Following the prediction in January that 2014 will be the year big corporates start recruiting for a Chief Content Officer or Content Marketing Manager, we at Southerly were keen to see a recently published US-based analysis looking at what sort of person this might be, and the specific attributes a brand would look for in a potential new recruit.
The study analysed a random sample of 300 job listings advertising for content managers. The findings are telling about the state of corporate content marketing as we approach this year’s halfway mark.
It should come as no surprise that 68% of the ads looked at specifically asked for strong writing and editing skills, while a marketing degree was required by nearly half of the sample. Interestingly, however, about a third were specifically interested in journalism degrees, with English following on its heels.
That said, 39% of listings actually did not specify a degree preference. Of greater importance is experience, with almost half of the job adverts analysed requiring between three and five years’ experience, preferably in a digital marketing or professional editorial position.
To gain more insight into the research’s findings, Southerly called on Jay Ivey, managing editor at US-based Software Advice and the B2B Marketing Mentor blog – which conducted and reported the study – to gain his views on the research.
People management skills
Jay says it’s particularly striking that only 31% of content marketing manager listings mentioned any sort of preference for people management experience, suggesting that many companies have content marketing managers focused on simply producing content. Maybe some of them are managing higher-level aspects of content strategy. But in many cases, they’re not managing teams of writers and designers as you might expect.
It might be a sign of title inflation, or industry growing pains, but Jay says this is a problem. Even if the content marketing team is relatively small, you’re eventually going to need people with real people management and project management skills to maintain a stream of quality content.
Marketing know-how is a must
Commenting on the academic requirements of the job listings under scrutiny, Jay is far from surprised by the low emphasis on science and technology writing experience. Most listings are looking for experience in SEO or managing a brand’s social media presence, which indicates that employers want writers with a certain level of marketing know-how, even if they’re OK with candidates who have no direct marketing experience.
It’s likely that most (but not all) employers would tend to prefer PR degrees over a science degree for those same reasons, but also simply because PR degrees were requested much more frequently. However, the big picture suggests that employers are still very open-minded when it comes to hiring content marketing managers. Jay reckons a candidate with a science degree and a background in technical writing could still have just as many opportunities if they were able to demonstrate a certain level of versatility, audience awareness and marketing savvy.
Research experience not required
But hiring writers who are not proven researchers is eventually going to leave a gaping knowledge hole – or a lack of originality – according to Jay.
The low emphasis on research experience is short-sighted, says Jay. It’s not that a lack of research will necessarily lead to a complete lack of original content – although content glut and topic recycling are very real problems – it’s simply that original research is proven to be one of the most effective types of content. When done well, it’s as close to a sure thing as you can get in content marketing. It provides actual value. People love it, so why not invest in people who can do it right?
The research suggests that employers are still actively seeking candidates with proven SEO skills, but doesn’t shed much light on the manner of SEO knowledge they’re looking for. Jay adds that based on the listings he reviewed, he believes most employers are aware that SEO is always in flux and they want candidates who stay up-to-date with the most current trends and best-practices.
Since technical SEO isn’t so much a part of that any more, as with Google Panda 4.0, he speculates that going way out of your way to accumulate technical SEO knowledge might not be worth it; but an awareness of the overarching history of SEO never hurts because it helps you predict where things might be headed.
Also, it depends a lot on the size of the employer. For a small content marketing team, a content marketing manager is obviously going to need to know the very basics at least. But in a larger department with dedicated SEO resources, content marketing managers may never even need to touch that stuff.
Content marketing agencies
The research shows a diminished need for content marketing agency experience – required by just 10% of the sample – which Jay feels reflects the relative nascence of the industry. With so many businesses jumping into the game, the demand for content marketers still vastly exceeds the number of people out there with direct content marketing experience. It is also true that many companies are still wary about the ROI – despite everything pointing towards ROI actually being easier to establish in content marketing – and it’s logical they would keep costs down in any way possible. Candidates with agency experience would likely be more expensive than a starved, talented journalist, for example, but this could be another case of short-sightedness on the recruiter’s part.
The future of content creation lies in individuals able to creatively combine the powers of marketing nous with exceptional skill in creating and editing the written word, and an appreciation of unique graphic design. It’s a tall order that needs creative innovators – people who consistently prove the value of content marketing through first-hand experiences because ultimately, the process is still a bit trial and error.
This proven track record of solid content marketing is only going to become more of a need as the market matures. Candidates with non-traditional business backgrounds like journalism or English will find it increasingly difficult to break into the field, pitted against content marketing agency professionals and content managers who have spent years trying and testing different creative approaches, keeping up with the latest practises, and finding the strategies that really work.