As the marketing landscape continues to shift, the requirements and expectations surrounding content marketing roles are evolving. Even if you've got the strongest writing chops in the game, you'll need to find other ways to expand your skills if you want to differentiate yourself.
While more and more businesses are seeking talent to fill communication and marketing roles that require constant adaptation to the latest trends, they often struggle to recruit and retain qualified professionals.
Thanks to outdated university programs, there’s a talent gap, and the next generation of modern marketers’ skills and knowledge must go beyond traditional curricula to remain competitive. So in this high-demand, low-supply content marketing economy, where are the jobs and what are recruiters searching for in the ideal applicant?
By examining over 3,300 job listings specific to content marketing on Indeed.com, Fractl’s latest research reveals the state of our industry’s job market and supports the notion that today’s competitive candidate must be a hybrid marketer -- part technician, part artist.
3 Key Takeaways From Today's Content Marketing Landscape
1) Experience is often valued over academic credentials.
There’s been a long-standing debate on whether experience or education is more important -- some argue experience is more valuable than a degree, while others say a formal education is the foundation for a successful career.
By looking at the minimum level of experience required, as well as the highest level of education preferred, the data show degrees beyond a bachelor's aren’t usually needed, even for senior-level positions. The findings support a Chronicle of Higher Education survey, which reveals the media and communication industry values experience over academic credentials.
2) Location makes all the difference.
Not surprisingly, states well known for their plethora of media giants and tech startups like New York and California had the highest number of content marketing jobs posted per capita, with Massachusetts being the highest at 37 jobs per 1,000 residents.
At the same time, states with growing creative economies like Washington and North Carolina also ranked high (18 and 12 respectively). Meanwhile, 12 states throughout the Great Plains and Mississippi Valley are essentially dead zones with zero postings for content marketers.
3) Hybrid skill sets are becoming more important.
Most importantly, the data found a recurring set of key skills recruiters are searching for in the ideal content marketing applicant. Individually, these skills are widespread in various marketing roles but together, these skills create the ideal hybrid content marketer that drives innovation and engagement.
9 Technical & Creative Skills Every Content Marketer Should Master
As marketing becomes increasingly more dependent on online platforms and digital tools, technical skills are essential. Familiarity and proficiency of these skills and tools help once-siloed departments collaborate more efficiently, and courses and certifications allow marketers to easily demonstrate their commitment and competence.
At the very least, content marketers must have a basic understanding of SEO tactics like keyword analysis, link building, and on-site and off-site optimization in order to create and execute successful campaigns and strategies.
The complex world of technical SEO can seem intimidating, but Moz offers an in-depth Beginner’s Guide to SEO outlining everything from how search engines operate to common myths and misconceptions. For professionals looking to gain practical experience in technical optimization strategies, Coursera partnered with UC Davis to design a six-course specialization.
2) Google Analytics
Given that the final phase of a content marketing campaign is measuring and reporting performance, proficiency with one of the best and most commonly used data analysis tools is a necessity. Google provides free training, support, and even certification for their analytics tools, including online courses ranging from platform principles to mobile app fundamentals.
3) HTML & CSS
While most content marketers won’t need to build an entire website from scratch, knowing just a bit of the most common and basic coding languages -- HTML and CSS -- can help immensely, particularly when working with content management systems for everyday tasks like blog posts and landing pages. For quick reference guides, HubSpot offers a free guide to HTML hacks plus a FAQ on CSS.
Not understanding programming basics puts marketers at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating fair budgets, setting realistic timeframes, and knowing the possibilities and limitations of potential projects when collaborating.
Codecademy has been a go-to authority for learning to code due to its interactive and, more importantly, free tutorials. Udemy also offers low-cost courses in programming languages. And both offer lessons for the basics, as well as more advanced languages like Ruby and Python.
While most technical skills reflect specific, concrete, and practical expertise, creative skills are more conceptual. Though usually learned best through firsthand experience, seeking out advice from industry leaders is another useful way to build these in-demand talents.
Content marketers must consistently produce quality content in order to tell their brand’s story while engaging a target audience and influencing the customer experience. Regardless of the format, channel, or vehicle, writing will always be the core of content marketing.
The industry raves about Ann Handley’s bestseller Everybody Writes, an exemplary writing guide and content marketing handbook. HubSpot also put together a list of resources and tools to help improve writing ... because sometimes words are hard.
6) Marketing Strategy
Depending on your organization's goals, there are a lot of different ways to approach your marketing strategy. However, generally speaking, all marketing strategies aim to unite various marketing and sales efforts to achieve a competitive advantage. Content marketers must understand not only how their role impacts the overall marketing strategy, but also the bigger picture -- the strategy itself.
Want to sharpen your skills? Harvard Business Review complied their top 10 reads on strategic marketing, and HubSpot created a strategy guide specific to content marketers.
7) Content Strategy
While content marketing and content strategy are often used interchangeably, both are very different practices. Ultimately, content strategy is the planning and management of content, while content marketing is a marketing approach that uses content to establish customer relationships and position the brand as a credible expert. Still, one can’t exist without the other, so content marketers should be well versed in strategy to avoid creating content with no long-term vision or plan.
To improve your content strategy approach, check out Erin Kissane’s The Elements of Content Strategy for insight on its roots and basic principles.
8) Thought Leadership
Thought leadership is commonly referred to as the end goal while content marketing is the means. Establishing yourself or your brand as an industry expert or authority leader through demonstration is an essential skill in a competitive landscape.
Recognizing the term’s various definitions, LinkedIn’s detailed three-part e-book specific to marketers helps demystify thought leadership and its applications throughout each stage of the buying cycle.
Dorie Clark’s Stand Out interviews industry thought leaders to teach readers how to develop ideas that go beyond self-promotion and perspectives that will inspire others to create an organic following.
9) Brand Development
Brand development entails everything from defining and positioning the brand to distinguishing its value. Taking into consideration the overall business strategy, brand development maintains an organization’s image to build brand equity and ensure brand integrity.
HubSpot offers two great resources for content marketers in regards to branding, an essential guide as well as a free ebook explaining online branding’s role in inbound marketing.
Ready to Improve Your Content Marketing Skills?
Regardless of years of experience or level of education, the most vital takeaway for any content marketer is the importance of continuing education and staying up to date on the latest industry news and trends.
Beyond the specific books, digital guides, and courses mentioned above, there are a whole host of podcasts, webinars, newsletters, and articles readily available. Sites like HubSpot, Moz, MarketingProfs, and Contently are just a handful of resources curated by industry leaders that you should reference regularly for continuous improvement and education.
Originally published Jul 11, 2016 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017