The title gets thrown around all the time, yet the definition is often misunderstood. More and more professionals are calling themselves content marketers, but what exactly do they mean by that?
It might seem obvious at first. They create content that helps promote a brand. Yet that only covers a portion of what a true content marketer does.
Content marketing is not merely writing. It is not merely video production. It is not merely infographic design. At its heart, content marketing is about all aspects of the AIDA framework: attention, interest, desire, and action. In many cases that does involve content creation, but a content marketer is much more than a content creator.
The very best content marketers understand that they cannot undertake the entire process by themselves. Perhaps at the start of a campaign for a very small client, but successful campaigns will necessarily scale to the point where one person cannot perform all of the duties.
Yes, content marketing is a team sport. The skilled content marketer is at the center, acting as content strategist and manager.
How do you build an all-star team around you? It’s all about defining expectations, finding the right people, and managing workflow.
Define the roles
Chances are this will be you — but only if your strength is creating an overarching vision. If not, you need to find someone who has worked on succesful multifaceted marketing campaigns before.
A skilled content strategist does so much more than planning each piece of content. That is part of the process, certainly, but a strong content strategy includes:
- Creating and targeting customer personas
- Targeting the most appropriate promotion channels
- Identifying industry influencers who can help spread the message
- Examining which media the team will create
The content strategy doesn’t end with a plan, though. Content strategists need to monitor the campaign as it unfolds and make modifications as evidence presents itself. Only a fool would continue a campaign that gains no traction.
Creating a piece of content and publishing it does not constitute a complete content marketing campaign. Content that doesn’t attract eyeballs will serve none of your campaign’s goals.
Outreach and promotion is nearly, if not completely, as important as content creation. Smart promoters can get the right eyeballs on a piece of content, whether they’re key industry influencers or your target customers.
A qualified outreach specialist will have experience on social media platforms, perferably being strongest on the ones you defined in your content strategy. Perhaps more importantly, an outreach specialist will understand the power of email. The right email to the right person can expose a piece of content to thousands of targeted people.
The best content starts with data. Having a researcher on your team can make the difference between a content campaign that resonates and one that falls flat. There are plenty of ways to use data in the content creation process. Having someone dedicated to performing research can help you home in on relevant data and create marvelous content.
Finally we get to the role that everyone associates with content marketing. What makes a great content creator? For starters, an experienced storyteller, whether a journalist or fiction writer, can translate those skills to brand content.
Of course, having the money to hire a journalist or novelist, never mind the expense of hiring everyone else on the team, might exceed your budget. There are many qualified writers who haven’t yet made names for themselves. Learn to identify them, and you just might find the next great content creator — who will make your company or clients so much money that you can eventually afford her.
The best content creators understand how to take small nuggets and turn them into big ideas. Writers on content marketing campaigns will take the big ideas from the content strategist and take nuggets from everyone else on the team. From the outreach specialist he’ll find ideas from influencers. From the researcher he’ll take myriad data points. From the editor he’ll take direction and correction.
Any successful piece of content will go through at least two drafts, and oftentimes it will take more than that. No idea is perfect in first draft. Adding a strong editor to your team gives you a second set of eyeballs that can turn a good piece of content into a great one. The best editors will engage in a dialogue with content creators, bringing out the best in both of them.
Find the right people
This step should be obvious enough, but given its critical role in the success or failure of your content campaign it deserves at least a little elaboration.
In many cases, the content team roles can overlap – although there are a few that probably don’t overlap well. For instance, the content strategist can perhaps be the content creator. But the creator shouldn’t be the outreach specialist. There are just too many day-to-day responsibilities. The creator shouldn’t be the editor, either, for obvious reasons.
You can fill out your team in a number of ways, even if you don’t have much of a hiring budget. There might be people in-house who can be reassigned to your team. You can use virtual assistants to fill in some gaps in the workflow.
To put it another way, don’t think of the roles as jobs. Chances are you won’t have enough work for a full-time editor, or even a full-time researcher. Yet you still need people to perform those roles. So start thinking creatively about how you can find the people who can perform those roles, even if they’re not full-time jobs.
Organize the workflow
A general manager can assemble the greatest group of football players on the planet, but they won’t succeed unless they have a playbook. The same goes for content teams. Even if you have a top-notch storyteller, a data scientist researcher, a PR professional handling outreach, and a former newspaper editor on staff and fall flat if you’re not all working together.
Part of the playbook, of course, is your content strategy. But even beyond that, the team members need to learn how to work together in order to achieve the campaign’s goals. If everyone is working in isolation, nothing gets accomplished.
A few relevant questions include:
- Who creates the editorial schedule?
- When does promotion for each piece of content begin?
- What kind of data points are we looking for?
- When is the deadline for submission to editor?
- How will content creators and outreach specialists coordinate?
This last one is especially important. The best outreach starts before the content ever gets published. If the outreach specialist and content creator aren’t on the same page, the campaign won’t reach its potential.
The content strategist will typically wear the hat of coordinator as well. Not only will you have to outline the content, research, and outreach strategies, but you’ll have to ensure that the work flows in an easy, predictable manner.
You will probably need a suite of tools to help coordinate the workflow. Buffer has a nice list of tools to give you a head start.
Let them run free
While creating workflow processes and staying up-to-date on progress is important for a content strategist, it is not an invitation to micromanage. In fact, micromanaging a content team can be counterproductive — as is the cast with almost all creative endeavors.
The point of choosing the right people and setting up a workflow is to give your team as much freedom as possible. Without the shackles of a micromanager, they can take creative jumps and produce great content.
We can again turn to the football analogy. Running backs receive direction from their coaches, but when the quarterback calls hike the running back is free to act in a way that instinct and training guide him. There is no coach speaking directly to him.
As you gear up for a content marketing campaign, remember everything that goes into its success. Do you still think you can do it yourself? Only the deluded would say yes. So before you put even one word down on paper, start working on assembling a team that will plan and execute.
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