Is it time for brands to have content specialists at CXO level?

The content-related functions at most companies come under the ambit of CMOs, who at times have very little understanding of content. Given how vital content marketing is becoming for brands, experts say there's a dire need for brands to hire content specialists at the decision-making level

Akanksha Nagar
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Brands are spending big on content marketing so much so that for several new-age companies, it has become the cornerstone of their marketing strategy. However, despite increased spending and focus, the brands, especially legacy companies, are yet to realise that content marketing is poles apart from the traditional form, and letting it operate under the overall umbrella of the marketing, under the traditional CMO or the corporate communication team, isn’t helping them at all.

Experts believe it’s time for brands to have Chief Content Officers, given the importance of content is on the rise and in terms of ROI, it’s delivering even better results than traditional forms. 

To develop a long term and day to day content strategies, brands need to start understanding how a strong content play can benefit them. Content is one of the top three reasons people follow brands on social media. Brands must learn to tap into the power of content promotion and content amplification. But can it be done without having content specialists at a decision making level? Is it time for brands to have Chief Content Officers?

Kumar Deb Sinha

Kumar Deb Sinha, Country Head at Story Lab India, kicked off the discussion by pointing out that content marketing can’t follow the hierarchy of marketing approvals and the timeline followed because of its dynamic nature.

“It needs the gutfeel of knowing what will connect with the audience as well as the strategic bent of mind to drive the maximum relevant conversation for the brand. A lot of it can’t be planned beforehand and has to be driven real-time. Then there is the fear of getting trolled. This needs a seasoned campaigner, and only a senior professional with access to the key stakeholders and a thorough knowledge of organisational decision making can drive this role,” he said.

Khundmir Syed

“The decisions that the content specialists are capable of taking do add value to the overall marketing strategy. There is definitely a requirement for such roles among brands. Brands need to understand the importance of arming such content officers with certain decision-making abilities. Since the ROI also is now being tied to content marketing, so a content person definitely impacts a brand directly. With content specialists brands have different perspectives which might be missing with a traditional marketer,” said Khundmir Syed, Senior Director of Content at Mindshare.

Girish Bindal

“CMOs can play content person’s role but only from a vision perspective. From an execution perspective to detailing, and from a product (UI/UX) to a storyline perspective, brands need content specialists. Only brands who are deep diving into content marketing and are not superficially out there will understand this,” said Girish Bindal, Director- Content Marketing at

A content specialist is needed by brands to develop a long-term and day-to-day content strategy to promote the brand.

Madhavi Irani

“It helps a brand figure out how to tell a compelling story, ways of getting eyeballs on it and how to create content that the audience actually wants to read,” said Madhavi Irani, Chief Content Officer at Nykaa.

She said content specialists are the backbone that delivers engagement that ultimately leads to sales, a slow and steady process which many new brands have neither the time nor patience to wait for.

The need for content heads

A lot many B2B companies have started investing in the content heads. For the longest time, Wipro had Chief Content Officer, and recently Tata Communications have invested in a Chief Content Officer. Content Marketing is one of the key pillars of consumer engagement for a B2B marketer.

For B2C marketers, it is still seen as an innovation. However, a few of the progressive B2C brands like HUL, Nykaa, Uber, have taken such roles under serious consideration.

Irani said that for Nykaa, the content officer role has helped to create a distinct voice for the brand that is interwoven into its DNA. It has allowed the brand to create a relatable voice that taps into the feelings and needs of customers.

For brands who are a bit conservative in hiring for such roles, she said often it’s a tussle between content and traditional marketing teams. 

“The biggest problem is measurability. Content is a long term game and so are its results. And to convince the board to spend dollars on such a strategy can be one reason,” she said.

Syed shared that brands need to first actually recognize the fact that there is a need for content. And slowly, there can be some room being created for the content specialists. Apart from this, many organizations and start-ups do look for all in one kind of a role. They expect the hybrid roles out of the marketers and get away from hiring the content specialist role at the decision-making level.

According to Sinha of Story Lab India, brands especially B2B ones have started to understand the importance of such roles. He said, “For B2B this is one of the most important tools of communication with the audience. For B2C today, content is still not so important or rather still seen as an innovation. It is not a serious play by the advertiser. A lot of effort is happening at an individual level, but not at a corporate level. However, sooner or later, even a B2C client will have a serious content play, and they will start investing in senior resources.”

With this, he said the marketing communication role is going to get divided into two separate paths. At one end, there is performance marketing which has a direct correlation with the bottom line, and on the other end, it is branding, where content will play an equal role with awareness driven advertising. And one will see more and more content heads at the brands’ end in the future.

“I think brands who want to go the extra mile, who realise that marketing only gets them this far, will start investing in Content strategists or specialists. Increasingly, brands are realising that content strategy is one of the most difficult ideas for them to understand and execute successfully. Today, only 35% B2C marketers say their content marketing strategy is effective, and the realisation is coming that investing in content strategists will give them someone to lead the process,” said Irani.

Bindal, while sharing how has been benefiting by having a content head, said that most brands miss out that there are content tools required while customers are there on the websites, or when they're in the store. "So a head of content or somebody in a leadership position can guide that flow, which is missing in a pure brand role, as he/she will look at this as pushing a product to a customer through an advertisement. While a content person will look at pulling the customer towards the product. From the website to the checkout counter, it is a content person’s game. He got customers on website and got them hooked," he said.

For this, every content specialist should have an understanding of the buyer persona, and the entire buying cycle that a customer goes through to produce good content. Such content specialists need to be agile as they hook a large number of audience creating content in multiple variations, according to Bindal.

Syed said that a content specialist should be someone with a diverse background. “It can't be just somebody who's just risen up the ranks in a certain background. From having good storytelling skills to recognizing the right storytelling and someone who can feel the pulse of the audiences, such specialist should not be from a very conventional media or advertising background and remain atop of all the trends,” he said.

The role of a content head or a specialist is considered as a multi-disciplinary and far-reaching role that goes beyond simple content creation.

Irani said that the ideal content head will be an excellent writer with a marketer's mind. While being good at analysing numbers and be able to carry a team, the specialist also strategizes on and improving content delivery and promotion across mediums. While championing content marketing strategy across the company, the designated person also sets guidelines for the tone, style and voice of all brand content.

With a thorough understanding of the ecosystem, Sinha shared that such specialists should also think like a creator and own the platform. Most important seamlessly marry the left and right brain. "And of course, the gut feeling to identify and back the right idea and the vision to see the bigger picture of what the idea can generate for the brand, and how to bring it alive on the platform to connect with the consumer," he said.

For somebody to say that content is only dependent on the digital strategy, is a fallacy that we operate in, according to Bindal. "So, brands should have a content strategy and specialists around the audiences and not around the platform. A lot of times, most of the content initiatives are done on the digital mediums only, which are taken care of by digital heads or digital content heads. But one must understand the need of having content heads that take care of content across the platforms and not just stick to digital. A good content specialist engages with audiences across all mediums using the behaviours, emotions and moments approach," he said.

CXO Chief content officer