Columnist Rachel Lindteigen believes a content marketing team that includes both marketers and journalists can help you tell the stories that appeal the most to your audience.
If you’re like me, you may have asked yourself, “What’s the ideal staffing mix for my content marketing team?” or “Who do I really need to make this work the best?” Finding the right staffing mix is tough.
We’ve recently created net-new positions for our content marketing team, and now the task of filling those roles is upon me. And you know what? It’s tough!
There are a lot of candidates available. However, there aren’t many good candidates.
Honestly, I think that because content marketing has boomed over the past few years, more people are trying to claim they’re content marketers whether they truly have the right — or any background in it — or not. Writing a couple of blog posts, creating web content or optimizing a site doesn’t automatically make you a content marketer.
SEO ≠ Content Marketing
Personally, I don’t see SEO (search engine optimization) and content marketing as interchangeable. Yes, SEOs have had to develop content strategies and create content, but in my experience, those who have true SEO roots are still very focused on the keyword strategy.
While that’s okay, it’s not how a content marketer should think — at least, not in my opinion.
If we are truly great content marketers, isn’t our job to help brands tell the stories their audience cares about? If it isn’t, it should be.
If we’re focused on the more traditional marketing components — putting the right offer in front of the right person at the right time and in the right format — we’re focused on selling. While there’s nothing wrong with a sales focus, it’s not the core of content marketing.
Within content marketing, we need to think more about our audiences and better understand them. What do they want to know? When do they want to know it? How do they want the information?
We need to step away from the keyword tools and think about seasonal sales trends. For instance, it’s spring, and people want maxi skirts and statement necklaces, so we need to create copy about maxi skirts and statement necklaces.
Look at this opportunity: There are more than 30,000 searches per month for these terms year-round, and they spike to nearly 60,000 searches in March, April and May. We need maxi skirt and statement necklace content now!
We need to dig in and find the story. Really? Dig in and find a story about maxi skirts or statement necklaces? Are you serious? (You’re thinking it right now, aren’t you? It’s okay).
Why does it really matter if someone digs in? Maxi skirts are maxi skirts, right? How we approach selling maxi skirts, or proving very useful content to help someone who wants to look great in a maxi skirt, should be different, and that should influence our hiring decisions for our teams.
Think for a minute about our maxi skirts and statement necklaces. What content does our audience want to read? Do we know who our audience is?
What’s different about our content that’s useful to the audience? Why does this matter? We’ve identified content that needs to be created, but we haven’t determined what the story is yet.
Enter The Brand Journalist
A journalist wants to deliver a great story, but not the same story as everyone else, and this is why I think our content marketing teams need to include brand journalists. Journalists are trained to look for a new angle, something that’s going to engage the reader and encourage them to really dig in.
This is what we need to do as content marketers.
Rather than pitching “5 maxi skirt trends for spring” or “choosing the right statement necklace for your style,” we should dig deeper and uncover a new angle. Journalists are taught to research, interview, question and find the untold story.
A trained journalist might start with maxi skirt trends for spring, and through research and social listening, find out that people aren’t sure how to accessorize maxi skirts or are trying to put together a look for a specific event. They realize that they need more than an article; and they need some visuals to help illustrate the story.
Our “5 maxi skirt trends for spring” just turned into, “5 great spring looks featuring maxi skirts: from office, to date night, to brunch with the girls and everything in between — find the perfect look, no matter the occasion,” and there’s a blog post, with collage images showcasing five maxi skirt-based outfits, some dressy, some casual, some work-appropriate.
There might even be videos, a how-to guide for accessorizing the outfit (with a statement necklace) or an infographic to help choose the right maxi skirt based on your needs. Both strategies deliver content that targets those 60,000 monthly queries for maxi skirts and statement necklaces, but do you see the difference in the approach?
The brand journalist digs deeper and provides more content for the audience to consume. The content is useful and will encourage the reader to read more and return to the site frequently to see what else is added.
I’m not saying that a content marketer isn’t capable of laying out a plan like the one in the journalist example, but in my experience, they don’t always know how. What I’m finding is that I need both skill sets on my team, and that’s why hiring can be a challenge.
I need someone who lays out the overall strategy, identifies what a client needs and runs with it, digs deep, finds a new angle and makes it engaging, so the client’s customers are excited to read the content and keep coming back.
The goal is to have people see a client’s website, blog or social channel as a resource they want to visit repeatedly because they find great ideas. The more often they visit, the more likely they are to think of the client when it’s time to buy.
Find The Right Staffing Mix
So, back to the first question: “What’s the ideal staffing mix for my content marketing team?”
I believe you need both marketers and journalists working together to tell a great story and report the ROI (return on investment) back to the client. I’m staffing up with a mix of writers, editors and content strategists.
Ideally, my writers and editors are journalism school graduates so they understand how to dig in and find the story, and my content strategists have an agency background and business or marketing degrees so they understand how to prove ROI for the client.
I like for all of them to have an understanding of SEO. You’re going to be challenged to rank if you don’t understand how the engines work.
I think it takes different skill sets to really be successful in this field today, and a team approach is the best.
I wonder if this will change in the coming years. I don’t see a lot of hybrid journalist/content marketers out there yet. There are a few, but they’re hard to find and sometimes even harder to hire.
For now, I continue to look for both skill sets to staff my team. What do you see? Do you think people will cross-train, or do you think we’ll continue to need multiple skill sets?
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(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)