About two decades ago, in a galaxy far far away, I had the opportunity to help start a newspaper in a newly incorporated city. (Yeah, the actual paper kind, remember those?) It was fascinating to grow the paper, add writers and photographers, get to know the advertisers, and chronicle the birth and infancy stages of a brand new city. I’ve always adored small businesses. It was amazing to start one while also helping to promote other small businesses, especially local ones. I learned a lot about growing a business, promoting a business, and running an organization. I didn’t learn diddly about content marketing or digital marketing, because it didn’t really exist yet.
Fast forward to today. I’m applying many of the same small business and management skills in a wholly different environment. Running a content department in digital marketing requires the same dedication. From fastidious grammar skills, to a love for nurturing and managing writers, and a passion for telling great stories. But a whole slew of new knowledge is essential. SEO, writing for an online audience, and tippy-toeing through a quagmire of do’s and don’ts is challenging, in the best possible way. Here are a few things I’ve learned that are worth sharing with anyone in content marketing.
Time Management is really about prioritizing in content management
Time Management is a misnomer. You don’t manage time. It comes, it goes, it’s gone. The trick is prioritizing. Digital marketing is insanely fast-paced. With a boatload of clients, each with unique content needs, there’s always too much to do. Determine what is most time-critical and do that first. But keep a running list of those backburner items! When there is a free moment, you can grab it and run without having to waste time wondering what’s next.
For example, the critical stuff includes regular social media posting, timely blogs on current specials or seasonal events, and updating the website with the correct product information. If those things go undone, your online presence quickly takes on the appearance of that furniture store on the corner that’s been out of business since 2003. Things like e-guides and digital brochures are nice to have. But, they shouldn’t consume so much of your time now that your timely items go undone.
No training or employee development makes up for great people
We’re proud of the training we provide our content writers. Along with an abundance of industry knowledge, we train our content marketing team on cutting-edge SEO strategy, social media strategy, and online writing techniques. But we’ve learned, often the hard way, that no amount of training, coaching, encouragement, or management makes up for bringing on the right folks to begin with.
My leadership coach likes to say, “Hire slow. Fire fast.” This is hard. When we have 20% more content to write and edit than we have writers and editors to handle it, the knee-jerk reaction is “HIRE NOW, worry about the rest later.” But if you suck up the excess work for a bit and take the time to hire the best possible people, that backlog gets knocked out quick. It’s done right, it’s done with a good attitude. And our content marketing becomes the crown jewel of our clients’ websites and social media pages. Then, the firing part happens a whole lot less.
In the time I’ve been content manager here, our client base has doubled and our department has grown from me and half a dozen writers to a team of nearly 20 writers, editors, and content managers. If I didn’t have great people, our content wouldn’t be worth publishing. Great hires mean great results, period.
You can’t teach some aspects of content marketing
I can teach writers the differences between vinyl liner and fiberglass pools. Or why we can’t call just any hot tub a Jacuzzi. What I can’t teach them are good writing, great work ethics, and understanding how to write in brand voice. You have to hire for those skills, because while they are learnable, they aren’t teachable.
The most successful content marketing writers are not always the best writers. I’ve hired complete newbies to digital marketing who came in and blew us away with how hard they worked to learn, improve, and produce good content. I’ve also fired highly talented, qualified writers who refused to be coached or to meet deadlines or to treat our editors with respect. Give me a mediocre writer willing to learn and get better any day over a prima donna who can’t be told anything.
Content marketing is the best job on earth
Lastly, while the days are long, the work is tough, the conditions change moment by moment, and clients are super demanding … content marketing is the best job on earth. Why? Well, if you love to write and enjoy being a part of helping small businesses grow and prosper, and you really like working at home in your jammies and occasionally doing so on the front porch or at the beach – content marketing is where it’s at.
What do you love (or not) about content for digital marketing?