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Content Is a Product. Who’s Your Product Manager?

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Hiring is a major topic of conversation in the content marketing world. Marketing departments just don’t look the same these days, and new roles are springing up to meet new needs, including the increasing demand for content. Nowadays, marketers have to create content for social, content for lead generation, content for email campaigns, content for the blog and website, content for sales…and to fill all of these channels, someone needs to oversee the content marketing operation.

According to research conducted by Content Marketing Institute, 86% of the most effective B2B content marketers report having someone who oversees the content marketing strategy for the organization. While that’s telling, the real learning comes from comparing that number to the least effective group, where only 46% report having someone responsible for content marketing. That’s a pretty significant difference.

So who is this person—the one responsible for managing the entire content marketing process?

The Managing Editor. Also known as the Content Marketing Manager, this role owns the successes (and failures) of content as it relates to the goals of the organization. They are responsible for the timely execution of consistent, high-quality content assets, and for overseeing all of the moving pieces from ideation and production to distribution and analysis.

Even though you may have heard of this role before—and it’s becoming more prevalent in organizations—it can still be hard to explain.

“Sure,” you might say, “I need someone to manage content. But what does this job really entail? How can I explain it to the higher-ups, especially when I’m trying to justify a new hire? If only there was a comparison I could make…”

Well, okay then.

Content is the product. The Managing Editor is your Product Manager.

This comparison is especially useful for high-tech or SaaS companies, where each department (marketing, sales, customer success, support, engineering) is closely aligned with Product Managers, their projects, release dates, and roadmaps.

The ten phrases below are taken directly from job descriptions for a Product Manager, and all of them could—and should—describe a Managing Editor or Content Marketing Manager.

1. Understand the Landscape and the Competition

Product Managers need to know what opportunities exist and what the competition is doing. The Managing Editor has the same responsibility. He or she should have a deep understanding of the organization’s target topics/subject matters, while keeping one eye on the content being produced by influencers or competitors in the space.

2. Understand Customer Needs

This is a big one. If the product isn’t useful to customers, they’re going to stop using it. The same goes for content. If content isn’t valuable, people won’t read it, and you’ll lose the opportunity to communicate with those potential buyers.

3. Initiate Market Research Studies and Analyze Findings

Market research and analysis help both Product Managers and Managing Editors understand what they should create and why. They facilitate smarter prioritization of topics (in content’s case) or features (in product’s case). Is there an immediate need to be filled? If yes, research and analysis reveal how to fill it.

4. Ensure That Products Meet and Exceed the Highest Standards

There are a lot of products out there to choose from. And during this time of content chaos, people are seriously overloaded with content. So what do both Product Managers and Managing Editors have to do? They have to make their stuff better than the rest. For Project Managers, that means ensuring a good user experience and eliminating bugs. For Managing Editors, it means delivering professional and consistent content that target buyers will enjoy.

5. Work Across the Company to Develop Products that Grow with Our Customer and Business Needs

It’s a team effort. Sourcing input and ideas from key departments such as sales, marketing, customer success, and support is crucial for both Product Managers and Managing Editors. These teams interact with the target audience/users all day, and have good insight into the challenges they face.

While the product should serve the needs of the customer, it also should serve the needs of the organization. Sometimes, that’s a tricky balance for the Product Manager who can’t change the product with every customer request. The Managing Editor has to make similar judgement calls when it comes to content. Is this really an important topic to cover? Does this topic lie within our organization’s areas of expertise, or are we going to attract the wrong audience?

6. Responsible for the Development of an Innovative Roadmap

The Product Manager’s roadmap explains which new features or products will be introduced and when. The Managing Editor’s roadmap outlines what new content topics or themes will be introduced (often in the form of content pillars) and when. And see the word “innovative” above? On both the product and the content front, following through on innovative, new ideas will weigh in favor of your organization.

7. Responsible for Defining, Documenting, Prioritizing, and Communicating Requirements throughout All Stages of the Product Lifecycle

Okay, this is a long one. Let’s break it down. Product Managers are responsible for explaining the context and vision for new products or features to the people who build them (designers, engineers, etc.). They’re responsible for ensuring that the end-product meets all technical and usability requirements.

Managing Editors are responsible for the same things when it comes to content. Often, the Managing Editor isn’t the only content producer. They’re responsible for communicating content requirements to everyone involved in the content operation including freelancers, designers, guest contributors, partners, etc. The Managing Editor is there to ensure everything meets high standards. Having a content style guide helps.

8. Identify Necessary Reports, Metrics, and Analysis to Measure the Effectiveness and Validate the Success of Completed Projects

To improve, Product Managers and Managing Editors must track and report on successes and failures, then dig into why something worked or did not. Understanding performance is the only way to get better, and is a crucial responsibility for both roles.

9. Manage Project Plans for On-Time Development and Release

Both product and content campaigns often hinge on strict timelines for the development and release of projects. When deadlines are met, it means that efficient and effective processes are in place and the operation is scaleable. If timelines are broken again and again, it can mess up important campaign launches and result in lost opportunities.

10. Champion the Product—Internally and Externally

Finally, if you’re not excited about what you’re producing, your audience won’t be either. Project Managers and Managing Editors should be proud of what they create. And that excitement is contagious within the organization and beyond.

When it comes down to it, content is a new product. To be successful, it must be valuable, answer the needs of the market, have processes and timelines in place for development and promotion, and be subject to analysis and iteration. And to grow any product efficiently, there needs to be someone overseeing each of these steps.

That’s your Managing Editor.

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