As agencies move to specialize in content marketing and companies launch their own internal content strategies, one significant challenge has quickly become apparent: Finding the right talent to comprise a team that can run a successful content marketing effort.
More than any other type of marketing endeavor, the composition and talents of the executing team are absolutely critical. Here's a closer look at the different functions and roles within a content marketing project, and who you need to have on board to ensure your content marketing strategy is successful.
The Main Functions of Content Marketing
For a content marketing campaign to be effective, several things must be in alignment. There are a number of different specialties, from understanding the business, to writing and SEO, which are integral to success.
Understanding how to recruit the right people, bound their job descriptions, and recognize these traits in the endless stream of candidates will make or break your efforts. Let's start by getting clear on the most important "types" of talent you need access to during the content marketing lifecycle.
- Business strategy: The most important function in a content marketing strategy lies in the ability to integrate it to your core marketing goals. This improves the likelihood of positive ROI, and ensures efforts remain focused on the most important business goals. Content strategy can be used to achieve a number of different marketing objectives, from lead generation to building brand visibility. But your content marketing team must understand your market, your business, your positioning, and your goals well enough to do this.
- Online marketing and SEO: Another critical expertise for a content marketing team is someone with the expertise to get the content you're creating in front of potential customers. Online marketing and SEO knowledge helps with everything from navigating guest posts to handling organic SEO. Ideally, your expertise covers a range of channels from SEO to social media, video, audio, and visual channels. Sometimes it isn't necessary to go that broadly in terms of a skillset; specific expertise will be driven in large part by the scale and scope of your campaigns.
- Frontline client interaction: Your content marketing team can benefit greatly from someone who spends a lot of time interacting with customers. Now, you may be saying that you know your customers, that you've developed a buyer profile, and that you're ready to go. But it's the difference between reading a description of a person and seeing that person every day of the year. Your ability to intuitively understand them, to answer hard questions, and to judge whether a specific channel or piece of content is right for them will be infinitely better if you regularly interact with the people you serve. Try to have someone like this in an advisory or consulting position to your content marketing team.
- Writing or producing content: Producing the actual content is a major driver of any content marketing effort, and is crucial for SEO. If you're focused on copy, blog posts, or articles, you're going to need a strong writer on your team. The best writers understand your business and are able to produce consistently good work for your efforts. This position is a non-negotiable, and is often the position that'll be putting in the most hours over the life of a campaign.
If your company is planning to hire an agency, this will help you insofar as you'll understand how many individuals it takes to run a great campaign. On the corporate or agency side, the following descriptions can serve as food for thought in terms of what traits are important for these key roles.
Strategists working on content campaigns come in two flavors – content strategists and business strategists.
The business strategists are focused on understanding the business, the industry, and the bigger competitive and marketing context of this overall effort. Their expertise helps ensure that your content efforts integrate in a useful way with your larger marketing efforts, that you're reaching the right people, and that it fits your overall business goals. Business strategists should ideally have a background in marketing as well, to help translate between the general business' needs and the potential avenues open to you on the marketing side.
Content strategists often take the business data, the basic keyword and topical information, and develop editorial calendars. They take the rough content ideas and develop them into titles and target keywords. These people bridge the worlds of SEO and content creation, but operate at the 30,000 foot level.
Whether this is a step in your process (i.e., your writer or editor acts at your content strategist, by developing topics before they write) or a discrete job, the content strategist role is important.
In addition to understanding both SEO and the writing process, it's helpful for content strategists to have a broad understanding of online marketing. A wider expertise helps them be creative and effective when developing your content plan.
The Writers (And Other Creatives)
A strong writer for a content writing strategy is one that has a background in online journalism or content creation. Writers with this background tend to have the versatility and speed that's often required with content development. Your ideal writer is someone that:
- Can produce an adequate volume of content within your timeframe
- Writes diversely enough to be able to target multiple outlets, subjects, and even voices as appropriate
- Is comfortable writing in different formats, from blog posts to white papers
- Has the prolific ability to develop new topics, research, and find a unique spin on tried and true topics
When screening writers, look for someone with enough experience to create content that's relevant to your industry. A broader set of experiences or expertise can help lend your content a fresh edge.
It's always best to test out a relationship with a few small projects, before moving ahead with a deeper connection. A writer that intuitively grasps your brand's voice, but requires a trade off on speed of writing or other factors, may be more effective in the long run than a more prolific writer that requires heavy editing or management.
The SEO Pros
Many people struggle to understand the relationship between SEO and content strategy.
There's a misunderstanding that content strategy is replacing SEO. For as long as the Internet is viable and consumer searches are mediated by search engines, SEO as a discipline will continue to evolve and be relevant.
Instead, I would propose that content strategy has simply changed whatthose doing SEO are focused on.
Instead of focusing generally on your website, SEO professionals are focused on pushing influence levers for a number of smaller pieces of content that might gain traction with specific groups. This means that the best SEO pro for your content strategy have a broader understanding than "typical SEO training."
In addition to these tactics, you're looking for experienced professionals who understand broader Internet marketing, content strategy itself, and even the communications process. This wide expertise will serve them well as they get your content in front of as many qualified readers as possible.
The Customer Gurus
A standing part of your content team should be individuals that interface with your customers on a regular basis. These staff could include representatives from your sales team or from customer service.
Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of both. Sales reps understand many things about interacting with your customers, including:
- At what point in the process they make contact with the company.
- What concerns or questions they frequently bring to the table.
- What objections routinely come up during the sales process.
- What the actual funnel or buyer's journey entails.
- What competitors they consider to be a real, viable alternative to your products or services.
- What benefits resonate most strongly with specific subsets of customers.
- What language is effective in getting them to take action.
- What language might be an instant turn off or kill a sale.
It's easy to see how this kind of expertise can make a significant difference when you're tackling a content marketing project. Customer service people have a different kind of insight.
What concerns arise over the lifetime of a product? Do your customers ever get buyers' regret? If so, how do you address this in a meaningful way?
By having access to this kind of talent and expertise, you'll be able to infuse your content with insights and language that will make all the difference when prospects see your materials.
With content marketing, having the right team in place makes all the difference. If you're considering hiring an agency for a content marketing effort and trying to determine if it's worth the cost, it quickly becomes clear why this may be a worthwhile investment after all.
What hiring strategies have you employed when bringing content marketers on board? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.