Content Strategy

Hiring a Content Marketing Leader? Look for These Soft and Hard Skills in Candidates

By Liz Alton on January 30, 2020

Content marketing initiatives are an enormous investment for brands. To ensure these resources are well spent, you'll need to have a strong content marketing leader at the helm.

This figure will need to know how to write strong articles, develop strategy, and interface across diverse digital channels. They must also be a master at deciphering complex analytics and reports, and understand your business strategy and the needs of your customers.

But that's just what's required today of a content marketing executive. The skills needed to execute a brand's content strategy to perfection are rapidly evolving—just like everything in the marketing world. So how can you find someone who, as Grow & Convert aptly notes, is essentially a unicorn?

To hire the right content marketing executive for your current and ever-evolving needs, you'll need to take a close look at several of their hard and soft skills.

What Hard Skills Should You Seek Out?

According to Indeed, "Hard skills are technical knowledge or training that you have gained through any life experience, including in your career or education." In the marketing world, these can include editorial calendar management, Adobe software fluency, and the ability to draft contracts for freelancers and influencers. These can also be more broad, such as the ability to edit for tone and precision. So what hard skills should your content marketing leader possess?

1. Writing for Different Mediums

A strong writer can help you craft diverse and engaging blog posts, social media content, white papers, podcast talk tracks, video scripts, and more. Even if you're leaning more heavily into video, audio, and enhanced content, solid writing is at the core of these assets, too. Having an expert wordsmith in this role, who can also edit the work of others, is key.

2. Research Skills and Flexibility

Depending on your industry, you may want a candidate who can navigate diverse subject matters and dense research. But no matter what, you'll want someone with a willingness to get it right.

Marketing expert Neil Patel recommends looking for someone with first-rate research skills, adding that former journalists tend to fit the bill: "They have incredible research skills and verify every claim in their articles for authenticity."

3. Tech Savviness

A content marketing leader doesn't need to know the ins and outs of every piece of technology. They should, however, be technologically savvy on three levels:

  • Strategic: They need to understand how technology supports content marketing and what is a smart investment.
  • Hands-on knowledge: Since so much happens at the tech level, they should be able to navigate the technology you use the most.
  • Curiosity: They need to keep a pulse on what's coming next and know where to go if they encounter a roadblock. You want someone who's constantly learning.

4. Project Management

Though you don't necessarily need to hire a project manager, you'll want someone who can expertly juggle numerous tasks. From general time management skills, to efficiency with project software, to experience managing teams, the qualities of a project manager must carry over into a content marketing executive role.

5. Team Management and Collaboration

You'll want someone who's both a natural leader and a manager. Look for candidates who have experience working in team settings, managing talent, and reporting upward. If they will be managing freelance writers, administrative staff, or marketing associates, ensure they're up to the task of managing workflows and providing mentorship.

What soft and hard skills should you look for in a content marketing leader?

Photo attribution: Jopwell on Pexels.

Looking Beyond the Résumé for Soft Skills

Content marketing executives need to lead, inspire, communicate, and collaborate with their team. When you're interviewing candidates, look for evidence of proven success with these soft skills. After all, going all in on a candidate solely because they're great on paper is rarely a good idea.

Some of the soft skills you'll want in a content marketing leader include the ability to communicate clearly, listen, collaborate, and adapt. They should also be able to build a rapport with subject matter experts and internal colleagues, and create environments that foster innovation and idea-sharing—all while staying focused on end goals.

Soft skills will only become increasingly valued, as they're difficult—if not impossible—to automate, an article in Harvard Business Review notes. So what soft skills are especially beneficial in this type of role?

1. Emotional Intelligence

Being empathetic plays a huge role in managing teams and speaking with clients. Emotions are also a huge driving factor for purchases. A content marketing executive with superb emotional intelligence will have no problem delivering and executing a strategy that's highly attuned to the needs of your audience. And because emotions can play a role in time management and decision-making, according to the Harvard Business Review article, a leader who's in tune with them is an asset from a business standpoint.

2. Adaptability

When faced with shifts in the industry, your business model, or your customer demographic, a marketing leader needs to be able to calibrate accordingly. From adjusting their communication style with clients to taking a proverbial red pen to their beloved marketing vision, you'll need someone who's quick to execute effective change. This is especially important for changes that are impossible to predict, such as a C-suite shake-up or platform disruptions. Choose someone who can handle anything they encounter with poise and grace.

3. Critical Thinking

The ability to think critically and solve complex problems is also crucial for a leader navigating the fast-changing content marketing landscape. After all, the problems marketers face are rarely the same. One day your video subtitles could be out of whack. The next day, Facebook could be down for maintenance right as you're rolling out a contest to boost engagement. Being able to improvise creative solutions to mission-critical problems is perhaps the most important quality a content marketing manager must have.

Do You Really Need a Content Marketing Executive?

Yes. Though everyone on your marketing team should be capable of taking the lead on their respective projects, someone should be there to oversee, guide, and aid them. But don't think of a content marketing manager merely as someone who jumps in when things take a turn but, rather, as a strategic investment in the growth of your brand.

When a knowledgeable leader works alongside your team, they'll ensure more gets done and that the work itself is of the highest possible caliber. To find the right person, you'll need to carefully consider both their hard and their soft skills. Investing the time to hire a diverse candidate who fits your organizational needs is worthwhile, as they will position your brand to achieve all of your key content objectives.

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Featured image attribution: Christina Morillo on Pexels.


Liz Alton

Liz Alton is a technology and marketing writer, and content strategist, for Fortune 500 brands and creative agencies. Her specialties include marketing, technology, B2B, big data/analytics, cloud, and mobility. She's worked with clients including Adobe, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Twitter, ADP, and Google. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA. She is currently pursuing a master’s in journalism from Harvard University.