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Content Marketers Desperately Need More Journalists

Quick, what is the single greatest skill-set missing from today’s content marketers? Coding skills? SEM skills? The ability to convince the CEO to give you more money? According to Curata’s 2016 Content Marketing Staffing and Tactics Barometer, 41.2 percent of the 1,000+ marketing respondents say it’s the ability to create content.

Content creation far outweighs other in-demand skillsets. This includes having a content marketing lead (21.1 percent), promotion abilities (8.8 percent), being data-orientated (also 8.8 percent), subject matter experts (7.9 percent), having digital marketing expertise (7.0 percent), or technology expertise (5.3 percent).

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Seventy five percent of surveyed companies are increasing content marketing investment this year. And 43 percent of them are increasing content marketing staff levels. So there is clearly strong demand for better, more productive content creators. Journalists are the obvious choice to meet this talent gap. This post explains why—and how to identify the key attributes to look for when hiring a superstar journalist.

Content Marketing Works—But Opportunity Knocks for Improvement

Content marketing is working so effectively that the need for journalists is escalating. Seventy four percent of content marketers surveyed are increasing lead quality and quantity thanks to content marketing. However, as far as we’ve come in replicating a publishing model to drive leads and revenue, there is still plenty of opportunity left on the table.

For instance, Curata’s 2016 Barometer shows:

  • Only 21 percent of marketers have a specific process in place to ensure optimal content reuse and repurposing.
  • Less than half create content for a specific stage in the buying cycle, or by vertical, geography, or by account/customer.
  • Thirty seven percent of marketers never complete a content audit.
  • Less than half of marketers surveyed are aligned across their companies.
  • Forty eight percent of companies aren’t curating content.
  • Thirty five percent don’t outsource any content.
  • Only 40 percent of those surveyed have either moderately or fully integrated their marketing and sales force automation systems.
  • Only 38 percent judge themselves effective at measuring content’s impact across any part of the sales pipeline (top, middle, or bottom of funnel).

Content marketing has thus far had the greatest impact on the top of the funnel. But leading content marketers are seeing significant impact on the middle and bottom of the funnel as well.

(For more on content marketing metrics, refer to The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics & Metrics.)

Skill-Sets Needed to Build Your Content Marketing Dream Team

There are six top content marketing challenges companies say they face in Curata’s 2016 Barometer. The top three relate to productivity and creativity when creating or curating content:

  1. Limited budget (including staff)
  2. Creating enough content on a regular basis
  3. Finding the best sources to curate amazing content
  4. Measuring the impact of content
  5. Organizational culture
  6. Promoting content

Fortunately, the 75 percent of companies increasing their investment in content marketing and 43 percent increasing staffing levels will provide additional horsepower to address these challenges. The staff additions will be a welcome change for the two thirds of content marketers with only three people or fewer in their team.

As mentioned, the top skillset missing from today’s content marketing team is “content creation.” More specifically, Curata’s 2016 Barometer shows companies are looking for writing, editing, and copywriting skills. They want “quality copywriters who can post to various content channels.” They want people who can write “creative, engaging content.” And they want people who know how to research, with the ability to create “super in depth content with stats and research.”

ContentCreationPic

The Pain Points Writers Address

Over and over in Curata surveys, content marketers voice the same concerns. They don’t have enough content. Employees from a marketing background tend to produce copy that merely lists features rather than telling a story. They struggle to produce high enough quality content. They have a difficult time tapping internal and external subject matter experts (SMEs) through interviews or other means. Content is poorly and sloppily edited. And producing a consistent stream of content is a never-ending struggle.

This is why there’s been such a strong uptick in job listings looking for writers/editors. Content marketers need people who can:

  • Write high quality original content for owned media such as websites and blogs, earned media as guest posters, and paid media.
  • Interview SMEs across their company for more relevant, higher quality content.
  • Tap into the best content from across the web using curation.
  • Solicit and review contributed content from external sources.
  • Edit content—fast.

Enter The Journalist

A journalist is a writer or editor for a news medium who aims at a mass audience. They collect, write, or distribute news or other current information. Depending on the context, the term journalist may include various types of editors, editorial writers, and columnists.

A good journalist is a skilled researcher and interviewer. They can tell a story in a variety of mediums, have fluent diction, are optimistic skeptics with a strong BS filter, and construct persuasive arguments. These are exactly the skills content marketers are crying out for.

Journalists = great content marketers

The addition of a good journalist can supercharge content marketing efforts. Quality journalists are:

Determined

Good journalists don’t give up. This means they will stick with a story until it works. They will attack it until they’ve got a story that’s interesting and captivating for a company’s given audience. A good journalist is not prepared to hand in substandard, unoriginal work that’s just been copy-and-pasted from the Internet. This matters in content marketing. A lot of “original” content consists of dull lists lacking insight that have been written multiple times before, by many other people.

Curious

Good journalists are excited to learn about the world around them. They have a hunger for news, and a burning desire to tell a good story, regardless of the medium. This makes them pros at hunting out unique stories, and finding a fresh angle on otherwise well-covered stories. This is especially important in hunting down the best content contributors from across an organization—i.e., SMEs.

CMSuperHero_CurataPost

Fearless

Quality journalists don’t get intimidated by a lack of knowledge about a particular subject area. Or by anyone’s status in life. If they don’t know about something, they’ll research it and find people who do know about it to question. They are skilled at interviewing experts and people from all walks of life. They will be just as comfortable interviewing executives in your organization as they will picking the brains of SMEs from product marketing, product management, or engineering.

Empathetic

Great journalists know how to put themselves in the shoes of the people they’re covering and communicate that. Looking at life from other people’s perspectives makes journalists naturals at reading a market, and coming up with strong stories that resonate with that market.

Great Headline Writers

If you write a great story and no one reads it, you’ve failed as a journalist. The single most crucial thing you can do to get people to read a story is to write an attention-grabbing headline. The ability to write a headline compelling enough to make people click on it is just as important to content marketers as it is to journalists. It requires both SEO skills and the ability to engage an audience.

Editing Maestros

A great journalist is equal parts editor and writer. They can take someone else’s writing and rework it to ensure the quality of guest posts on your site. A good editor will help better express what that writer was trying to say. Editing skills are also crucial for reusing and repurposing your own original content for other publications. This is something only 21 percent of content marketers surveyed say they do systematically.

Getting your content onto other websites—i.e. generating earned media—is a key to successful content marketing. When other high quality sites link back to your site it boosts your SEO ranking. Repurposing previously-written content also boosts the ROI of the original piece. (Journalists are dogged at pitching stories.)

Reuse_Repurpose_Content

For instance, at Curata we took a particular segment of Curata CEO Pawan Deshpande’s eBook The Ultimate Guide to Content Curation, thoroughly rewriting and editing the segment until it became 5 Things to Consider for Content Curation, published on the Hootsuite blog. The linkback from this piece helps Curata’s organic search ranking in Google results. It garnered well over 1,200+ social shares within four months of publication, and generated 32 leads for the Curata sales team. (Click here to learn how Curata can help you get these types of metrics for your own content, gated or ungated.)

Multimedia Storytellers

A journalist’s fundamental role is to tell stories. So they have to know how to set an article’s tone, present information in a clear, compelling manner, and develop comprehensive arguments. They have to be able to craft articles that compel readers to think, feel, or do something. And they need to do so using video, text, graphics, audio and photos. These skills are fundamental to content marketers trying to create positive relationships with readers that ultimately results in sales.

Information Synthesizers

Good journalists are information sponges, seeking out and soaking up vast quantities of information. They will distill it down to truly essential details in a few well-crafted sentences. Journalists will often read thousands of words in research and write thousands more in interview notes to produce a story of just a couple of thousand words. This is a crucial skill for writing white papers, eBooks, PowerPoint presentations, or even blogs.

Curators

The salad days of well-resourced newsrooms are long gone. These days news media organizations have to focus their resources on what they do best. They must utilize their editorial judgement in other areas to present the best of what others do well. This means journalists are trained to be excellent curators of web content—one of the most important skills for today’s content marketers. Curata analysis reveals the ideal content marketing mix is 65 percent original, 25 percent curated and 10 percent syndicated content. (Check out this infographic for the biggest benefits of content curation.)

Clear Communicators

What is content marketing if not persuasion? And persuasive writing is inclusive writing. It’s easy for content marketers to use jargon and acronyms that sometimes force even knowledgeable readers to think for a second to translate—and completely excludes unfamiliar readers. Einstein famously said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Great writing is brutally economic with words. It varies sentence length to create rhythm, flow, and dynamism. Journalists are like poets: they’re trained to pack the most information into the least amount of words.

So Let’s Hire a Journalist

Let’s say you’re interested in hiring a journalist. Where do you find one? Job sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, Journalism Jobs, ZipRecruiter, Career Builder, LinkedIn, MediaBistro, and even Craigslist all have sections for journalists. Below is the ad Curata posted for my position. It doesn’t specifically ask for a journalist, but does ask for skills that a journalist possesses:

Content Marketing Manager/Director

About
Are you looking to join an exciting, high growth software company that is a key part of the next evolution of marketing? Curata is at the forefront of the content marketing movement, and is part of an unprecedented growth in marketing technology investment that is projected to continue for many years to come. Hundreds of companies across the world depend on our products to fuel and improve upon their content marketing engines.

Role Description
We are looking for a creative marketer with a passion for content marketing. If you enjoy an entrepreneurial work environment and are enthusiastic about working in an innovative and fast-paced company, then you are the right fit. We market to content marketers which requires us to lead by example; therefore, there’s no better place to be as a content marketer.

As a Content Marketing Manager/Director, your primary focus will be driving development and execution of our editorial calendar, working with internal and external teams to create and curate content for our audience, and report on the impact that this content has on the overall business.

This position reports directly to the CMO, and requires extensive collaboration with demand generation and sales.

Responsibilities

  • Responsible for developing and managing the editorial calendar, including: blog posts, eBooks, PowerPoint presentations, sales collateral, customer success stories, and all off-site content.
  • Oversee the creation, quality assurance and delivery of all content across channels.
  • Develop content strategy and roadmap.
  • Identify quarterly and annual objectives, metrics and targets related to content marketing.
  • Establish unique and creative content pieces to engage our audience of content marketers to move them along the buying process.
  • Execute repurposing strategies to get the most out of every piece of content.
  • Analyze content marketing performance, drawing insights and presenting results clearly to facilitate sound decision making and next steps.

Required Skills

  • 3-10 years of experience in developing creative, high impact content for the web. (e.g., blog posts, ebooks, SlideShare, infographics)
  • You are creative, and an excellent writer and editor; however, you are also adept at taking a process-oriented perspective to scale a data-driven, content marketing practice.
  • Proficiency with Adobe Creative Suite. HTML/CSS experience a plus.
  • Ability to organize and manage many activities, and prioritize deliverables in a demanding, fast paced marketing environment.
  • A detailed knowledge of SEO, specifically focused on optimizing content marketing’s results.
  • Bachelor’s degree required in communications, advertising, journalism, marketing or related field.

Questions To Ask a Journalist

So you’ve posted a job listing and found some candidates who may fit the bill. Now you need to find out more about their aptitude and attitude in person. Curata has an extensive post on Content Marketing Interview Questions & Answers. It dives into this subject in detail and provides a comprehensive template to help with your interviews.

WhatsYourSign

These questions are some of the most important to ask an interviewee:

“What do you enjoy about writing?”
Why it’s important to ask this: content marketing is a lot more than writing, however, this talent is a foundational element of a superstar content marketer. You have to love what you do.
What to look out for: indicators they have a passion for writing. Understand what drives their passion, what outlets they’ve used to express this passion, and what personal benefits they get out of creating content.

Describe how you determined the style, tone and voice for a specific piece of content you recently completed.”
Why it’s important to ask this: your prospect will certainly need to express a unique voice and opinion in their work. However, they also need to adapt their own style as a function of your company’s needs, the audience, the format of the content, person they’re writing for, etc.
What to look out for: specific examples of how they modified their style, as well as asking to identify why this is important.

Provide a specific example of content you created that entertained and/or educated your readers.”
Why it’s important to ask this: content marketing is about adding value for your readers—for example, providing an infographic that educates about their industry, or creating an entertaining video that helps their job or career. Your team needs to create content that stands out from the crowd, capturing and sustaining attention—and providing entertainment through storytelling or comedy.
What to look out for: Look for examples of their content that told a story, used humor and/or educated their audience about something other than a company’s products. A bonus is if the candidate has delivered more unique formats of content, such as infographics, podcasts or interactive content. Ask for examples of where they’ve used visual content, including why they were or weren’t successful.

Describe a situation in which you were given feedback on a content piece”
Why it’s important to ask this: I certainly want content marketers to have an opinion about what works and what doesn’t. However, it’s also important to be able to accept critique of their work and make changes as necessary.
What to look out for: understand what type of feedback they received, how it made them feel, and most importantly, what they did with that feedback.

What process do you use when proofreading?”
Why it’s important to ask this: I certainly want content marketers to have an opinion about what works and what doesn’t. However, it’s also important to be able to accept critique of their work and make changes as necessary.
What to look out for: attention to to detail and an understanding of proper usage of the english language is key elements of quality content. (Did you catch the three mistakes?) Follow-up questions could include:

  • What are some of your greatest “pet peeves” when editing someone else’s writing?
  • Which style guide(s) do you depend upon? (See “Great Responses” in the Content Marketing Interview template)

Be Aware Of

Most journalists aren’t going to know “marketing” per se when they start. You’ll need to bring them up to speed during their onboarding. A smart journalist will pick it up. Their lack of knowledge will actually be an advantage in avoiding the most common mistake marketers make when they move to content marketing: producing egocentric content that focuses on your products and services to the detriment of providing a compelling story.

While data journalism has become in-demand and higher profile in recent years since the success of Nate Silver and his 538 blog, the majority of journalists got into journalism because they love words—not numbers. This means journalists will likely need training on analytics and the importance of key metrics that drive success.

You want leads

They’ll also need schooling on brand building, things like Net Promoter Score (NPS), how pageviews and social shares matter for awareness building, and the importance of social media campaigns for promotion. Other skills to acquire include demand creation with leads, and sales enablement—i.e. putting content in a form sales can use.  

It may be tempting to try attracting big name, long-term journalists from The New York Times or The Boston Globe—but most of these are full-time journalists dedicated to their company and career. Independent and freelance journalists have the necessary skills, and are likely to be more adaptable and open to transferring those skills to content marketing.

Journalists = Great Content Marketers!

A good journalist is a great writer and editor who can tell unique, compelling stories with captivating headlines. They will do so on a consistent basis while meeting deadlines. A good journalist is a trained researcher with a finely honed eye for sorting through vast amounts of information and distilling it down to the hidden gems. They increase the quality and quantity of content for marketing, whether it’s original content, contributed content, or guest content. Good journalists will create the sort of credible, persuasive content that increases the trust of your audience, and ultimately, the effectiveness of your content marketing.

To help build your team, download more data and insights from Curata’s 2016 Content Marketing Staffing & Tactics Barometer.

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Mitchell Hall

Mitchell Hall is Curata’s Content Marketing Director. Online since 1991, he has been writing for magazines and newspapers since 1997, and editing and managing websites since 2006. Mitchell has a BA in Political Science, Philosophy, and English. A generalist, his most covered topics are business and technology. Follow Mitchell on Twitter for links to unique and insightful stories: @mitchellhall

  • Great read! So, how do us former journalists find the right content marketers? Easy to find them in general, but the selection process on our end can be a little tough.

  • Pingback: Content Marketers Desperately Need More Journalists - Curate Content()

  • According to Karani Nyamu, a market consultant one of the key features of modern markets is shortened product cycles prompted by fats innovations good corporate communication and research. In the light of this every firm has to think beforehand on how they are going to stay relevant and generate sales…

  • Pingback: Advice for Journalists Considering Content Marketing - Content Curation Marketing()

  • rogercparker

    Dear Mitchell: Thanks for another of your deep, detailed, and very readable, articles.

    But, “Are you open to suggestions for future articles addressing the staffing issue?”

    I feel that teachers, i.e., former educators, are an overlooked resource. Teachers are high-empathy individuals trained to view topics from their students’ point of view. They’re skilled at engagement. They take the long-range view of sharing information on a structured basis, over time.

    After interviewing hundreds of content marketers and nonfiction authors, I find it fascinating that so many either share a teaching background, or were–like me–intending to teach until some of the realities of the field set in (compared to the fun of using content to create better-informed buyers.)

    Disclaimer: I’ve addressed this topic in a Content Marketing Institute article, 7 Reasons to Hire a Former Teacher for a Content Marketing Job (http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2013/11/hire-former-teacher-content-marketing-job/), so I’m not completely impartial.

    But, I would like to hear what you think of the relationship between teaching/sharing “habits and traits” and content marketing success.
    Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks for your kind words Roger. I had not considered teachers as a resource, and that’s an excellent point! We’ll look to incorporate this if/when we update this article.

      Cheers!

  • Jamie Vardy

    Talking about article and content writing , I have got lady that does that for me . I am free from stress , having enough traffic for my website with SEO optimized and lot more. she is Just perfect, I will keep referring her as long as she is good . contact her link with https://goo.gl/UZX1pu do check her,, ,…

  • This article is an embodiment of a lot of marketing experience and its true burning issues. More and more experienced marketers start to realize this problem, but the most difficult thing here is to find the right writer. Also, we have to realize that it takes plenty of time to become a real professional in a particul sphere or even, let’s say, a small gadget before it actually comes to writing. Among the best places to look for such writers I would advise LinkedIn and Writology (that’s a marketplace with an advanced search of writers and editors).

  • good post.
    Best regards
    remove background from image

  • SunShine

    I learned to write in AP and journalistic style in my college days on the way to my degree in that field and to this day, it has been the skill that has been the foundation of every single thing I have done in my career — from university-level teaching, to being the basis for copy written in the Public Relations agency I built, to writing speeches speedily, to writing code (yes, code), to crafting SEO content for sites, to publishing magazines and more. I had expository writiing classes before my journalism courses. The latter was hands-down the better skill. It taught me how to write speedily, how to ask questions, how to write about any field from soft to hard, how to actively listen, how to determine quickly the most salient point to play up, how to frame a story for a target group, what news values are and why they are important to the story composition, how to translate complex language into simple words and sentences, how to give life to copy with direct quotations, and more. At one time, I wondered how I might inspire many people to master this skill as it is so worthwhile. And now, here’s an article on its value. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Thanks Mitchell for the amazing post. You put lots of effort on it. I personally learn a lot from your post.

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