Ask the Experts: What Is the #1 Attribute You Look for in a Content Marketer?

June 15, 2016

A great content marketer has to master a diverse portfolio of skills, from the nuts and bolts of SEO to the creative playground of writing content. As content marketing organizations mature, what used to make a potential hire stand out will become table stakes.

We recently sat down with an impressive panel of content marketing experts for our eBook, The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing. We wondered, did they have one must-have attribute for their new hires? Was there one differentiator that could tip the scales during an interview?

We got a wide variety of thoughtful answers from the group. Surprisingly, though, many landed on the same attribute. Read on to see what could give you an edge the next time you’re seated across from a hiring committee. Or, if you do the hiring, what to look for when expanding your team.

When tasked with hiring a content marketer, what is the #1 attribute you look for?

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist, Marketing Interactions

Empathy for your audience and writing chops tie for the top attributes. While you can teach refinements to writing skills, without empathy for buyers and customers, your content will be missing that secret sauce that compels people to stop, pay attention, and continuously engage.

Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group

The one thing I look for is anyone with a track record of creating content at scale that gets people to read and share without breaking the bank. It starts with great content (publisher mindset) but you also have to understand budgets and political constraints (management and operational expertise) and how to measure what works (analytics).

Ok, that was more than one attribute so I'll try to combine it into one trait required for effective content marketing: Know how to create great content at scale that doesn't break the bank and performs well in a measurable way.

Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder & Strategic Director, Orbit Media Studios

They are "center-brained." The best content marketers are both creative and analytical. They have the ability to combine art and science. They have the basic creative capabilities (concepting, writing, basic design) but they also know how to test these ideas and measure results (using tools, crunching numbers, analytics).

The best content marketers switch back and forth between the big writing ideas and the little details of editing. They are resourceful and multi-disciplinary. They also read a lot.

Pawan Deshpande, CEO, Curata

Empathy. A good content marketer can empathize with their audience and can therefore understand what topics they should create content on, what tone of voice to use, and what channels to promote the content on, just to name a few.

Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz, Moz

Empathy. Great marketers have immense empathy for their audience. They can put themselves in their shoes, live their lives, feel what they feel, go where they go, and respond how they'd respond. That empathy comes out in content that resonates with your audience.

Ann Handley, CCO, MarketingProfs

It depends. If it’s a marketing department of one, I would definitely look for a strategist first. I would need someone who understands the “why” behind the content and is able to articulate the plan so that they can sell it to the boss, the client, or whoever you need to convince.

If we’re assuming the strategy is in place, and we have an audience-centric plan that makes sense, I would hire a writer over anybody else.

Doug Kessler, Creative Director & Co-Founder, Velocity Partners Ltd


No, empathy.

No, a passion for content and the subject matter itself.

No, an eye for a story.

If forced, at gunpoint, to pick just one: empathy.

Content that understands its audience will be good content.

Content that doesn't can't be.

Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Marketing

Genuine passion for creating content and marketing.

I recently polled the team at TopRank Marketing on what it takes to succeed at the agency. The most frequently shared attribute was passion. Without genuine interest in the content process and all that goes with content marketing, it is very difficult to produce the quantity of quality necessary to succeed.

Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute

Attitude is always number one.  Are they a fit within the organization's culture?  Second, do they understand the practice of publishing and building an audience over time?  I prefer to work with people who have worked in publishing and media over marketers in general.

Craig Rosenberg, Co-Founder & Chief Analyst, TOPO Inc.

This may sound surprising but I would say: "The ability to find or create a story anywhere, anytime." I like ex-editors because they are always seeking the bigger narrative.

For more advice to help your content marketing stand out, download The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing.

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