I once accidentally made a celebrity chef’s life very strange. As a direct result of a job ad I wrote, his personal assistant was suddenly stalked by hundreds of journalists, all of whom were trying to get his mobile phone number. I still feel a bit guilty about it—and plan to eat at his restaurant as often as I can as a personal mea culpa—but what I learnt from it was a great trick to use when writing content marketing skills for a job ad.
Why is that important? Firstly, because it’s hard to know the right mix of skills you’ll need in any one individual, because the available tools are growing, appearing and changing so quickly. And secondly, it’s hard to know if what they’ve done in the past will help them to adapt to what they may do in the future—before you know what that job may be.
What I did to that celebrity chef was write a job ad saying a necessary skill was to know who the chef was (he was very well-respected, but far less famous at the time) but also what his mobile phone number was. Ninety five per cent of the applicants for the job ignored the challenge, and their applications were rejected immediately.
Does that sound harsh? It isn’t. You want someone who is willing to engage with your company, and with what you do. If they can’t be bothered taking the opportunity to do that with their initial introduction, they’re unlikely to do it in the job.
Keep that in mind when you sit down to write the job ad.
You don’t know what to look for
But what skills are you looking for in that perfect person? You need a journalist, right? Hundreds of them are being made redundant from the newspapers every day! Need someone with digital skills? Hello, everyone under the age of 30!
Even though ‘Content Marketing Professional’ seems like a pretty new and rare qualification, you’d be surprised how many people fit it. Often, many of these potential applicants seem really impressive too. That’s because many people have been shown (either at school or online) how to write wonderful, smart resumés and cover letters that really grab your attention, and can have you moving their applications to the top of the pile.
That’s why having that Easter egg in the application can help with that initial sort. While I was putting this together, Jay Acunzo wrote a fantastic blog post on his Sorry for Marketing blog which laid out some clever questions you can ask once you’ve sorted through the applicants—but this article will help you do that initial sort.[Tweet “Like a great article, #contentmarketing is about whispering in the ear, not shouting to a crowd.”]
What’s different about content marketers?
I have also experimented with using recruitment companies in the past, which has always been disappointing. I’m sure they work really well in many other circumstances, but an executive search company isn’t going to have the folk with the skill sets you’re looking for on their books. In fact, they’re unlikely to know exactly what that skill set is.
The harsh reality about this type of job is that the skills and qualifications you need to do it now were pretty thin on the ground two years ago, and may well be completely different in two years’ time (as Jay Acunzo’s article so eloquently pointed out).
That’s why we’ve put together this list of skills we look for in a content marketer, along with an explanation of why we look for these skills. Hopefully they’ll help you get your head around what you’re looking for, and guide you towards choosing the best person for the job. Here’s what to ask yourself (and them):
1: Do they have experience as a blogger?
WHY? Because no matter what else you’re doing as a marketer, a blog is going to be central to your strategy. There is no better means to attract clients to you (which is a key reason you want a content marketer in the first place), and to start collecting their information for moving them further through the sales funnel. If your potential recruit doesn’t have experience in blogging regularly and building an audience, they don’t know the basics of the job.
2. Do they have a full LinkedIn profile, active Twitter account, and knowledge of other social media?
WHY? Yes, they’re on Facebook. Everyone’s on Facebook. You can ask about how often they use it to weed out those who say “No, I fundamentally disagree with the whole notion of social media”. If that’s how they feel, this isn’t the job for them. So once you’ve sorted that out, check out their LinkedIn page—have they filled out anything beyond the basics? Do they participate in groups? How frequently do they tweet about work stuff? What do they know about Periscope, Medium, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, and how marketers are thinking about using them? Do they know why you would use them (hint: it’s to drive people to your website).
3. Are they confident about meeting clients?
WHY? You can find a lot of people who have the media production skills mentioned above. But speaking as someone who has worked with writers and editors for a long time, a surprising number of them are very uncomfortable with meeting new people, and many find walking into a crowd of people they don’t know to be excruciating. It’s probably because many introverted people become attracted to writing and reading and make their way into creative industries from there. But you need someone who is at least confident about going out and meeting clients, even if they’re not overly excited by it.
4. What does Panda 4.2 mean to them? And what does Google have in common with iTunes?
WHY? A content marketer doesn’t have to be an expert in search engine optimisation, but he or she will need to know the basics of it. And even if they are not really interested in SEO, if they are interested in content marketing they would have read the various panic-pieces released every time Google updates its algorithm. The important thing is that they understand the concept of discoverability—so to see both Google and iTunes as search engines—and to know how to make content as discoverable as possible. Actually, that’s also true of the Google Play store, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. From a content marketer’s perspective, social media, search engines and the app stores are all about the same thing—distribution.[Tweet “For a #content marketer, social media and search engines are both about distribution.”]
5. Have they worked as a journalist before—not a copy-writer, or reviewer?
WHY? Content marketing requires a different mindset to copy-writing. It’s not as campaign-focused, it’s very audience-centric, and it’s about telling stories. Those three elements all describe traditional journalism.
A copy-writer is trained to produce emotive rhetoric focused on a product first, and a producer (or client) second. A reviewer is trained to have an educated opinion about a product. A journalist is trained to find stories, and to tell those stories in an intelligent, emotive way.
6. Do they have experience as an editor or sub-editor?
WHY? Editors and sub-editors are trained to have a ‘big picture’ view of stories—to see the point of running a series of discrete but related articles on different topics. I’ve written before about what an editor actually does, so won’t repeat that. Also, if they’ve worked as a sub-editor (or know what a sub-editor does) they’ll have a good working knowledge of spelling and grammar, which should help you in your quest to look professional to your clients. Editing and subbing skills will mean they also know how to write a great headline, or choose a compelling pull-quote or sell—again, skills that you’ll find enormously helpful when trying to build an audience for your products.
What they DON’T need to know
I’m not sure they need to know marketing. Let me explain why. Marketing tries to solve technical, measureable problems in a systematic way, and as such, is something you can learn. You can’t necessarily be brilliant at it, but you can learn the rules and understand the science of it. There is a large part of marketing (not all of it) that involves gathering and interpreting data, and targeting and distributing information.
That’s why a lot of marketing people are comfortable with the measurable side of content marketing, and comfortable with social media scheduling tools and technical discussions around SEO, but still floundering when it comes to the actual writing and storytelling side of the job.
Writing and storytelling is a little trickier to teach. It requires a combination of empathy and experience, and an understanding of narrative-building that really only comes from doing it over and over and over again.
So marketing you can learn. But you need to be good at storytelling pretty much from the get-go to be good at content marketing.
Who is a content marketer anyway?
The core difference between content marketing and more traditional forms of marketing is that it’s focused on the end user as an individual, as an audience member, rather than as part of a demographic or representative or a demographic profile.
Like great writing or great audio, content is about whispering in someone’s ear, not shouting to a crowd.
So when you come to write the job ad to find your content marketer, you’re looking for the person who understands that, and whose experience and knowledge let them know how to do it.