Getting the right people into the right roles is always essential, but when it comes to your content marketing team, flaws or missing skills can drastically reduce the effectiveness of your content strategy and cost a fortune. When a business has only a small content or marketing team it’s not uncommon for them to be expected to be all things from content strategists to blog writers.
This week we spoke with consultant, mentor and executive coach David Leahy from Directions Unlimited to explore what can go wrong on the content marketing team at a large company, and what’s to be done when you’re an SME and you need the skills of an entire content team, but can only afford to hire one person!
So what can go wrong in a content team?
According to David, most of the issues that arise can be pinned down to one of two things, no matter how big the company – the scope of the job, and / or the suitability of the job-holder or applicant. These need to be tackled from the outset if you want to ensure the effective implementation of your content strategy.
Scope of the job
Growing SMEs often have a broad range of content marketing related tasks that need to be completed, but only have the resources to engage one person. They may have a need for content writers, someone to manage the social media, a content strategist, and an analytics guru. The person chosen might have excellent skills in one or two areas, but limited knowledge in others. This can lead to the job occupant feeling overwhelmed or being unable to focus their efforts on the areas that would benefit most from the application of their existing skills.
That said, resource limitations are simply the reality for most SMEs and marketing team roles will often require a range of skills . David says solutions to the dilemma include:
- Engaging an individual who is highly competent in the skill/s considered most vital for the role, and outsourcing the other aspects.
- Arrange additional coaching or training that will allow the employee to increase their competency in the less familiar tasks.
For SMEs, bad hires can be very costly, while a single high performing employee can make a significant difference to the company’s growth or survival. Putting a big effort into finding the most ideal candidate is crucial.
Finding the ideal candidate
David recommends properly scoping out the job as a starting point. This involves looking at the key purposes of the role and responsibilities within it – which should be expressed in no more than one or two sentences. David says one way to do this is to ask “what are the one or two things that are key to this role? If we do these one or two things, we will succeed. But if not…then we will likely fail.”
You then need to focus your thoughts on a picture of the person you want to fill it – their ideal background, experience, and qualifications. This is a relatively easy step because it can be done objectively.
However, you also need to look at the attributes the person needs to be a top performer as opposed to just an adequate one. This is not quite so easy says David, because you need to know what lies beneath the surface. Just knowing where they’ve worked before isn’t enough, because it might have been a very different culture to that of your own organisation.
One way to manage this objectively is through measuring the person’s abilities, traits and interests, and comparing the results to what you know would suit your own organisation. An example of how this can be carried out is the JobFit assessment that Directions Unlimited offers as a service.
Applying these principles to major content team roles
There can be many different roles and tasks within a content team. In some settings, the tasks and responsibilities might overlap, or as mentioned previously, they might all be left to the one person.
Before we look at the attributes relevant to some of the most important roles, let’s look at the breakup of roles that might apply to a larger content team:
|Team Lead / Content Strategist
|Provides direction and framework for the content team
|Managing Editor / Editorial Director
|Directs and guides writers, designers, and producers
|Finds sources of relevant information for relaying to audiences.
|Shares / posts content on various platforms
|Reads and interprets data on the impact of content
|Looks after the website to make sure it works properly
|Produces audio-visual content, such as videos and podcasts
|Produces written content such as articles and blog posts
|Sets the overall design tone for the brand and the content
Clearly, when a number of these aspects need to be condensed into a single role, it’s important to decide what’s most important. Below we look at the attributes required for three of the roles above: team lead/strategist, managing editor/editorial director, and content curator.
Role 1 – Team lead / content strategist
A person in this role focuses on the bigger picture and provides direction and a framework for the team and for content strategies. They look at what needs to be achieved, and ask questions such as “who are we talking to, and why?”
The candidate you are likely to need here is someone who has an appreciation for the necessity of detail, but who is also more of a ‘big picture’ thinker.
This person is decisive, thrives in a busy environment, and is very comfortable managing multiple projects at the one time.
They are also inquisitive with a tendency for questioning, and have a natural ability for analysing information and making decisions based on their analyses.
If you throw in some leadership qualities, a high level of independence, and an innate comfort in holding people to account, this person could very well be a top performer.
Role 2 – Managing editor / editorial director
A managing editor guides and directs content creators, content producers and designers, understands SEO, and runs the editorial or content marketing calendar.
The attributes a candidate would need for this role likely include a focus on detail, and an enjoyment of methodical processes.
The candidate would also need to have a strong creative side and a good technical and analytical ability.
Other attributes include being comfortable around data, being able to hold others to account, and an enjoyment of working in an office-based environment.
Role 3 – Content curator
The person in this role conducts research and finds sources of relevant information for relaying to audiences.
This role calls for a methodical person, who likely enjoys working in some degree of isolation since they would spend a lot of time in research mode.
It would probably suit a person who doesn’t need to be a leader and who is quite reserved but also capable of speaking up when needed, and who has an interest in IT and enjoys an office environment.
What if you already have the wrong person in the role?
If you’ve recognised on reading this that you may have the wrong person in a particular content role, David says it’s time to take stock and address the problem:
“The first step is to clearly identify why the person seems to be the wrong ‘fit’ for the role.
Is it a skills based or a behaviour related issue? In both cases I am assuming that the business wishes to retain and grow that person in their role.
If it skills based, then once the business has decided that the company is willing to train for the skills that are lacking, a conversation with the person should follow to agree that they are keen to commit to additional training.
If it’s a behaviour issue, then a good first step is having a chat with the individual to determine their level of awareness of the behavioural trait that is contributing to their below par performance.
None of us are perfect, and sometimes we walk through this world oblivious of how our natural in built tendencies impact those around us.
To help facilitate this type of discussion, we usually conduct a JobFit assessment to identify the individuals ‘hardwired’ behaviours. This is another great use for this tool as it pinpoints with uncanny accuracy an individual’s hardwired behaviours. Once the individual has reviewed and agreed with the assessment results, his or her awareness of their own personality traits is heightened. Asking what they believe the opportunity for them would be in their role if they self-managed this behaviour can help to progress the discussion and determine their true level of commitment.
Behavioural science has shown that when we are aware, committed, accept responsibility and receive some support then it is possible to effectively self-manage behaviours that may be limiting our performance. If the company is keen to develop this person, then engaging an external coach to help with this process can also be hugely beneficial.”
There really is a lot of scope to get things wrong on a content marketing team, especially if you’re operating on a tight budget with less team members than you’d like to have, and those on the team are required to have a range of skills. With many companies spending significant amounts on their content marketing efforts, it makes good sense to invest time and thought in the hiring process to ensure you establish a team that’s capable of effectively implementing your content strategy and delivering outstanding results.
If you’d like to know more about JobFit assessments (before or after hiring!) you can contact David Leahy at Directions Unlimited on: