7 Skills To Look For When Hiring A Content Marketing Strategist

Content marketing is hot!

And so content marketers and content strategists are one of the hottest job titles in marketing.

And with the shift away from paid promotion, through attempts at earned social media and into “owned” media approaches that require content marketing strategists, the demand for content marketing skills is far exceeding the supply.

Once people move beyond the need for content strategy, one of the questions I get asked a lot includes “what skills should I look for when hiring a content marketing director or content strategist?”

So if you are looking to build your content marketing team, here are 7 skills (and 1 bonus skill) to look for.

7 Skills To Look For When Hiring A Content Marketing Strategist

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Analytics: Content marketing requires a deep knowledge of common analytic tools (Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.) and optimization approaches (A/B testing, multivariate tools). My first content marketing hire was for an analytics person so we could understand what was working and how to improve.
  4. Business Acumen: You need your content marketing leader to have the ability to translate what you are doing, why you are doing it and to be able to present the business value of content marketing to business people. This means showing both the volume of content marketing KPIs (pageviews, social shares, etc) and also the business value of your efforts.
  5. Content Strategy: Your content marketing strategist has to understand how to make magic with limited resources! This means having a point of view on how to combine original content creation with curated, licensed and syndicated content to maximize the reach and potential of your own media properties.
  6. Inbound marketing mindset: Maybe I should have made this number 1. But inbound marketing and content marketing are a mindset. You need someone with demonstrated proficiency in earning audience attention through classic inbound techniques (search, social). This includes a solid understanding of SEO and the way to create content that attracts attention.
  7. Social Proof: I required every one on my team to contribute to our content marketing efforts. You don’t need to be a great writer or have a huge social following. But I was looking for people interested in learning how to create consistent content and grow their personal brands through content and social. So look to see if they understand how to use content on social personally themselves (Twitter following, publishes regularly on a blog, active on Facebook or Instagram, etc). Or, if they are not active, gain an understanding of what brands or people they want to emulate if they were active.
  8. (Bonus) A Sense of Humor: Life is short and we all work hard. One of the best ways to reach your audience is though funny, entertaining and lighter content that breaks up the day. Hire folks who can bring a sense of humor or some creativity to your brand’s content strategy.

Looking for more advice?

When people ask me this question, I also refer to Hubspot’s hiring practice of looking for DARC skills: Digital, Analytic people who can Reach an audience with Content. They have also suggested you need people who know how to GSD (Get, um, Stuff Done) and Growth Hackers. I agree!

Joe Chernov, Hubspot’s own head of Content recently offered these helpful tips for hiring a content strategist.

And Melissa Breker also offers a great roadmap to hiring a content strategist on the CMI blog.

Now it’s your turn, what do you think are the most important skills needed for content strategists?

Are you interested in engaging and converting new customer for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help.

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Showing 22 comments
  • Mael Roth

    “Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing are a mindset” -> I couldn’t agree more here! 🙂

  • Brian Peters

    All great stuff, Michael! Quick question: at 25 I am just getting into the Content Marketing world. What’s the best way to go about learning all of the skills above? Should I start reading everything I can get my hands on or are there a few different websites that you prefer best? Any advice would be great! Thanks, Brian

    • Michael Brenner

      Hey Brian, wow. I am so thrilled that you reached out.

      The first thing I would suggest is to try and work on the most innovative marketing programs you can. Seek them out. Volunteer your time. But of course I realize (whatever your role) we often feel “stuck” in a role.

      So here’s my advice: get your own blog. Start acting like your own publisher. Try to figure out what topics you are interested in. Do the keyword research. Create content. Share across social channels. Study the analytics. Experimanet with different topics and content types. The only difference is the brand is you and the business is your experience and thoughts and ideas.

      I’d be happy to help. Send me a linkedin request and let’s stay in touch?

  • Bhaskar Sarma

    How high would you rate the ability to create eye catching content? After all, you can’t get anything started without content.

    While a content marketing strategist may not (will not, actually) do everything related to content creation I think having a good background in at least one area (writing, video production etc) can be their secret weapon.

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Bhaskar, this is part of Ann Handley’s definition of great content: helpful, innovative (or creative) and inspired. I think when it comes down to publishing effective content, you certainly need all three. And creating eye-catching content is really important. But I think that is a result of having the right combination and amounts of the skills I mentioned.

      And I agree that being some kind of storyteller whether it is writing, producing, designing, is an excellent secret weapon! It’s how you create the magic.

  • Brian Peters

    Michael,

    Thank you so much for the advice! I am working on creating a blog as we speak. It would be great if we could keep in touch… I’d appreciate your guidance along the way.
    Here’s a link to my LinkedIn:
    http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brian-peters/32/486/486/

    It looks like I would need your email in order to send you a request, so maybe you could send me one? I would like to ask you a question or two about your response above. Again, thank you so much.

    • Michael Brenner

      I think we’re connected now so all good!

  • Janette Lonsdale

    Content marketers and content strategists need to have a wide variety of skills – some of those skills don’t go together too often.

    Editors, for example are words, people and often feel uncomfortable with numbers and stats. So while I think it is important to engage an all rounder, it is also important not to get a jack of all trades but someone who has deep skills in the field you need most plus a good understanding of the others. Consider whether you really need an analyst or do you need someone creative to develop engaging content but who can also understand the numbers?

    And if I may add one skill to your list? I think strategist should have writing skills.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Janette, I agree with you that these skills don’t often come together if ever really at all. The content lead, the managing editor if you will, has to be able to understand both the content side and the business side. That means having both editors and creatives on the content side and analysis-minded people on the business side. An interesting thing to consider with social channels is that it requires both an understanding of the content that works and how to position it in the right context for the channel. So a little bit of both there.

      And finally, I agree with you about writing. I always look for people with an interest, if not the experience to contribute in some form.

  • Gordana Stok

    Thanks for another great post, Michael. I wholeheartedly agree with all the skills you’ve raised, but I’m curious why writing experience isn’t one of the skills you find valuable in a content marketer. I would think that someone that has rolled up their sleeves at some point in their career to come up with story ideas, interview stakeholders, and sweat out the details of putting pen to paper would be invaluable at briefing creative resources and others writers, and providing constructive feedback. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Gordana, thank you so much for the thoughtful response and the additional point. I don’t disagree with you. And as I said in the post, I look for people who have a passion for contributing to the conversation. For example, my first content hire managed the social media accounts for her university and also advised different college groups on how to use social media.

      While this is not writing skills as you defined it, it showed me an aptitude that I knew could be developed into writing experience. That was why I required everyone on my team to write on a consistent basis to develop their writing skills.

      My final point, is that I have found in my experience that editors, journalists and formally trained copywriters have often struggled with the business aspect of things and often find the everyday struggle of corporate life to be a drain on their creativity. So in general I have found these people should be safeguarded either in a contractor role or in a individual contributor role on the content team. So I think it can be dangerous to put too much weight into formally trained writers unless they have shown to be able to traverse corporate life and handle additional responsibilities.

  • Gordana Stok

    Clarification: when I say “writing experience”, I mean working as a professional copywriter, marketing writer, journalist, etc. where writing is the person’s core responsibility.

  • Glenn Gow

    Michael, great set of skills. I would add one more. They need to be an inspirational leader.

    The great content marketing strategist will help any potential contributor understand the value of doing this well … and that will go a long way to getting a big team of people contributing great content.

    Did you notice the podcast I did with Jamie Anderson and Marcus Ruebsam?

    http://crimsonmarketing.com/jamie-anderson-marcus-ruebsam-global-vp-head-product-marketing-sap-brave-new-world-corporate-marketing-podcast/

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks so much Glenn, I totally agree and great podcast! Thanks for sharing with all of us here.

  • Yves Nguyen

    Thanks for the great advice I definitely agree with number 8 as a bonus. A sense of humor and creativity can take you a long way in making good content.

  • jerome

    Nice one…Thanks for sharing this..

  • Jamichael Mitchell

    Boy, did I need to read this article. Great post too. Number 8 is definitely the most important to me. People without humor seem to make my day longer. I can’t work with them. lol.

  • Rob Parker

    Great article! “…inbound marketing and content marketing are a mindset.” Oftentimes, “Content Marketing” is viewed as a product or a set of articles, keywords, etc. that can be purchased as if it were “Marketing in a box”. However, content marketing is much different in that you must provide value to each individual while marketing to the masses. Find your position, interact with your customers, and most importantly have fun and you will profit!

  • Lewis LaLanne

    I love this sentiment from #5 on the list Michael . . .

    “Your content marketing strategist has to understand how to make magic with limited resources!”

    This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings relevant to lean start ups and small businesses which goes, “If you can’t make money without money, you won’t make money with money.”

    Resourcefulness is a vital asset that works in the favor of the underdogs who break through, defy the odds, and elevate to the big stage.

    A lot of people think that more money is what is necessary to solve their business problems, and of course more money makes problems go away, but not in the hands of the person who isn’t resourceful and throws money at problems that don’t need money thrown at them.

    The person who maximizes resources is the person to be cherished in a business. The person who makes the most of what they have somehow ends up being the “Lucky” person who catches all the big breaks. This kind of person is an asset that you will love having on your team.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Lewis, I agree that you have to create some form of magic and think opportunistically and creatively to get this done. Appreciate the support!

  • Mike Myers

    Great list! I would add that content marketers need the curiosity of a journalist. There are so many stories to be told but, in order to tell them well, the storyteller has to keep asking who, what, when, where, why. I guess perserverance factors in there, as well. Thanks.