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  • Writer's pictureOmid Yadollahi

The Heartbeat of Content: Unmasking the Chief Content Officer's Role "CCO"

If we Google the word content, the search results may surprise us. The majority of content you'll find is primarily about "digital content," and even more specifically about "blog posts" and various types of "writing." However, digital content and blogging – writing alone – are just a small subset of the broader concept of content.

Although most of the content you'll come across on the internet about content is quite similar in style, tone, and approach, and many of them rely heavily on techniques that involve direct translation and copying, disregarding the specific needs and mental models of the Iranian audience. Some of these techniques, for example, are found directly and uncritically translated from sources like Contently, Content Marketing Institute, or HubSpot.

Some other techniques involve link-building through the inclusion of related content within articles (often just a few plugins away), or following recommendations like "adding images" within the text. Regardless, while extensive studies in understanding cognitive biases and the significant results derived from them are innovative and fresh, humans have been using these techniques for centuries, possibly without even knowing, to influence collective thinking and purchasing decisions. (For a better understanding of these concepts, be sure to consider the works of the following three authors: Daniel Kahneman, Dan Ariely, Rolf Dobelli).

Let's move on from these, and the first and most important question that comes to mind is:

What is content?

Content is any form of message that can be produced and published for a specific purpose. In other words, content is anything that can convey the desired message.

Content is not something that can be defined solely by the three very important principles mentioned below, and it can be said that without considering the other two principles, content can hardly be defined.

These three principles are together as follows:

  • Context

  • Content

  • Connection

Allow me to explain this concept better with a few examples:

The paintings on the walls of ancient caves may be the first type of content recorded in human history. The message of these paintings tells the story of hunting, praise, and gratitude to supernatural forces for assistance in hunting, and perhaps it was intended to educate future generations. The background for producing this type of content was the unfamiliarity of nature to early humans, and their fear of it. The connection in this type of content is evident in its overall understanding.

The first weapon made by humans, the "stone axe," is another type of content. The message conveyed by this type of content is "hunting" and "killing." The background for producing this type of content was human's need for self-protection, and the content's connection was in its ease of use and effectiveness.

Think about all of humanity's inventions for a moment. They all have three common important principles. Firstly, this new "tool" (meaning content) is intended to fulfill what need (background), and secondly, how this new content is intended to fulfill that need (content connection). These three principles together justify the entire history of humanity.

The most interesting point is that in our simplest actions and behaviors, some form of this triad can be observed. For example, I am writing this article for you (content) so that your need to know and my need to write (background) can be fulfilled through the Persian language (content connection).

In the offline non-digital world, you have opened a sandwich shop. Your content is food, your background is the human need to eat, and your content connection is the "sandwich" from decorating the shop to adhering to health regulations.

You produce a pair of shoes (content). Your background is the human need to cover and protect their feet. The content connection for you is comfort, modernity, style, and the consumer's good feeling.

The same question can be asked in various forms in the digital world as well. For example, in the offline digital world, you are a printer manufacturer (content) that is intended to fulfill the need for printing (background). In this case, the printer cartridge can be defined as "content connection."

Let's revisit the previous examples:

In the cave wall paintings, let's assume that the artist used the highest level of skill, color grading, creativity, and imagination in their content. The resulting image might have been something beyond a simple description of a hunting scene. It could have been a design resembling modern art styles or something that only made sense to the artist themselves. In this case, content isn't king; rather, the contexts and connections of it are the kings, determining the extent to which the rest of humanity desires to see, appreciate, and benefit from it.

If the first stone axe (presumably the first preserved one, not the first ever made) was merely a reflection of the creator's mindset and creativity and didn't fulfill any of humanity's needs, it would be of no use. The aesthetic aspect of content becomes prominent only when its contextual and background aspects have been addressed beforehand. While I don't want to refer to Maslow's hierarchy directly, it can be considered in this context.

We are the largest producers of the highest-quality saffron in the world (content). The background and primary need for this message are related to providing a solution for cooking and enhancing the aroma of food, as well as its medicinal uses. The content's connection to this need is through packaging and standardization, in line with global markets, which are lacking or very weak in Iran. Therefore, the absence of content connections has left us with almost no position in the saffron export industry worldwide.

Your printer, no matter how good and excellent it is, is useless without a cartridge. The shoes you produce, no matter how well-made and high-quality they are, will be worthless to consumers if they don't provide comfort, a sense of style, and relaxation. Your sandwich, no matter how well-prepared with top-quality ingredients, won't be appreciated if the taste is compromised by cheap bread or if it's displayed in an unclean and unhygienic showcase. No matter how clean and well-coded your website is, without providing a sense of comfort to site users, you can't expect real high traffic.

Think of the most failed ideas in history. Examine many of them closely. Even failed startups should be analyzed. Beyond the classic discussions of why they failed, if we delve deeper into their stories, we may find that one aspect of background and connection beyond content was overlooked: every content requires the presentation of a good feeling in simplicity and ease of use. As mentioned earlier, content without background and context is like a throne that is too easy and sits in the lowest position.

Allow me to modify the phrase "Content is king" as follows:

Content is Crucial, Context is the Key, Connection is the King.

But who is the Chief Content Officer?

The Chief Content Officer, or CCO for short, is one of the fastest-growing professions in the world, and in fact, they often receive the highest compensation after the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). (There are other senior management positions in the world, but we ignore their definitions due to their lack of alignment with the organizational culture, such as Chief Operations Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, and so on.)

In digital organizations and online businesses, offering digital-centric solutions is a critical principle. These solutions can sometimes be as simple as a few lines of code, and at other times, they require the presentation of more complex solutions.

Like all senior managers in any organization, the Chief Content Officer has four specific responsibilities, including planning, coordination, leadership, supervision, and ultimately control.

Planning involves providing the best content types based on business needs (Context) and evaluating how content is connected (Connection), followed by coordination and leadership in content production and presentation (Content). Supervision involves overseeing the entire process and defining KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for controlling the coordination and accuracy in implementing the three mentioned principles.

Naturally, presenting content strategy, defining guidelines, organizational visions, and aligning the content train with the organization's mission and path will be some of the most fundamental tasks of this individual.

Digital organizations must act promptly to educate and benefit from this expertise. In the not-so-distant future, with the bursting of the dot-com bubble and Iranian startups, only those who have not fallen into the "content trap" or have trained experienced and skilled individuals to rescue their organizations from the "content trap" will likely survive.

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