Behind every great piece of content marketing is a great content team.
That should be obvious, but for all the emphasis brands are placing on content marketing, surprisingly little is said about the teams that make it work. Surprising because while marketers are shifting more dollars toward content marketing, the sector is suffering from a huge staffing problem. Nearly half of all B2C marketers have dedicated content teams within their organizations, according to the latest annual trend report from the Content Marketing Institute (pdf). Yet the same report found that a third of the 5,000-plus marketers surveyed said they had trouble finding trained content marketing professionals.
What’s a marketer to do? Given the relative newness of content marketing, more training may be part of the answer. But let’s face it: none of the skill sets necessary to run a content marketing operation are new. In fact, many of the necessary skills are found in abundance in industries that have seen a lot of downsizing in the last decade. (Publishing and journalism are two examples that quickly come to mind.)
Skills honed in other fields can be repurposed for content marketing. The bigger challenge is staffing up with candidates who have the right attitude. Content marketers aren’t just the sum total of the skills listed on their resumes, they need to be the living, breathing embodiment of a brand’s message.
Which is why I look for three things in a content marketer: an earned/owned media mindset, an understanding and appreciation for what it means to be data-driven and the organizational capacity of a project manager.
A Mindset for Earning or Owning Content
There are three ways a brand can reach its audience: pay for media as an advertiser, earn media by placing content on third-party media sites, or own media by creating and distributing content through channels controlled by the brand. Content marketing is about speaking to your brand’s audience in both earned and owned channels, and the best way to find experts in those areas is to look for candidates with strong search and social experience.
Search has always been about surfacing and creating content that your audience deems relevant. Which is the name of the game in content marketing. More importantly, search practitioners take an analytical approach to creating and surfacing content. By using search data, content teams can create relevant content around distinct customer personas and map an editorial calendar around the buyer’s journey.
With consumers spending more and more time on social media than any other Internet activity, it only makes sense to have a content team with the strongest possible social background. But beyond the time metric, a social background is also important because it helps your team put a sharper focus on your customer personas and the buyer’s journey. If search can tell you about your audience’s intent, social can give you their sentiment. Are they excited throughout the buyer’s journey? Annoyed? Frustrated? The answer is important because it will shape the tone of the content you produce.
We live in a data-driven world and to varying degrees each of us needs to understand what that means. On the analytics side, data-driven is pretty obvious and easy to understand. But on the content side, creative and quantitative can sometimes clash. That shouldn’t be the case. If Don Draper walked into your office for an interview to run your content team, you’d immediately recognize his tremendous creative talent. But what you really need to know is whether Don can augment and upgrade his talent with data-driven insights?
At the end of the day, being data-driven isn’t a matter of math skills, but rather a question of how open-minded a content creator is to measureable insights that may, or may not, support what they feel in their gut. If you’re interviewing a former journalist, ask them to share examples of stories they’ve reported where data played a key role in driving the narrative. If you’re talking to someone with copywriting experience, look for candidates with backgrounds in areas like SEO or direct response, two disciplines that put a greater emphasis on quantitative insights.
Ideally, even a small content team will consist of a few people, including an analyst, someone with search experience, and one or two writers. But if you can’t afford a staff of that size, it’s a good idea to plan to augment with outside help in the areas where you’re lacking.
It’s been said before and it’s worth repeating: content marketers have to think like publishers. A big part of adopting that mindset is building out an editorial calendar. Doing so helps content marketers leverage upcoming opportunities like holidays or news announcements. But even if your brand is set on publishing evergreen content, it’s still critical to hire project managers because content marketing is about a steady volume of material, rather than a successful one-off.
Ultimately, staffing your content marketing team is about building an enterprise within your organization that carries out a publishing mission. That may be a radical departure from traditional marketing, but it isn’t necessarily a new thing. If you focus your attention on finding the right attitudes rather than a checklist of skills, you will build a content marketing operation that’s capable of evolving, innovating and measuring its results.
Getting the right people on your team is probably the most important decision you’re going to make about your content marketing strategy. Make sure you get it right -- and it will reward you in the long run.