Structuring brand publishing teams and creating effective processes and workflows is a challenging task. Brand publishing is an evolving discipline, and in many cases, a relatively new and unfamiliar one for companies.
There is no clear consensus on which approaches work “best.” Depending on the company and its specific goals, brand publishing executives may operate independent, siloed newsrooms with teams of specialists, or they may operate omnichannel groups that work across the organization, trying to make all content feel consistent.
But well-structured content groups can take publishing operations from good to great; they’re likely to operate efficiently and generate better ideas and results, especially in a resource-lean environment. We asked executives from five major companies, each with thriving brand publishing arms, how they structure their teams and create processes to ensure quality and consistency. Answers have been edited for clarity.
Raju Narisetti, global head of publishing, McKinsey
“The team is mimicking what you find in a newsroom, minus the reporters. All of my reporters are my firm partners. The content is self generated. We don’t have freelancers writing for us. The origin of our content is our partners. The publishing team are our editors. They are chief collaborators with our partners.”
“The real challenge for my editors is taking a topic from experts who are deep in it, writing for experts, but doing it in a way that a general business audience can also learn from it. A lot of B2B publishers have journalists writing that content. We don’t. Our editors play that role of taking this insight, making sure it connects to people that need to have impact with it. We also have an audience development and education team that spends time thinking about who is reading us and what are the innovations we can do? And I have a copy desk, and we also have an internal syndication desk that checks things against other experts. We can’t get things wrong.”
Andrew Nusca, editor-in-chief, Activision Blizzard
“Right now, I have a small but mighty team. Two staff editors, a social media editor, and I’m hiring another staff editor. The social media editor is also manning our various Activision Blizzard channels, which is also a busy but important job. That includes Twitter and LinkedIn, etc.”
That’s going to satisfy our newsletter needs just fine and give us some capacity to explore. The question now is: to explore in which direction? I deeply want to be where our customers are. So I have a great interest – and I have yet to do anything on this yet – in moving into video. I think that’s where a lot of gamers are experiencing the Internet. I want to play with that more.”
Emily Anne Epstein, editorial director, Asana
“The way the organization was designed was really for a type of content marketing that isn’t going to be successful in the future because it was defined by what piece of content you could create. So if you were a writer doing e-books, you would produce e-books for a variety of audiences. And you didn’t really get to dig into the why of an e-book. And so what I did was create an internal agency. So every single writer or editor is assigned a cross-functional collaboration team. They serve as the content strategists for that arm of the business, as well as the writer. So somebody could be writing emails one day and writing e-books the next day, writing an article the next day, and just expanding the type of writing that people could do if they were owning an audience and a specific part of that audience’s journey.”
“You can’t be married to a medium right now. If you are working for an audience, the audience is going to receive information in a different way to the journey. Turning writers into omnichannel storytellers, basically. You’re never writing for the business, you’re always writing for the people. We come together and do workshops, we look at what’s driving business value to the lifecycle team, and revenue marketing team, and what are the stories where we can turn it into the passing of the baton. We are the content arm for the business. If there’s words in the marketing, we’re touching it in some way. Writing is a distributed function across our organization.”
Natalie Zmuda, global head of content, Google
“We have a full-time team of specialists, folks with backgrounds like mine that come from journalism and folks with marketing backgrounds that can work on campaign strategy, audience growth and development areas. We have design talent and an amazing team of producers. It is a small team, but we’re all specialists.”
“That’s one of the things I feel strongly about: I see this happening a lot with content marketing: There’s this jack of all trades, people wearing multiple hats, thing. That was the situation I walked into when I joined. Over time I’ve been able to make the case that if we hire an editor to just do editing, and not do editing, copywriting, design, and project management, and SEO optimization, they can do more editing and we can get more out of them. We’ve been thoughtful about how we’ve done that. We have embedded agencies, and some embedded copy editing resources. Really if I were to give advice to anyone, trying to help leadership understand the value of specialist resources and that you can get more for less, that’s very important.”
Courtney Symons, editor-in-chief, Shopify
“We’re part of a larger organization. We’re trying to flatten the org. Right now, I have a team of two writers. We also work in partnership with writers at other departments and orgs. I’ve tried not to be biased because I am a journalist and I went to journalism school. I really have found that journalists within tech companies do so well, because it’s not only that they have writing skills, editing skills, they have curiosity, they can research, they can dig and find things that other people will miss. They know how to reach out and find people to get them on the phone, they know how to interview, they know how to parse down complex bits of information into little bits and pieces. They know how to incorporate different viewpoints and perspectives. It’s just pretty much every angle that you look at, those journalism skills do really well. One shortage of skill set that I’ve noted within myself and other journalists is that the nature of measuring success within more journalistic pieces is very different than a marketer who might use 10 different technology tools to track and measure the impact of every word that they write.”