As content marketing grows, all of us are on the hunt for smart, content-savvy team members to help us produce awesome content. But who are we looking for? What does the perfect content marketer look like? What’s on the ideal marketer’s resume?
Just being a good writer, social strategist or analyst isn’t enough to really excel at content marketing. The ideal candidate has found ways to stretch and grow so that no matter her role, she can see a campaign or idea through from inception to execution, and then analyze the results.
If you’re looking for new hires or partners in 2017, keep reading. These are the skills and traits I look for when I’m hiring a content marketer, plus some of my tips for helping the people already on your marketing team improve.
A Conversational, Meaningful Writing Style
What I look for: Good writing is more important than ever, especially for anyone who has “marketing” in their title. A great content writer has learned how to give advice without sounding stiff or pedantic. But it’s not just hammering out clever turns of phrase — I also need people who bring substance with their sizzle, who put the “thought” back into thought leadership. That means people who can research an industry, interview internal and external experts, and find the facts to back up assertions.
How to help your team improve their writing: Give your team plenty of opportunities to practice writing. Ask everyone on your team to set a goal to write something new (whether it’s a blog post, a social blurb or just a few sentences saved in a running idea document) every day. Create a content marketing library with useful books people can borrow (some book recs: Ann Handley’s “Everybody Writes“ and Bill Walsh’s style guides). Host lunch and learns with group writing exercises.
Familiarity with SEO Basics
What I look for: Content creators might not focus on SEO too much, thinking it’s getting too much into the weeds of marketing or that it’s too “technical.” But even if someone isn’t involved with formatting and distributing content, they still need to have a basic — and evolving — understanding of SEO. For example, every content marketing writer needs to know what a meta description is and how to write an effective one. Understanding SEO as it changes is vital to making every piece of content useful.
How to help your team improve their SEO knowledge: Share news and articles about search engine trends. Make sure everyone knows about new developments in SEO tools. If your team has specific SEO weak spots, find helpful videos on sites like Moz and watch together at your next meeting.
Comfort with Marketing Tech
What I look for: Marketers don’t have to be able to code, but they do need to be aware of key developments in the tech world. Marketing automation is transforming the industry by opening up ways to be more efficient and effective at what we do. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 benchmark survey, about half of organizations use marketing automation software for content marketing, and that number will only grow. We all need content teams that are comfortable using and optimizing marketing tech.
How to help your team boost their tech skills: Take a look at all of the tools in your marketing tech stack. Does your team know how to use them? If there’s room for growth, encourage your team to sign up for product training modules. Most marketing tech companies provide extensive training, through video courses, webinars and articles. Make sure everyone on your team knows how to access and use the insights from all of your platforms.
A Natural Curiosity
What I look for: In my experience, great marketing gives people something new. Anyone can follow a marketing formula, but it takes truly curious, creative people to push for something better. I look for writers and editors who have a spark. They keep asking questions until they land on the “aha” moment — the new insight for the reader. I look for people who will push and explore.
How to help your team to stay creative: Set an example for your team by staying curious and open to new ideas. Push them to brainstorm newer, bigger ideas. If they turn in content that’s boring or stays on the surface of issues, ask questions and show them how they can go deeper to provide better insights for the reader. Flag creative marketing from other organizations and share why it’s interesting to you.
A Deep Sense of Empathy
What I look for: None of the above will work for you unless you have empathy for your readers and can focus on delivering information they actually need, in a package they can understand. Marketing isn’t just about numbers and analytics; understanding others is key to developing content that really reaches people and gets results. This is a trait we all strengthen by doing. I look for people who have had to work with people to figure out solutions to tough problems.
How to help your team develop empathy: Set an example for your team by speaking kindly about other employees and your customers, and encourage them to consider others’ perspectives. Listen as much as you can — to your customers, to your co-workers, to the leaders in your industry. Find friendly customers and interview them. Ask them what causes them headaches, what stresses them out and what they wish they had help on. Share the conversations with everyone on your team. Host a roundtable with employees from every department and find out what they’re working on and how you can help each other.
The profile of a great content marketer has evolved over the five years I’ve been running Rep Cap. Marketing is getting more complicated, and it takes more than basic WordPress knowledge and a handle on AP style to succeed as a content marketer. If you’re looking for more guidance on building a content team, we share more details in our ebook How to Build a Content Marketing Engine.