Building a Content Marketing Team for Your Startup? Here's Who You Should Hire First

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Kyle Lacy
Kyle Lacy



Startups that want to build a powerful content marketing strategy must first build a powerful content team within the marketing organization.

Seems simple right? I wish. It takes time -- and time is something most fast-growth companies don’t have. You need to build the right content marketing team, right now.

The right ream is small and nimble. You can start with just three people. If I needed to start a content marketing "tiger team" from scratch that could help build a content factory, this is who I would hire (and some job descriptions I'd use). 

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Who to Hire Immediately for Your Content Marketing Team

1) Seasoned Writer / Managing Editor 

I always recommend working with someone who can write rather than someone who knows marketing. Good writing is a skill that's developed over years. Hire a writer and teach them technology and marketing rather than hiring a tech and waiting for them to become a good writer. One takes weeks, the other takes years.

Make this person the managing editor. You'll also want articles and information from other employees and guest bloggers -- your managing editor will conduct interviews, write and edit stories, and be in charge of the entire content marketing team.

This person should also be OCD. Any managing editor worth their salt is a great project manager. It isn’t only about editing and publishing content. They must also manage contractors, project workflows, and calendars. They are the right hand to the marketing leader.

Role Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field and have experience working at/with your industry
  • Proven experience managing the content creation processes
  • Experience working with and/or managing freelance writers
  • Experience editing and maintaining a search-optimized site
  • Highly analytical and data driven
  • Skilled in using a content management system
  • Fluent in all major business software applications (Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, etc.) and have experience with Google Analytics
  • “Chaos-proof” personality that thrives in the fast paced, fluid world of a startup
  • Ambitious and creative, and takes pride in their work

2) Social and Community Manager

You need to build a community of fans online, and you'll need someone to talk with them.

Find someone who easily communicates with other people within your industry and verticals. They're the ones sharing information, talking to others, and rooting out industry issues that your content team can help with (and your development team can solve). They should also be actively managing all influencer communities within your sphere of influence. This could be thought-leaders to top customers. 

Role Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Journalism, PR, Marketing, or related field
  • 5+ years in marketing and communications role with at least 3 years of social media experience and/or community management
  • A true passion for social media and community management
  • Hands-on experience managing a brand's social media presence
  • Detail-oriented with high standards for brand, messaging, quality, and consistency in communication
  • Skilled at building relationships with key constituents online and offline. 
  • Metrics driven -- they're proficient in social media analytics and measurement
  • Strategic, creative thinker with critical analysis and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to make timely decisions, and be both flexible and adaptable to unforeseen circumstances
  • Capacity to juggle multiple priorities effectively within a fast-paced environment
  • Must have experience with a social management and marketing automation platforms

3) Data Scientist

I don't mean a hospital researcher -- I mean someone obsessed with numbers. Someone who knows how to conduct effective studies, refers to surveys as instruments, and can tell you what a Likert scale is. You want someone who will keep you at the forefront of data and trend analysis. If the people you're interviewing can't do that, they're not right for the role.

You need someone who can find original primary data about issues and theories surrounding your industry and company. I've found in my own work over the last few years that the company with the primary data is seen as the industry leader. Everyone cites their studies, writes about their research, and quotes them in all the industry journal articles, blog posts, and conference presentations. It is the best performing top of the funnel content.

Role Requirements

  • M.S. with strong academic record, ideally in Mathematics, Economics, Physics, or another quantitative discipline
  • 1-2 years of experience in a data scientist role OR Ph.D in a relevant field (e.g. Physics, Mathematics, Economics)
  • Experience with data analysis software such as: R, SAS, Stata, SPSS, etc.
  • Experience with Python or other relevant programming experience such as Java, C++, etc.
  • Experience with or willingness to learn SQL
  • Analytical and creative approach to problem solving
  • Strong written and verbal communication
  • Positive, people-oriented, and energetic attitude
  • Entrepreneurial spirit, and a strong sense of urgency

How to Find These People for Your Team

It’s great to know who to hire but how do you find the diamonds in the rough to build a powerful content marketing team? Here are some tips:

Recruit from Unlikely Sources 

You don’t need to recruit from the same industry or even vertical. You should search for people who have differing opinions and skillsets from your own. For example, you could find the Data Scientist at a university -- not at a competitor. According to EMC’s Data Scientist Study, 27% of those who were surveyed claim that the best source of big data talent is “professionals in disciplines other than IT or computer science” and 24% say the best is “students studying fields other than computer science.”

Go to Events

Use a site like Eventbrite or Meetup to find networking events in your area and meet potential candidates. Content marketing and marketing research events would be extremely valuable when searching for the people listed above.

Train Your Current Staff

You may have people on your team already who could adjust their skill sets to become a Managing Editor, Social Media Manager, or Data Scientist. Ask your best people if they want to expand their horizons and become better versions of themselves -- all while having a bigger impact on the company.

Optimize Your Website for Search

Many candidates use search engines to research available positions. So if you don't optimize your site for search, your chances of finding a qualified candidate pool are slim. Page titles, meta tags, and H1 tags can all be used to increase SEO efficiency.

Now that you know where to look, it’s important to start planning the hiring process. During the ramp-up phase, other roles can be picked up by contractors or other members of your team, at least until you can fill some additional roles. As your content marketing department and offerings grow, look for more writers, videographers, email marketers, and analytics specialists -- you'll need them as you start to scale. 

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