If you’re hiring a new content marketer, there are a few obvious qualities you already know you need to look for. Your new hire needs to be a good writer. He or she needs to love data — both reviewing it and acting on it — and also needs to be tuned-in to the changes that are constantly affecting the competitive landscape of digital marketing.
Related: The 4 Laws of Content Marketing
But the truth is, there are loads of web writers out there that know how to read a Google Analytics report. Anyone with access to an industry blog can be considered up to date. Which factors, then, can you use to distinguish decent content marketing candidates from the rock stars who are actually going to move the needle for your company?
Here are six underrated qualities I recommend looking for when you’re hiring content marketers.
According to Lorraine Twohill, head of marketing at Google, “You need to be curious to identify problems worth solving, and then come up with new solutions.”
The problem is that, in interview situations, the natural tendency of candidates is to make themselves sound as though they know everything — as though they already have all the answers. Content marketing demands just the opposite.
Instead, this discipline is an ongoing process of deepening your connection with your audience members, as well as observing the changes they undergo as they evolve. If you aren’t curious, you won’t think to ask the questions that must be asked regularly to maintain this intimate level of awareness.
You’ll miss new trends emerging, and you’ll struggle to maintain your connection with your followers — all because you failed to be curious.
Recently, Kathleen Murphy published a popular essay on why candor is an underrated quality in business in general, but I believe her words also apply for content marketing. “To thrive,” Murphy writes, “businesses need leaders at all levels of the organization (together in headquarters and the front lines) that understand the core mission, inspire passion and commitment around the mission and empower their people to take ownership of success.”
Content-marketing campaigns are the same way. Imagine you’re a marketer working for an out-of-touch chief marketing officer (CMO). You spot opportunities to make major improvements, in the way your company uses content to reach consumers, but you know your suggestions won’t be valued, so you don’t speak up. That’s a failure of candor.
Now, imagine that you’re the CMO in this scenario. Wouldn’t you want your employees to call you out when needed? Candor is the ability to speak up when changes are needed, and it’s a vital part of effective content-marketing campaigns.
3. Easygoing nature
I’ve been working in content marketing for a long time, both for clients and on my own projects, and one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t take things too seriously.
Not every content piece you create is going to stick. Sometimes, you’re going to put hours upon hours into something you think your audience will love, only to have it fall totally flat (there’s a reason only 42 percent of B2B marketers say they’re effective with content).
Good content marketers know this, and they know how to move on when they fail. They know they can’t dwell on the time they’ve lost. All they can do is keep moving forward.
Content marketing encompasses so many disciplines (from writing to design to video production and more) that it’s rare to find one person who can handle every aspect of the process. Instead, content marketers need to also be effective content managers who are able to motivate the different people involved, in order to create great work.
I’m not the only one who thinks this. Marcus Sheridan, owner of the popular Sales Lion blog, states it clearly, saying: “When it comes down to it, unlikable people make awful content-marketing managers.”
5. Ability to code switch
Most people talk about code switching in terms of race and nationality, but I think it’s an incredibly underrated skill in content marketing — especially if you’re working with an audience you’re not a member of yourself.
In linguistics, code switching is “the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation.” But in content marketing, to me, code switching means being able to switch in and out of the language patterns used by your audience, as needed, to form stronger relationships with them.
Most of us write the way we write. Content marketing, however, requires changes that don’t always come naturally. It’s one thing to understand these necessary shifts; it’s another thing entirely to be able to execute them.
People like funny content. They like to laugh, and the more you can get your audience to feel that you get their humor, the better.
The problem is that humor is incredibly difficult to convey through internet content. Sarcasm doesn’t always read right, and it’s easy to give unintentional offense (just ask the Evansville Regional Airport).
So, you find a content marketer who’s mastered internet humor, hire him — or her. Or, if you want to become a stronger content marketer yourself, look at humor as one extremely underrated quality you can — and should — invest in developing.