ocean's 11

If you were counting carefully, that’s ten of Ocean’s 11. I didn’t forget Reuben: he’s the one funding the initiative. From a content marketing standpoint, he is the company. He’s behind the scenes, and he will keep you accountable and make sure you execute, but he isn’t necessarily the most hands-on member of the team.

Danny Ocean made it look easy in his 10-minute hiring montage. Truth be told, hiring for content marketing initiatives can be an extremely tough task. Keep these five roles in mind when you’re looking to build your content marketing Ocean’s 11, and use these guiding principles to find prospective team members.

Images: Copyright Ocean’s 11

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