The content marketing thing has caught on in your organization? Nice. Maybe some budget money has floated your way and you’ve decided to build out a small content creation arm within your department, or maybe a content kingdom, or an empire. Or perhaps you have visions of turning into a brand publisher. Today’s large corporations are becoming media organizations and news bureaus in their own right, simultaneously providing knowledge, offering transparency, and building their brand. And the biggest ones are luring top journalistic talent from national media to enhance staff, and implementing the techniques of those traditional media outlets, according to a recent article in Harvard Business Review.
You might not have the budget to lure talent from USAToday like Qualcomm did for its Qualcomm Spark, but how you decide to staff your new content fiefdom will be critical. Missteps here can cost you time, money and most disastrously, credibility. So, if you’re going to build a team of content creators, what types of people should you really hire and what kinds of qualifications do you look for? As you can imagine, it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of an answer. It depends on budget, the size of your organization, and what you’re trying to accomplish. But I think there are some things that will be common for everyone. Here are my suggestions for those trying to build a content team:
Strategy leader—This might be a chief content officer (maybe it’s you), or maybe it’s a marketing VP, but it should be one person and one person only. Otherwise things get confused and confusion is bad. If you have no strategy in place, devise one before you hire a team. Stop right now, create a content marketing plan, get your strategy ducks in a row, and then come back and read this post.
Content operations manager or managing editor—This person acts like an operations manager to put the strategy into action. I have written before about a content marketing manager, which is another option. But there is a difference. Where a content marketing manager might be slightly more strategic and marketing focused, a “content operations manager” or “managing editor,” the latter title coming straight from the newsroom, is more focused on writing and editing. This person executes the content on behalf of the CCO, plain and simple. Not tactically — he or she doesn’t write everything — but they are in charge of making sure it all gets done, on time, and is of the highest quality.
People with a journalistic background, especially those who have editorial experience, are good choices for your team here. They have a knack for knowing a good story (or revising a mediocre one into a something better), respect deadlines and scheduling, and can manage other writers.
What do you do if someone lacks marketing experience? Considering teaching them. Choose someone with a knack for marketing and who has, or is willing to cross the journalistic line in the sand to the marketing side, but don’t shun those writers or editors who haven’t had any marketing experience. There are plenty of diamonds in the rough out there.
Senior writers—These are the doers. And this is also the point where things really start to depend on your budget — and how much content you plan to create. If you can’t immediately fund a full empire, augment your team with freelance writers. Managed well, you can get great content from a team of quality freelancers. But, if you have the budget, an internal writer (or several) can be a tremendous asset to have on staff — someone to call on whenever you need copy written on the spot, and a content creator who becomes intimately knowledgeable about your organization.
Remember when hiring that writers come with a wide variety of training. Your industry may dictate the level of experience necessary — B2B and highly specialized or technical fields may require more experienced writers. Like the managing editor, a journalism background will be almost required here, but some marketing, custom publishing, or trade publication experience will also be helpful. Make sure to require writing samples during the application process, and don’t be afraid to ask for an editing or proofreading test during the interview. There are plenty available online.
Junior writers—You become a remarkable writer by doing a lot of writing. If I could, I would hire several junior writers, but only if they are able to work under a seasoned senior writer. If you have the bandwidth to do this, go for it. Junior writers have lots of great uses: short form copy, social media copy and engagement, proofreading (which is SUPER important and often overlooked). And if you groom them, they will eventually become the most knowledgeable and seasoned wordsmiths in your organization.
Keep in mind that hiring internal writing staff should not mean that you no longer solicit content from other departments where you have willing contributors. Your managing editor can help to polish this copy so that the finished product is remarkable, and your contributors and supporters stay engaged and enthusiastic about the entire content marketing effort.
If you’re ready to staff a kingdom of content creators, be careful who you choose and what they can do for you. The content that comes out of your organization says a lot about you. It needs to be remarkable to stand out in today’s clutter, and its quality will have a long-lasting effect on your brand. For help with content creation, visit our resources page and download checklists on proofreading, grammar rules, or generating new content ideas.