This is part of a series of articles entitled “A Definitive Guide to Content Marketing”. See the whole series here.
Either you are starting something up alone or in a group, or you’ve been hired to run or help a content operation. Before you get into any of it, know this: it’s hard. It’s very hard. Your audience will be fickle, its attention scattered across thousands of platforms, and traditional competitors and new upstarts will be trying to outflank you. Or they may ignore you, which means you’re not bothering them. I’d prefer the former.
You will need to be creative, but that is not the most important aspect of the job. Above all, you need to be disciplined, organized, and consistent. Creativity comes later.
If you are working with other people, you will need to be a leader and a follower. So much of writing is understanding the audience and what they want and need. It’s impossible for any one person to know that perfectly, so that’s why content teams need to be collaborative.
If you are wondering if this is a job for you, a few ways to determine are listed below. Even if you’re in the field, the below can help you recalibrate.
If any of the below bullets describe you, you’re ready for a job in content.
- You are intrigued in how things work and process
- You like systems and structure
- You enjoy deep research
- You can manage stakeholder expectations
- You are constantly prepared to receive feedback.*
- You want to know what performed well and what did not and try to understand why
- You can take direction (very few content professionals exist without an editor; for good reason, everyone needs one)
- You enjoy marshaling your thoughts into a creative output, preserved for all time (or as long as the hosting or the company lasts)
* A note about content feedback. In many jobs, something either works or it doesn’t. If you are making a chemical compound and a reaction doesn’t occur, there is a specific reason. If you are an athlete and your shot isn’t going down, there are concrete ways to fix it. In writing, the feedback is often abstract. You can always argue away listening to it. But more times than not, the feedback is a better approach than what you did.
As you can see, this is a job for organized people. You need to manage the various inputs (research, interviews, assets) and outputs (published pieces of content) that will come in a steady stream.
It also requires individuals to have strong constitutions. Regardless of whether you work in editorial or branded content, there is often a tension between what your readers want and what your bosses want to be published. It rarely aligns perfectly, so you will have to defend your work in uncomfortable situations.
It is also a job for the naturally curious. If you are interested in learning more about a variety of subjects, then content may be the job for you.