With last year being heralded as the ‘year of content marketing’, we started to see more organisations, both large and small, implementing content marketing strategies and building content properties.
Previously content marketing was managed by the likes of social media marketers and digital content managers, as a part of their role. With this influx of activity, the need for full-time content marketers has presented itself.
But who is the ideal content marketer? What skills differentiate them from traditional marketers?
Hiring content marketers isn’t an easy gig. They, more than any other marketing role, need to be a balance of both analytical and creative. They need to understand the digital landscape and user experience, but they also need to be able to generate winning content that grabs the audience’s attention and offers value. And then they need to be able to close the loop by using their content consumers in a way that meets business objectives.
So what should you look for when recruiting a content marketer?
Content marketers need to have the drive and ability to connect with others, both internal to your business and external. They need to work closely with product marketers, website managers, blog editors, social media managers, digital marketers, campaign managers, influencers, agencies…
Everyone creates and needs content, and it is the role of the content marketer to:
- Identify opportunities
- Define the content strategy to meet business objectives
- Create or re-purpose content, and
- Optimise content.
This all requires the input of many; content marketers need to have strong relationship management skills in order to effectively make content work for your organisation. Top notch connectors also have the networking skills required to distribute and ignite your content.
2. Exceptional communicators
A content marketer needs to have excellent written communication skills and a thorough knowledge of writing for the web. They should know how to take a press release and turn it into a digestible & engaging piece of content for a non-media audience. They should have a solid understanding of SEO principles and how this affects their written content output.
A top-notch content marketer is not only a great writer, but a great editor and curator as well. Someone who will use content to build a bridge between your brand and your audience. When recruiting, be sure to assess written skills by looking at previous content generation and/or include a written task as a part of the hiring process.
3. More than just a writer
Content marketers need to have more than writing in their content marketing toolkit.
Content marketers should be able to brief video, create presentations (e.g. Slideshare), adapt their content for social media, brief infographics, whitepapers & eBooks, and create eDMs.
Typically former journalists or writers become content marketers and candidates with this background can indeed make fantastic content marketers. But it’s important to know that not all writers make great content marketers. Give your candidates a task where they are asked to provide a content plan and see what they come up with outside of written content.
As I mentioned, the best content marketers have a mix of the analytical as well as the creative in their skill-set. Whilst it’s not expected that they be analytics geniuses, a good content marketer is able to understand basic digital marketing analytics, and interpret that data in order to make recommendations and optimise their content marketing.
They should be able to look at search trends and identify opportunities. What search terms trend at what time of year? This will help shape their content agenda. They have a test and learn attitude where they apply A/B tests in order to achieve the best results possible. Great content marketers are always using insights in order to constantly be improving and refining their strategy.
Whilst planning is an essential skill in any marketing role, often a content marketer does not have the luxury of ample lead time. Like social media marketers, content marketers need to be able to move faster in order to capitalise on viral trends, stay relevant, and communicate with an always-on audience.
When hiring a content marketer, you need someone who is able to move quickly, and problem solve to remove obstacles that may hinder their ability to be agile.
6. Lifelong learners
Content marketing is an ever-evolving space.
5 years ago we were only just starting to get our heads around brands marketing through Facebook and Twitter. Blogs were seen more as ‘fluff’ and to have little ROI. Infographics were few and far between. People still read newspapers. Videos went for 10 minutes.
So much has changed in such a short time and every day new trends, technologies, and ideas enter the market. A content marketer should be able to name at least three websites they regularly read in order to keep up. You need a self-motivated learner with a passion to always be at the forefront, and who has the adaptability to re-engineer their content marketing strategy to suit.
7. Ability to put themselves in the shoes of the audience
It’s easy to get caught up with what the business wants to communicate to their audience and to use company jargon.
A great content marketer simplifies complex business messages by being able to think like the end-user. They are able to push back on product-centric requests from inside the business and develop insight-led content instead. They create content that appeals to their audience, because they understand their audience’s needs, pain points, and interests.
8. A strong personal brand
Someone who values their personal brand already understands the power of content marketing, whether it’s their own blog, Slideshare account, or simply an Instagram account that has garnered a decent following. It also helps to demonstrate that they have a passion for content marketing - a must when you’re expecting them to live and breathe it.
Just because someone has a strong personal brand doesn’t mean they will be a great content marketer, but if you can’t find a trace of them on the web other than their LinkedIn profile, this would make me question their dedication to the space.
Skills such as graphic design, video editing capability, and photography are brilliant skills to have in a content marketer. They’re not a must-have, but they’re certainly a nice-to-have and a candidate with one or more of these would certainly stand-out.
However if you can find all of the seven above skills in just one person, you’ve already found a very special and rare person for your content marketing position. Trying to find all seven plus a bonus skill is like searching for a unicorn – that said, they do exist!