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Jessica Kandler

An Agency's Guide to Building a Badass Content Marketing Team

Jessica Kandler
An Agency's Guide to Building a Badass Content Marketing Team

For agencies that want to up their content marketing game in order to drive business, it's logical to start by building up an awesome internal team.

Content marketing is quickly becoming a smart choice for agencies for multiple reasons: it’s cheaper than traditional advertising, it’s an excellent way to establish credibility and it’s a huge driver of organic traffic and leads. But for smaller agencies and startups without a ton of resources, it’s more difficult to implement without a team of talented people.

In this post we’ll take a look at what makes a winning team, who you should hire and when, and how to recruit talented folks.

What Makes a Winning Team?

There are really three elements that make a great content marketing team stand apart from an okay team.

Strategy

Content marketing is somewhat of an art – while there are a ton of best practices available to inform what can work or what doesn’t work, it’s ultimately up to your team to strategize, implement and adapt different tactics to find the most successful outcomes. You need strategic people who are a combination of outside-the-box thinkers and analytic-minded, and who constantly develop new ideas.  

Creativity

While strategy should be a main driver of your agency’s content marketing, creativity is what will ultimately make your team excel. Excellent brainstorming skills, a fresh outlook, and a good visual sense are key creative aspects that your team simply can’t be without.

The right mix of skills

Beyond strategy and creativity, a well-rounded content marketing team also possesses broader marketing skills, including some knowledge of SEO, email marketing, online PR, social media and web design and/or UX. Your team doesn’t have to be experts in all of these fields, but the ability to learn the basics and how each tactic impacts content marketing is vital. 

Content Marketing Roles

As a growing field, content marketing roles evolve and new roles continue to crop up. However, there are five fundamental roles that make up a rockstar team – titles can vary, as can responsibilities, but the core aspects of these roles create the foundation for content marketing success.

Chief Content Officer

Chief content officers field high-level strategy, developing the big picture for your agency’s clients, as well as your internal department. They’re also team leaders, responsible for managing and motivating multiple individuals and developing KPIs.

These individuals live and breathe brand storytelling, but also have enormous people skills that make them natural and well-liked leaders.

Managing Editor

While visual content is leading content marketing, written content will always be a core component of its success. Having a strong managing editor on your team means your agency will produce the best blogs, articles, infographics, etc. for your clients. Responsible for ensuring high quality and consistency across written products, managing editors also make sure content is on point with clients’ goals and brand messaging, and that a deadline is never, ever missed.

Content Strategist

Content Strategists are mid-level team members that utilize their experience in a number of disciplines – social media, online PR, copywriting, etc. – to develop, implement and promote custom strategies for your clients. Often both a strategist and account manager, they require solid critical thinking skills, excellent people skills and efficient project management skills. In addition to being creatively-minded, they should know their way around data and analytics reporting, technical SEO, and content promotion tactics.

Content Producers

Content producer is really a bucket term for those individuals who actually create final products for clients. This includes:

    • copywriters
    • videographers
    • graphic designers

Content producers are obviously a critical piece of the puzzle, and often start off as freelancers or contractors before coming on board full time at an agency. Great content producers should not only be experts in their craft, but also great team players who can collaborate easily with CCOs, strategists and other producers to ensure an excellent final product for clients.

Social Media Strategist

Social media strategists take over once content has been planned out and executed – they’re key to amplifying the final content to get it in front of your clients’ core audiences. They’re skilled in short-form storytelling that captures the attention of potential customers across a number of different platforms, and they know what tactics are best for Twitter vs. LinkedIn vs. Tumblr. It’s absolutely necessary that Social media strategists are skilled at promoting content while also listening to and interacting with communities to build authentic brand relationships, and that they stay on top of trends and emerging social media platforms.

Who Should Your Agency Hire First?

This is not always a cut and dry question, and it can vary greatly depending on the needs of your agency and your clients. But here are a few formulas to consider when putting together your first content marketing team.

Content Strategist + Graphic Designer

At the most basic level, your agency should hire a content strategist and a graphic designer. Often times content strategists possess good copywriting skills and can produce copy that your designer can then visualize. What’s more, your content strategist can manage client interactions, work with the designer to creatively brainstorm and develop content ideas and hire and manage freelance talent to make up for any gaps in content development.  

Content Strategist + Graphic Designer + Social Media Strategist

Once you’ve obtained the foundations of who will cover written and visual content, hire a social media strategist to ensure your content is being seen. Clients often have internal “strategists” – i.e. the young office manager or coordinator-level employee posting at interval times to various networks. Your clients will benefit from more sophisticated social strategies to accompany your custom content.

Content Strategist + Graphic Designer + Copywriter

Instead of a social media strategist, consider a copywriter as your third hire, leaving your content strategist more time to manage overall campaigns and create strong relationships with your clients. An obvious promotion path to chief content officer as your content production team grows makes sense, and would attract and retain the most talented and invested strategists.

Chief Content Officer + 2+ Content Strategist + Graphic Designer + Copywriter

Bring a chief content officer on board when you’ve hired two or more content strategists and multiple content producers. Once teams begin to grow to multiple individuals, creating consistency across the team by bringing on a big-picture person is vital, and will ultimately better keep client campaigns on track.

Managing Editor + Content Strategist + 2+ Graphic Designers + 2+ Copywriters

When you’re producing client content at a high rate and have multiple producers, especially copywriters, bring on a managing editor to ensure quality is maintained and deadlines are met. Managing editors also often possess bigger-picture mindsets which allow them to lead the team, brainstorm creative ideas and work with clients if necessary.

The Key to a Small But Mighty Team: Hire Rockstars

If done right, your agency can carefully and methodically scale your team over time. But when you’re starting out, the real key is to get the right people on board. Here are 10 ways to recruit the best in the field.

How to Recruit Top Content Marketing Talent

Cultivate an awesome company culture

Content marketing is at the cutting edge of the marketing landscape today, and talented individuals looking to make a career out of it are looking for the most creative and innovative agencies to work for. A huge factor that employees look for in an agency is company culture, so step back and take a look at what image your agency has and how your employees feel on a day to day basis.

Have a track record

Prospective hires want to know that the campaigns they’ll be working on are meaningful and impactful, and that your agency’s work aligns with their aspirations. Highlight your agency’s most successful strategies and best content to inspire prospective hires.

Be innovative

Agencies that are creating the most innovative content for their clients are likely to attract better content marketers. It’s more appealing to a potential hire to work on exciting content campaigns that push the envelope for clients.

Maintain a positive social reputation

Being active on social media is a must for any agency, and cultivating a positive image and community is key. Many potential hires will peruse your agency’s social profiles in order to gauge what kind of culture, work, and clients define your brand. 

Show off your people

Prospective hires want to be invested in and feel like they are making a difference in their role. An agency that highlights its people is proud of their team, and promotes individuality. This will attract motivated people looking to work hard and get results.

Have a defined promotion path

Top talent knows their worth and are motivated to continually develop their skills – if they see your agency as a dead-end, you’ll miss out on the best people for your content marketing team.

Show results

Case studies not only attract clients, but also future employees. Creating a few robust case studies that highlight your best work and the results you helped your client achieve is likely to impress potential content marketing hires. Focus your case studies on results – how you grew traffic or raised brand awareness, or how you made a major advancement in the content marketing field.

Focus on skills

When your agency develops job descriptions, focus more on what key skills you’re looking for in your content team as opposed to previous titles. Content marketing is relatively new, and while structured university programs are emerging, most often the best content strategist has a diverse background that allows them to bring multiple skills to the table. No two content marketers are alike.

Ask behavioral questions

Once you’ve identified candidates, interview aggressively. But focus more on behavioral questions rather than digging into previous experience. Asking open ended questions will give you a better sense of how a potential content marketer hire thinks creatively. Consider behavioral questions like:

  • Tell me about a time when…
  • How do you evaluate…
  • What do you look for when you…

Ask for a portfolio or assign a brief content project

Seeing previous work will allow you to immediately weed out any less qualified applicants. If a candidate doesn’t have a formal portfolio or you’d like to test their creativity, ask them to develop a quick piece of content for you, such as a mini infographic or pitch a blog idea, outline or design (depending on what you’re hiring for specifically). Give them enough details to complete the task, but allow freedom to be creative so you can test how they approach the project.

How did your agency build your content marketing team? What were the most effective recruiting methods? Tell us in the comments!

Jessica is a content marketer at MySiteAuditor, a white-label SEO audit tool that helps digital marketing agencies generate leads and sales. Get her new content updates on Twitter at @mysiteauditor.

Comments

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Rob Wilson
Wow, this is a great blueprint, Jess, that you obviously put a lot of time and thought into. There are several items here that I did not really consider when assembling my own team. Bookmarking this one for future reference.
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