About a month back we talked about putting together an SEO team over at Authority Labs. We picked up some positive feedback, and we thought we’d expand this approach into the arena of content marketing specifically. Now, without a doubt, there’s some serious overlap between the two disciplines. So, to keep this from being a carbon copy of the last post, we’re going to assume more resources for this post. If you’re looking for something more bare-bones, take a look at the previous post.
So, let’s get started. Who should be on your team?
The content strategist is thinking big picture. They are the one who decides where resources should be shifted, which parts of the content development process could use more or less attention, whether to place more emphasis on the content itself or its promotion, and so on. A content strategist should have the mind of a CEO: they should be a content generalist with strong management skills and good business sense.
A content strategist should understand how to delegate. The last thing any content marketing team needs is somebody to micromanage all the minutia of the process. A content marketing team that needs every idea to be approved by the content strategist is a content marketing team that won’t get anything done.
The strategist needs access to data on the performance of various strategies, and should check in on each team periodically (but not constantly). Strategists should be data-driven, but should understand the benefits of techniques and skills that can’t be easily measured.
Strategists should borrow from modern, free-form management techniques like Agile, Scrum, Kanban, and Lean. These management techniques are best suited to the innovative nature of content marketing, as opposed to more traditional methods best suited to assembly line work.
The Niche Expert
If there’s one piece of the puzzle that’s missing too often, this is it. Content marketing professionals are experts in social media, writing, and relationship building, but rarely are they also experts in the subject at hand. When you’re working with clients, you need somebody on your team who knows everything there is to know about the topic and its target audience.
The purpose of the niche expert can shift depending on your approach. The niche expert may just be there to review your content and ensure its accuracy. They may be a source of ideas, and they may also be a content creator themselves. Their level of involvement is going to depend on whether they work for you or the client, their other duties, and their content skills.
The niche expert can be one of your client’s employees, but they don’t necessarily have to be. Certainly, your client should be a part of the process, but asking for them to be the niche expert for your team could be too demanding.
One of the most neglected strategies here is the hiring of outside talent. Why not hire a blogger who is already operating in the niche? Blogging for blogging’s sake is rarely an exceptionally profitable venture, and you can hire a relatively “famous” blogger in your niche without spending a huge amount of money. If that’s outside your budget, consider hiring “famous” bloggers for one-off posts. It’s worth the attention you get in return.
Remember, content marketing is about establishing the brand as an authority. If you don’t have a niche expert, the odds of this happening aren’t too great.
Your research team does two things: research the topic and research the marketplace.
The amount and type of research necessary is going to depend on your niche expert’s involvement. Clearly, the more involved your niche expert, the less time your research team will need to spend on the topic. (In fact, if the niche expert has the time, they should probably be a part of the research team.)
In a broader sense, the purpose of the research team is to identify gaps in the marketplace, brainstorm ideas to fill those gaps, and collect the information that will help content producers fill that gap most effectively.
This is clearly a complex job, and it should rarely be the job of a single person.
Why put topic research and market research together in the same team? When it comes to content production, the two tasks are so closely related that they shouldn’t be kept separate. Topic research can spur content ideas that can be checked against market research. Market research leads to ideas that topic researchers can identify as feasible or not. It’s difficult to identify holes in the marketplace without knowing a great deal about the subject, and its hard to research the topic effectively without understanding the target audience.
The end product of the research team is a content idea complete with a list of supplemental materials for the content producers to look at. Researchers should focus too much on the structure of the final product, but they should have a decent enough understanding of it to provide the developers with only the research materials and standout facts that they need.
The content producers are the writers, graphic designers, photographers, filmographers, podcasters, and more, that actually take the ideas and transform them into reality. It’s inevitable that content producers will need to do some research of their own while working on the project, but most of the research should be provided to them beforehand for maximal efficiency.
Content producers should have a proven track record of high quality content. Ideally, they should have accumulated an online audience of their own even before hiring. Content developers need not have any formal training to meet the needs of the job, but it can help. Journalism students are often the best candidates because they have been trained in fact checking and storytelling.
Don’t bother hiring “marketers.” Content developers need not have any experience with formal marketing, they just need to be skilled at attracting attention online. The market research and data analysis are being done by other experts. I’d go as far as saying that marketing experience can be counterproductive for the actual content developers. Designers, artists, and writers should be focusing on their craft, not on selling.
Again, priority number one is finding somebody who has already attracted attention online with their craft. “Experience” comes second.
There is a reason that you surround these people by marketing experts.
While content ideas are in large part the responsibility of the research team, content creators shouldn’t be kept out of this process. Creatives tend to work best when they are working on subjects that they chose for themselves, so they should have influence on the research process, and their ideas should be considered fairly by the research team.
The editorial team can be thought of as quality control for content marketers.
Editors don’t just fact check or evaluate style, they also pick and choose topics and have some influence on the direction of strategy. Quality should always come before quantity, and its the editor’s job to choose what deserves to stay and what ought to be tossed out.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that more is always better. Just because work went into researching an idea or turning it into content, this doesn’t mean it needs to be published. This may feel like wasted resources, but defunct ideas are a part of the creative process. Trying to execute on every idea that sounds okay only results in a dilution of quality.
Many psychological studies have verified that our impressions are based on averages. Show us a single high quality article and we’ll assume the associated brand is high quality. Show us that same high quality article as well as a few low quality ones, and we’ll assume the associated brand is lower in quality.
Editors themselves can also be a source of great ideas, so don’t keep them out of the creative process either.
It doesn’t always make sense to have a separate editorial team. Sometimes it makes more sense to incorporate editorial with content production. Most great editors are also great content creators.
It’s more important to have an editorial process in place than it is to have an actual editorial team. Content should be reviewed by somebody other than it’s original creator before it gets published. This helps creatives improve their skills and improves the quality of the end product.
Outreach Specialists and Promoters
Great content isn’t just well researched and built by artists who know their craft: it’s also built on a foundation of solid relationships Some of the best pieces of content are the result of collaboration. Furthermore, influential relationships are a key part of your promotional strategy. Great content that doesn’t get seen never has an opportunity to expand your reach.
Like content creators, formal training isn’t necessarily a big part of what makes an outreach specialist successful. A good outreach specialist simply loves talking to people online. They probably have a large number of friends on Facebook, and they are likely quite active on internet forums and other online communication hubs.
Some experience with cold calling, customer service, and sales can also be helpful, but only to a point. Outreach doesn’t have to be about the skill of convincing somebody to take an action right away. Outreach experts can be expected to give and give before they receive, and this is okay, because influential relationships are far more beneficial than the content equivalent of a “one night stand.”
Outreach specialists can be a great source of content ideas, since they spend most of their time interacting with influencers. Over time, they develop an intuitive sense for what influencers respond most positively to, and they develop a feel for what content they can “sell” to their contacts.
Outreach experts play an important part in:
- Social media growth and activity
- Guest posting
- Email marketing and relationship building
- Search engine optimization
- Q&A site activity
Rather than dividing outreach professionals up by their medium, they should be divided up by their tasks or goals. The last thing we want is for an outreach professional to pass a contact off to another representative just because of a change in medium. Here are a few tasks or goals that outreach professionals might specialize in:
- Building solid relationships with influencers
- Casual conversations with everyday consumers
- Answering questions on Q&A sites and forums
- Sharing bite size pieces of content (not necessarily from your own brand) on social networks
- Orchestrating social media events like contests, polls, etc.
- Responding to comments
- Seeking guest posting opportunities
- Asking for links or social shares
As you can see, the skill sets for each of these tasks can be quite different, even though there is certainly some overlap here. You’ll need to consider exactly what your goal is with every new outreach expert that you hire, and look for the most fitting skill set.
For example, somebody with a large following on Twitter is probably best suited for sharing bite size pieces of information, while somebody with a large number of Facebook friends is probably better for casual conversations, and somebody who spends a lot of time on forums is probably best at answering questions.
While we’ve gone into detail about all the different kinds of professionals you’ll want to work with as you build a content marketing team, it’s important to recognize that content marketing is a very fluid process. Job titles should flow into each other, and rarely should any professional be limited to something very specific. Virtually all of the professionals here can bring something helpful to the table as far as idea generation. The more interaction, the better.