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Building Your Best Content Marketing Team: How Hungry Is Your Talent?

May 17, '16 / by Neil Hayes

How Hungry is Your Talent

“Creating a team is bigger, tougher and more elusive than any opponent we will ever face,” legendary high school football coach Bob Ladouceur.

The promotion came with a much-needed (and long overdue) bump in pay. The catch? I had to let go eight employees and assemble a new team.

I’d never fired anyone before. I’d never hired anyone before, either. The only thing I’d managed was my fantasy baseball team, and the “Rabid Newts” almost always finished last.

As the resumes began piling up, I decided hunger would be the criteria I would seek above all others. I wasn’t impressed by GPAs or degrees from prestigious schools. I wanted applicants who had gained professional experience while going to school because, to me, that was proof of enterprise and ambition.

One applicant was willing to relocate from New York to California for a part-time job and work mornings at a bagel shop to make ends meet. Now, that’s hungry. You, sir, are hired.

I elevated someone from our company’s mailroom because he had an outstanding work ethic, was determined to move up the ladder and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. How can someone like that fail?

The point is, there’s no RIGHT way to create a content marketing team, there’s only YOUR way. Regardless of whether you’re hiring outsiders, promoting from within, pulling together freelancers or something in between, you have to choose the criteria that works best for the specific niche your team will fill.

That said, here are a few tips that everyone should consider before hanging up a content marketing “help wanted” sign in your company’s front window.

Who should be on your team?

  • The bottom line is, it starts with creativity. You can have an excellent strategy, the best online marketers and top-notch social media experts, but it’s all for naught if you don’t have great ideas. It takes creative people to consistently generate topics your audience wants to read.

  • Every team needs a leader. Call that person the chief content strategist, managing editor, the Boss of Blogs, Captain of Content … It doesn’t matter as long as one person has the ability to communicate management’s vision and the authority to hold team members accountable to ensure deadlines are met with consistency and quality.

  • Remember, you’re hiring a team of specialists. The last thing you want is a team of writers, for example, with no knowledge of business strategy, online marketing or client communication. Think of an assembly line where everybody adds their own expertise to the basic content, so when it rolls off the line it’s a finished, polished product ready to delight customers. This last point is obvious but bears repeating: Hire someone(s) who is strong where you’re weak!

  • Make sure you have the right mix of specialists to create the kind of team chemistry that will set your content marketing team apart from the competition, and that means personalities, age and experience must be blended into the mix. Personally, I like a combination of semi-grizzled veterans and youthful enthusiasm, but, hey, that’s just me.

  • Within that mix, be sure to include a data specialist who can identify trends and generate ideas and strategies from numbers. Data and analytics play a major role in virtually every business and industry these days. Marketing teams that make the best use of data often help their companies become industry leaders.

Who to hire first? Some say the managing editor or team leader should come first, others prefer a seasoned writer or a content strategist/graphic designer.

In the end, what matters most is how effective the team is, not who is hired first, so I wouldn’t stress about it.

I do believe one thing every team MUST have is a talented writer. Beth Carter, founder and chief strategist at Clariant Creative Agency, for example, prefers to hire experienced writers and teach them marketing rather than try to teach marketers how to write, which is a long and more time consuming proposition, in her view.

How to recruit the best content marketing talent?

So, now that the openings have been posted and the resumes are pouring in, how do you hire the best specialists to fill out your team’s roster?

Compensation and workplace environment are critical factors, but you can only throw around so much money. There’s only room for so many ping-pong tables and napping couches.

When I made my hires, I wasn’t building a content marketing team. But the approach I took nonetheless easily translates to any scenario.

Because I was looking at part-timers looking to move up and land their first full-time jobs in an incredibly competitive industry, I made it clear that if they were teachable and ready to work, I would make it my top priority to not only give them the skills and experience necessary to land a full-time gig (either with my company or elsewhere), but I would use all my contacts and influence to help them in any way I could.

Even though this meant I lost a key team member every few months, I told myself and my manager their departures were proof I was hiring the right people.

Three of those hires reached the very top of the profession many years later, and the others have all had varying degrees of success.

It just so happens I received a call from my mailroom-employee-turned-right-hand-man the other day. He vividly remembers those beyond-chaotic 12-hour shifts when we were doing impossible, incredible, award-winning work with the worst deadlines, outdated equipment and very little experience.

He’s out of the business now but said he will always remember that time as the “Good Old Days,” which, to me, means I must have done something right. 

Trust in the talent of your team, and make sure your team knows they can trust you. The rest will work itself out.

All great content marketing teams leverage a documented strategy to guide their work. If you haven't yet formalized your own content strategy, fear not ... our Complete B2B Content Strategy Guide provides advice and lots of helpful tools to get you started!

Read the Guide: Build a Complete B2B Content Strategy

Topics: Strategy

Neil Hayes
Written by Neil Hayes

Neil Hayes was an author and award-winning journalist before moving into business-and-marketing writing. He wrote the best-selling book "When the Game Stands Tall," which was made into a major-motion picture in 2014, and has co-authored two other books.

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