Everyone knows that newspapers have fired or forced out journalists left and right since the shrinking of newspaper revenues began some years back.  It’s not for the lack of content; the news is still being reported, in blogs, online news organizations, the traditional news media, etc.  Advertising revenues vanished as consumers are sick of the bombardment.  Content marketing has taken over.

The entrusted journalist may no longer be working her/his byline in print, but on the net in one way or another.  They continue to make themselves and their views apparent in the digital space. Online publishing seems to be the current thinking, but I disagree.

There is an ongoing debate as to whether the term “think like a publisher” makes sense in these content marketing times.  What would seem like a natural fit is not so fitting after all in some, if not most cases.  Herein lie’s the rub:

Online journalism is not the same as content marketing.  Online journalism does not normally focus on SEO, effective linking, long tail keywords and strategic placement.  These are talents and/or skills not all journalists possess.  That is not to say every content marketer is an expert, but a quality content marketing strategist knows what is involved to make his client successful.

Journalists in the traditional sense (the old model) are accustomed to working with an editorial staff to ensure that the piece is tailored specifically to the targeted audience.  Content marketers do not necessarily posses an editorial resource, so they must be proficient in that as well.

Editors from newspapers and magazines versus content writers may have much more experience producing content, but they too only have half of the ingredients.

Content marketing strategists who are also creative writers make the traditional journalist cold and austere, mainly because it is not about reporting, it is about building relationships.  “Getting found online” is all about telling a compelling story that engages someone to ask for more.

Online content producers are aiming “to be known” as a trusted source of information, which is the “old standard” for the traditionalist, but these days are different.

The perfect blend of all three makes for the right candidate, however, those are an extremely rare commodity.   As time goes by and the evolution of online content publishing continues, the blend will eventually create the hybrid content strategist/journalist/multi-media content producer/copywriter/publisher.  Until that day comes, inbound marketing agencies and clients with whom they serve had better source their purchased content with a critical eye.  The tech-savvy inbound marketing agencies that have these talents at-the-ready will win the business.

In my opinion, (we all have at least one), a quality content strategist must contain the following:

1.    True Social Media Expertise.  In an ideal world, the near-perfect candidate will have solid social media experience, to the point of becoming an expert.  Social media is one of the linchpins of the inbound marketing scheme, but the use of it is a whole lot more than Likes and Fans and Connections.  Social media is about the distribution of content through multiple channels, and through those channels, the engagement and relationship development processes begin.

2.    Online Publishing Credentials.  The candidate, whether for in-house writing staff or contract hire, should have experience and an online portfolio for easy viewing.  As any professional creative, a portfolio or at least a series of blog entries that highlight examples of articles, eBooks, White Papers or whatever combination you are sourcing.  The portfolio should reflect the level of editorial experience, specifically style, graphic balance, language and prose.  This person should also have multi-media experience, or a corral of quality sources that assist when necessary.  You can learn quite a bit by studying the portfolio of recent and past works.  There should be a gradient improvement noticeable over the time span of works.

3.    Compelling Content is Still King.  With that being said, in order to qualify for the declaration, content should contain several unique attributes.

  • Foremost, the writing should drive the reader to want more.  Social media has trained everyone to condense messages to the maximum Twitter will allow, which is not content at all.  Engaging, compelling content must captivate the reader with great insights, relevant survey or metric data, or a story with a personality.  The content spinners cannot supply that.  Traditional journalists may not be capable either.
  • Secondly, content must possess the ability to target desired audiences, rather than fill space on a blog page or website.  Canned jargon or spun articles cannot provide content that meets that requirement.
  • Additionally, search engine optimization must meet the ever-changing algorithms Google, Yahoo and the other major search engines fiddle with.  This does not come easy, and is a whole lot more complex than keywords and long tail keywords placement.  Most recently, Google’s Panda version is ranking content on its worthiness, not merely the right words on a page. Quality is finally becoming important from an analytics perspective, whereas page rankings are taking a back seat.
  • Your content, once targeted to a particular audience, must take on the persona of said audience, be interesting and worthy of the readers precious time.  Remember, competition is fierce, content consumers have a global reach.  
  • Regardless of the size of company or marketing agency, capitalize on the creativity of every member of the team, not just the marketers.  There might be a budding storyteller in the crowd.

Hiring a contractor or media agency to supply content may be a strategy worth considering if your existing company does not have the financial commitment to bring a writing staff on-board.  Be wary of the “Lowest Prices on the Internet” type of word factories.  You will get bargain basement quality for bargain basement pricing.

Good and Happy Marketing!

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    David J Dunworth
    Inbound Marketing expert providing marketing strategy, content, analytics and integrated content marketing software solutions.

    9 Responses to “What to Look for When Hiring a Content Marketing Pro”

    1. Rene says:

      Call me a skeptic but I am not sure that there is such thing as a social media expert for every situation or business area – people who call themselves social media experts are simply people who understand social media accounts and how to use the platforms and learning how to use the platforms (especially since they are built to encourage use!) is a lot easier than learning you business and you need a detailed understanding of the business to be an apt social user.

      I guess I am saying its easier to train someone with publishing credentials social media than the other way round!
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    2. Kimberley says:

      I agree with you that the perfect candidate for a content marketing professional is someone with ample knowledge and experience in journalistic and creative writing as well as content writing.
      Kimberley recently posted…green smoke e cigarettesMy Profile

    3. Chucky says:

      It was a great blog. I am not sure that there is such thing as a social media expert for every situation or business area – people who call themselves social media experts are simply people who understand social media accounts and how to use the platforms and learning how to use the platforms (especially since they are built to encourage use!) is a lot easier than learning you business and you need a detailed understanding of the business to be an apt social user. Thanks for sharing.
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    4. Absolutely full of information! This site is what I am looking for. your information.
      Dawn R. Johnson recently posted…venapro reviewMy Profile

    5. Norman says:

      A very good post. You have made a very good point on what to look for a content marketing pro. However, the presence of one should not hinder us from learning the ropes.
      Norman recently posted…online jamplay reviewsMy Profile

    6. Brown says:

      here is something I was thinking about, a business area develops, take a traditional one like marketing and then it is divided over time, now marketing departments are made up of “online” “offline” “outbound” “data” etc.

      At the moment social media is in the early stages of becoming a business area but do you think in a few years we will have social broken up even further and how could that divide go?
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    7. Paul says:

      I have to admit that the “outbound” portion of the social media channel is like the crown jewels of marketing, at least these days.
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    8. carol says:

      The most important is the applicant must full of knowledge and has a work experience.They must have an interesting interview so that you can find what you want in your business.
      carol recently posted…anxiety tipsMy Profile

    9. Danyelle Franciosa says:

      A very well written post. There are many things to consider first before hiring a content marketing pro and I agree with you that one should have an expertise when it comes to journalism and good experience in writing from his or her previous employer.
      Danyelle Franciosa recently posted…visit bifold doors blogMy Profile

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