What should marketers look for in a content strategist?

What should marketers look for in a content strategist?

In this article, Flora Frichou, Trustpilot’s content strategist, offers a detailed look into her role, why it matters for marketing, and how other companies can find great content strategists like her.

Content strategy is one of the most difficult things for brands to implement successfully today. A MarketingProfs study showed that only 35% of marketers say their content strategy is very effective.

Companies understand that they should have a content strategist on board, but content strategy as a concept still isn’t clear to everyone. Understanding what content strategy is exactly, how it serves businesses, and what a content strategist does, is probably the best place to start.

According to Rahel Bailie, coauthor of ‘Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits and principal of Intentional Design’, content strategy deals with the planning aspects of managing content throughout its lifecycle, and includes aligning content to business goals, analysis, and modeling, and influences the development, production, presentation, evaluation, measurement, and sunsetting of content.

Wikipedia describes content strategy as the planning, development, and management of content - written or in other media. Sounds simple enough. And content marketing and content strategy are the same thing, right?

No! Content strategy is all-inclusive, whilst content marketing refers to attracting customers and retaining them through meaningful content. Essentially, content marketing could be described as a combination of sales techniques and organic marketing, all in one, whereas content strategy is your business’s master plan for using content in every possible way. A good content marketing campaign can only be successful if there is a strong content strategy foundation holding it up.

My role in a nutshell…

If I had to describe my job, I would say that I work with colleagues and clients to formulate editorial strategies and execute them for success. This involves coordinating with the marketing team, the sales team, and our partners and customers through blogs, case studies, emails, infographics, white papers, guides, and more.

What to look for in a content strategist

Even though a content strategist’s role can vary from one company to the other, some of the role’s aspects remain the same across every organisation:

  • The content strategist creates specific content for the brand’s audience.
  • The content strategist is in charge of content delivery and promotion.
  • The content strategist sets guidelines for the style and voice of the brand.
  • The content strategist measures what’s working and what’s not in order to continually improve the brand’s content strategy.

So how can you make sure you hire the right person, to lead the right strategy? Here are 5 skills you should be looking for when hiring a content strategist.

1. Copywriting skills

No matter how well you plan and distribute your content, if the content isn’t good, your strategy is likely to be ineffective. The content creation process is the most important thing a content strategist should master, as well as the ability to see the big picture and build a storyline from scratch, or using existing content.

In order to create great content, your content strategist has to understand your business and your audience. Planning, writing, and editing the content requires good copywriting skills, and you should prioritise those skills when hiring a content strategist.

Making sure you’re hiring the right person...

  • Look for quality. Read some of their previous work to get a sense of their writing.
  • Exercises, exercises, exercises! Ask your candidate to complete a set of exercises to test their copywriting skills across various channels.
  • Ask yourself if you’re engaged. Look for someone with a keen eye for storytelling, much like a journalist. There’s little point in creating content if no one wants to read or engage with it.

2. Attention to detail and adaptability skills

The unique ability to see the big picture is a must for all content strategists, but it’s also important for them to pay attention to the tiniest details. Content strategists should deliver quality content to the world, and constantly check for accuracy, consistency, and completion, simply because your company can’t afford to publish content that doesn’t reflect your standard of quality.

For example, executing the brand tone of voice is one of the most important things your content strategist will be responsible for. A good content strategist should have the adaptability and detail-oriented skill to consistently deliver good quality content, whilst following all of the brand’s guidelines.

Whether your new hire is required to write a white paper, an infographic, or a blog post, he or she should be able to adapt the tone of voice to any type of editorial content, and tease the reader’s curiosity, no matter the topic.

Making sure you’re hiring the right person...

  • Give your candidate different briefs that will allow you to check whether or not they are able to adapt their writing style to different types of content (emails, blogs, social, guides…) while keep their quality consistently high.
  • Look for variety in their past work - a good copywriter should be able to tailor their writing for whatever industry and whatever audience.

3. Organisational skills

Content strategists should be able to constantly know what’s coming their way, how to manage their time and how to prioritise their tasks. Project management tools, calendars, and notes are essential to track ongoing projects and let other teams know how the project is going.

Content strategists typically work with different teams: marketing, design, social media… so it’s important for them to stay organised and communicate with everyone on a regular basis. A content strategist should also be sociable - applicants lacking communication skills shouldn’t apply.

Making sure you’re hiring the right person…

  • Look for multitaskers. My typical day is usually spent alternating between working at my computer, talking to customers, discussing internal projects, helping colleagues with one-off needs as they come in... Make sure you hire someone who can juggle various responsibilities and doesn’t mind jumping from one project to the other.
  • Assess their communication skills. As a content strategist, I have to work with a global team and have adapted my working style in order to work more effectively. Toggl helps with time management, Trello is great for keeping an eye on all the content creation process, from pitching to publishing, and Slack is amazing for communicating with the team internally.
  • Ask about their process. Project management tools are great, but a pen and notebook are still my favourite tools to create my daily and weekly to-do lists and take notes when I get genius ideas.

4. Knowledge of the industry

When hiring a content strategist, it’s important to ensure that the candidate is keeping up-to-date with practical solutions for everyday challenges, knows what works best, and reads about content marketing on a regular basis. While a candidate may be new to the vertical and needs some time to read up on the competition, their knowledge of content strategy and content marketing should be as up to date as possible and they should be able to apply their knowledge to any company.

Making sure you’re hiring the right person…

  • Do they know their role? The right content strategist should understand the role of content strategy and content marketing, should know what captivates people, and should be able to use knowledge to communicate ideas and execute projects, tailored to an industry and an audience.
  • See if they did their homework. Ask the candidate which brands have impressed them with great content strategies.
  • Ask them about your industry. Have they done their research? Have they started seeing how content strategy can improve your company?

Any candidate who is serious about content strategy should always stay informed, which leads me to the fifth and last skill you should look for in a content strategist.

5. Curiosity

Curiosity is essential when it comes to content strategy. Knowing which questions to ask and how to ask them is simply one of the rarest and useful skills driven by curiosity. Curious content strategists are likely to be more creative and solve problems faster when your content strategy is stuck. Indeed, reading a lot, staying up-to-date, and questioning the existing strategy are some of the things curious content strategists should be doing, because there’s always room from improvement.

Questioning their work, continually trying to evolve, write better, and keeping up to date with trends are some of the ways that turn a new content strategist into a successful content strategist, because utilising curiosity always helps improve performance.

That’s why the content strategist you should hire should ask the right questions, and show interest in your business in order to solve your brand’s existing problems with a great and sustainable strategy.

Making sure you’re hiring the right person…

  • Assess their curiosity. I like keeping up to date with the latest trends and the best content strategies and campaigns in the industry. Look for someone who has a natural ongoing curiosity about the industry and the latest tools and trends.
  • Are they acting like an expert in their field? Ask your candidate what content marketing blogs or online magazines they follow and read, check whether or not they’ve followed the latest content campaigns.
  • Know their passion. Finding someone who’s genuinely passionate about their job is a massive plus as it means they’ll be more curious about trends and industry news.

By getting an understanding of how your potential content strategist sees their position, knows content strategy, and understands your industry, you’ll find the right candidate in no time!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the conversation! Tweet us at @Trustpilot using #onTheBlog. If you think we’ve forgotten an important skill, or if you think we’ve overstated one, please do let us know! We’d be happy to know what traits you personally look for when hiring a content strategist...

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