Titles Are Worthless – But Titling Is Everything

There’s an old quote, usually attributed to Dwight Eisenhower, that goes, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” This is usually taken to mean that what’s valuable isn’t the plan itself but rather the planning process.

We rarely hear the rest of that quote:

“This is a very great distinction, because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of ‘emergency’ is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.”

This is so relevant for us today as marketing and content practitioners.

Marketing is changing. Content is changing. It’s all evolving quickly – and who knows what’s coming next? The way we title people in business – and especially in marketing and content these days – is our attempt to simultaneously bring order to the way we manage the tumultuous change in business AND provide focused resources to an evolving strategy.

This approach to titles usually goes one of two ways. The first path is that conservative businesses will apply traditional corporate title stratifications on new roles. We end up with titles like Sr. Manager of Social Media or Digital Marketing Manager or Sr. Manager of Web Content. These three work together ­­– or, even more oddly, sometimes separately, as if these were truly different areas. Imagine a Sr. Manager of Print reporting to someone other than the Director of Short-Form Articles.

The second way – which can often be just as confusing – is the more recent trend of adding words like “ninja” or “hacker” to these titles. We have Content Hackers and Growth Hackers, Content Strategy Ninjas and Digital Marketing Content Magicians.

Here’s the thing. It’s the process of titling – more than the title itself – that’s important. Over the last decade and a half, the way most marketing and content business functions have scaled is by platforms and technology. This encourages silos and limits what people can (or feel like they can) do. When someone asks me, “Who should own content strategy or content marketing?” I usually say, “Yes.” If I were to choose a function, by default, I’d be saying that a social media person should own it, or a brand person should own it, or IT should own it.

The real answer is that content – and the experiences it creates – should transcend channels and flow through the entire business. I’ve worked with many enterprises where the attitude is I’m just the website manager. This is a tactical service organization. My job is to get content from the desktop to the channel. And because of that person’s title, the entire organization looks at the role that way too.

Thus, the way we construct (or reconstruct) content-team roles matters. Giving our team members focused area of responsibility is critical. Limiting them to a channel because a title seems to make sense in the moment is flawed.

I don’t have any easy answers here. But I think that as content becomes more important to all parts of the business – and as platforms change and customers’ content experiences become more complex – we’ll find it helpful to move away from channel-based roles. Titles themselves may have little inherent value. But titling these content and marketing players so that they are not limited by channel, siloed function, or technology will become a crucial part of building a smart strategy

And so onward to the unexpected…

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.