Do Content Marketers Need To Have Writing Skills?
In my recent post on the top skills for content marketing strategists, I listed 7 skills you should look for when hiring a content marketing strategist.
The post was inspired by my own challenge of filling the role inside a large enterprise brand.
It was also based on the large number of times I have been asked this question, especially recently, by mostly large brands.
I think there are many different ideas about what a content marketing strategist or content marketing team lead is or does in a corporate brand role.
What about journalists?
There were a few comments in that post that questioned whether content marketing strategists should have writing skills. Janette Lonsdale simply stated that content marketing strategists should have writing skills.
Gordana Stok went a little further and asked why writing skills weren’t on my list. She felt that the ability to take a story idea, interview stakeholders and put pen to paper should be on the short list of important content marketing strategy skills.
First, I appreciate every comment I get. And actually appreciate the friendly challenging ones the most. So thank you Janette and Gordana for raising this question because I think it is a really good one.
I also believe that all businesses need to bring in qualified journalists to join the content marketing team. When the budget is there for deep, original content, journalists should be deployed either on staff or as part of an outsources news room. Same holds true for photographers, designers, videographers, and other talent.
But my post was about the skills needed for the content marketing strategist or team lead.
Large brand vs. small business
I mentioned above that the context for me was large brands.
For smaller or even medium-sized businesses, content marketers need to wear many hats.
So in addition to the 7 skills I mentioned, writing is something I would look for in a smaller business setting.
It’s all about the mindset
In the post I included “Inbound Marketing Mindset” as one of the skills needed.
This includes understanding how to use digital platforms and analytics to gain reach using content. Hubspot calls this DARC skills (Digital, Analytic, Reach, Content) and this philosophy guided most of my hiring.
So not writing skills specifically, but an understanding of how to use content to drive business results.
Where’s your social proof?
I also included “Social Proof” as one of the skills. This could include experience building a social following with writing skills.
But I was saying that I looked more for the desire and willingness and passion to contribute to online conversations in any form.
In fact, I required my former team to write. But I did not hire them based on any past writing experience – only the attitude, if not the aptitude, for contributing in some way.
Do content marketers need to have writing skills?
For large brands, I would say not necessarily. Especially if you need a dynamic business person who can lead change in the organization.
I have seen a few brands struggle by trying to turn former journalists into content marketing strategists. Do they have a place on the team? Absolutely. Do journalists have the ability to strategically run and manage a content marketing team? Yes! If they have a good portion of the other skills I mentioned.
I think if we’re talking about a small or midsize company, or an agency, then the strategist should be able to point to some writing experience.
Now if we broaden the question to content marketers in general, I would say writing skills are a huge plus. I would prefer it but until content marketing becomes a mature discipline inside large brands, I think we need change agents over writers if I had to chose.
Now tell me what you think?
Here are the 7 skills I mentioned in that original post +1 bonus skills if you missed them:
- Digital Strategy: Experience and ideally management of the resources responsible for the publication of a brand’s content through social channels. More than just a community manager, you need someone who understands the channels your audience is using, knows the nuances and context for each, and knows how to maximize your company resources to drive impact across digital channels.
- Project management: Editors are project managers with a deep understanding of what your brand should be saying and how it should be saying it. I think you can teach editorial skills and you can train someone on your brand voice. But they need to have the ability to manage a plan and define a continuous publishing schedule (vs. campaign-based mentality).
- Analytics: My first content marketing hire!
- Business Acumen: (Translate content marketing results into business outcomes)
- Content Strategy: (Combine original, curated, licensed and syndicated content to maximize reach).
- Inbound marketing mindset (Earn audience attention through search and social and convert it).
- Social Proof (the ability to build a social following through content)
(Bonus) A Sense of Humor: life’s too short to not have some fun.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.