By Roger C. Parker published November 3, 2013

7 Reasons to Hire a Former Teacher for a Content Marketing Job

teacher's head illustrationI’ve been fascinated by previous articles about content marketing team building and, especially, the frequent emphasis placed on recruiting ex-journalists to your content marketing team.

However, I think content marketers are overlooking a significant resource: former teachers. Here are some of the general characteristics that make experienced educators excellent candidates to fill a content marketing job. 

1. Teachers are explainers

Teachers are used to explaining concepts and processes quickly and clearly — even when under pressure. They’re accustomed to condensing their body of knowledge into a concise, appropriate response and qualifying their answers based on a querying student’s background and level of experience.

Their empathy and ability to quickly respond to questions like, “What caused the Civil War?” with relevant answers suitable to the grade levels of the students they’re dealing with is precisely the type of mindset content marketers need to address clients and customers at different stages of the content marketing buying cycle. 

2. Teachers are planners

As has been mentioned in numerous previous articles, many content marketers find it difficult to create an editorial calendar or content marketing plan to guide their day-to-day efforts (or they fail to do so at all). As a result, content marketing efforts are frequently characterized by the stress of “deadline madness” and the last-minute mistakes and lost opportunities associated with this frenzy to create content.

However, experienced teachers are familiar with the need to prepare discussion topics and subtopics in advance. They’re used to creating daily, weekly, and semester-long lesson plans to guide their class through the learning process. Lesson plans are part of their job description, after all! They’re used to taking a long-term view of their subject, and view education as a result of the progressive revelation of information.

As a result, whether on a full-time or part-time basis, teachers can bring a fresh mindset and good content planning habits to your content marketing efforts. 

3. Teachers know the proper ways to conduct research

Until recently, I had never realized the value of the research mentality I developed while preparing my history honors thesis and my independent study courses in college. The research tasks I learned as a would-be historian are the same tools that I use today to help clients plan and write books, eBooks, sales guides, and white papers.

A teacher’s research-focused skill set often includes:

  • The ability to locate, summarize, and track information: The competency they likely gained by using index cards in the classroom is easily translatable to the use of tools like spreadsheets and mind maps in a content marketing setting.
  • Organizing ideas: Knowing how to conduct research isn’t enough to build a persuasive discussion. Teachers and content marketers must both be adept at consolidating, evaluating, organizing and presenting information as a series of logical arguments. Whether you’re providing your audience with a fresh look at the Battle of Britain in 1940 or with the information they need to purchase a printer, the same organizational tools are used to take information and build it into a convincing and engaging story.

4. Teachers believe in measured progress

Teachers don’t look for “silver bullets” or last-minute solutions — they view success from a longer-term perspective. Unlike marketers, they’re less interested in finding the “perfect” formula for headlines, blog titles, or email subject lines. Rather, they are accustomed to producing solid benefits — even if they need to be built slowly and consistently over time. 

5. Teachers are quick learners

Teachers often excel at mastering the basics of new topics at a minute’s notice. For example, in primary and secondary education, a math teacher may be asked to fill in for an absent history or English teacher (and vice versa), so they need to be able to shift gears and implement new topics and processes quickly to address emerging informational needs. Sounds like a content marketer’s ability to incorporate a new technique, or focus on a new topic based on the latest audience data, doesn’t it?

6. Teachers are used to the “battle for attention”

The best teachers are not speakers, they are engagers. They aren’t lecturers looking for passive acceptance of their lessons. Rather, they share stories and ask questions to elicit responses from students and engage them in discussions on the day’s material. They introduce and describe relevance at the start of a lesson, and provide summaries to reinforce messages at the end. Equally important, they’re skilled at preparing assignments, exercises, and quizzes in ways that are most likely to capture and hold their students’ attention — all habits, skills, and tools that are correlated with content marketing success.

7. Teachers are relationship builders

Recently, my wife, Betsy, had lunch with her favorite grammar school teacher, Miss Handley, whom I have been hearing about for over 25 years. The teacher had made such a huge and memorable impact on Betsy that when they reconnected on Facebook, they immediately planned a reunion lunch.

All of us can name significant teachers from the past. In some cases, the bond was forged on the quality of the information the teacher provided. In more cases, I suspect, it was because of the way the teacher made the student feel. Often, it’s a combination of the two.

And, isn’t the goal of content marketing to build relationships? Not only does this require content marketers to learn how to share the right information, but also how to make our prospects feel empowered and optimistic after the transfer of information!

Content, teaching, and marketing success

One of the best arguments I can present for hiring a teacher for your next content marketing job opening involves a lesson on business success that I learned from Gary Keller’s Amazon.com Author Page.

As the founder of Keller Williams, America’s largest real estate franchise, Gary Keller has become one of the most successful businessmen in the country. On his Author Page, Gary credits the “teaching mindset” as the basis for business success. In his words, (although I added emphasis and organized his words as a list):

Professionally, Gary’s ‘ONE Thing’ is teaching: 

  • He excelled as a real estate salesperson by teaching clients how to make great home buying-and-selling decisions.
  • As a real estate sales manager, he recruited agents through training and helped them build their careers the same way.
  • He built Keller Williams Realty International from a single office in Austin, Texas, into the largest real estate franchising company in the United States by using his skills as teacher, trainer, and coach. 

Gary defines leadership as ‘teaching people how to think the way they need to think so they can do what they need to do when they need to do it, so they can get what they want when they want it.’

Isn’t this what content marketing is all about? 

Do teachers belong on your content marketing team?

So, do you agree that ex-teachers, or teachers looking for projects to work on during their sabbaticals or summer vacations, might have a place on your content marketing team? Do you already have former teachers on your content marketing teams? How’s it working out? If you haven’t worked with teachers, what are some of your concerns? Share your questions or hesitations below, as comments.

Looking for more advice on building your content marketing team? Check out what the experts had to say at Content Marketing World 2013. Access to a wide range of presentations is available through our Video on Demand portal.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Roger C. Parker

Roger C. Parker has been an "explainer" all of his life, valued by clients for his judgment ability and clear, concise writing style. He helps clients organize their ideas and become more productive. His 40 books have helped readers in 37 countries. His clients include Apple, Microsoft, Mindjet, and Yamaha. Follow Roger on Twitter @RogerCParker or email him at RCPcontent@gmail.com.

Other posts by Roger C. Parker

  • Spyhop Productions

    Roger, what a great perspective! Even if we don’t have the opportunity to hire a teacher, I think you make a great point that the “teaching mindset” can be really valuable. As a brand strategist I have always believed our key role is educating. This insight helps me understand better how to do that.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Thank you, Spyhop, for sharing your kind words. I’d love to hear more about your experiences using education as a brand strategy tool. Sounds fascinating!

      Best wishes.

  • http://www.assistingauthors.com Janis Friesler

    I am a former teacher. I promote authors on the Internet. I also develop projects for children’s authors to go wit their books. You are absolutely right. My blog is full of content to help authors promote their books. I write series of posts because they are easier to plan and keeps my content organized. I love to learn as well as teach. Content marking is a great fit for my skills. Your post is right on.

    Janis Friesler
    Assisting Authors Online
    http://www.assistingauthors.com

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Janis:
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I applaud your efforts to help children’s authors, and others, to promote their books.

      I wonder, by the way, if you use or promote mind mapping, i.e., Mindjet’s MindManager, as a tool to organize your blog posts?
      Best wishes, Roger

  • Joe

    Hey Roger, you stole my idea! (just kidding). We have used former teachers for number of years. They are excellent writers. And by using former English teachers, we get correct grammar and absolute spelling. Do you remember your English teacher in school? She was always correcting your spelling and grammar.

    We take this one step further. We have an editor who reviews, makes changes, authorizes rewrites and supervises the writers. Just like a newspaper or magazine or book publisher would do.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Hi, Joe: Thank you for sharing your informed perspective.

      BTW, I had a memory flashback when you asked about my “English teacher in school.”

      I remember the day think I traumatized my English teacher in the 6th grade when I had the audacity to write a new ending for “Moby Dick.”

      He had me read it out loud to the class. (All were somewhat stunned.)

  • Linda Lecomte

    Roger, in addition to content marketing, I have a strong technical writing background. Many technical writers are former teachers. The key to technical writing success is knowing your audience and giving them the information they need when and where they want it. The same holds true for content marketing jobs and I agree with you.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Linda:
      Thank you for your comment, and sharing your background.

      I wonder which has served you and your fellow technical writers best; corporate employment or freelancing?
      Best wishes, Roger

      • Linda Lecomte

        Hi Roger,
        I’ve done both freelance and corporate employment technical and marketing writing. For me, the decision is based on what I am looking for at the time – flexibility, steady income, project ownership, domain expertise, and so on. Both options have served me well over the years, so I don’t personally have a preference. I can’t really speak for other writers. I have seen a trend in more experienced writers doing freelance work, but I don’t know if this is by choice or necessity. I hope this information was helpful.

  • Vicki Kunkel

    I completely agree! There’s also another group, very similar to teachers, and they are trainers and instructional designers. They, too, have very much the same skill set in terms of research, tailoring content to specific audiences, a thorough familiarity with various grammar and style guidelines, and a perspective on how adults learn best.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Vicki:
      Thank you for taking the time share your thoughts, and, even, expand it by defining components of the skill set, as well as the idea of trainers and instructional designers.
      Thank you for the specificity of your response.

      Roger

  • http://www.talkingfeathercommunications.com/ Lana Walker

    Right on! Having a background in technical communication, instructional design, teaching, training, and publishing, I agree that this skillset is found in many professions.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Lana:
      Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you’re exactly the type of person I was thinking about when I wrote the article. Do you have any specific ideas or advice you’d like to share others like you (us)?

      Best wishes, Roger

      • http://www.talkingfeathercommunications.com/ Lana Walker

        Roger, You nailed the essentials and beautifully articulated what it takes to be a great teacher, trainer, content marketer, or any professional communicator. Thank YOU :-)

  • Roger C. Parker

    I inadvertently omitted the title of Gary Keller and Joe Papasan’s book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. I highly recommend it as a “get focused!” book.

  • http://www.paulconley.com/ Paul Conley

    I love this idea. And allow me to suggest something similar — hire someone with a teaching personality. On the Myers-Briggs personality test the ENFJ type is often called the teacher or mentor personality. And among the more common professions for people with that personality are journalism and teaching.
    http://personalitycafe.com/enfj-articles/12933-teachers-enfj-personality.html

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Paul:
      Thank you for your suggestion.
      Although I’m familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test, I wasn’t aware there was a codified “teacher or mentor personality.” I appreciate the heads-up.

      I’m off to explore your website to learn more!
      Roger

  • http://www.solospark.com/ Carolan Ross

    I’m a former teacher and agree, you nailed this skill set being perfect for content marketing. I know several former teachers who now publish online in various venues, and many of them are freelance writers. We write and publish because we enjoy it, a very natural fit to the personality of a teacher passionate about that career.

    Among this skill set, one of the most crucial is that of being a natural as a relationship builder. All teachers certainly are not proficient at this, but as you said, the best are. Those are the teachers we remember many years later because they did not just teach went above and beyond with efforts to bond with their students. A high level of caring was evident.

    Also as you said in #7 above… ‘the best teachers don’t speak, they engage’ YES!
    I used to say that I don’t teach, I facilitate learning. That engagement of readers along with relationship and trust building are the most crucial keys to content marketing.

    Regarding #1 – #5: Teachers do tend to be organized and have above average spelling and grammar skills, though this applies to most college grads. Most teachers are fast learners, careful planners and researchers. True, but also most college grads had to acquire these skills in order to ever graduate (however teachers do tend to ENJOY learning, planning and researching more than others).

    So of the skills above, I’d say #6 and #7 are most crucial. The best teachers make efforts to engage students and are good relationship builders. In my experience, these abilities are more of a talent than a skill, and one more likely to be found in former teachers than other professions.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Carolan:
      Thank you for sharing your comments, especially your taking the time to call out the various skill sets and comments about each. I appreciate it.

      I applaud your emphasis on “Enjoying” the act of learning, planning, and researching.

      Best wishes, Roger

  • heidicohen

    Roger–As a marketing professor, I’d add that teachers can break information into bite size chunks and where necessary create easy-to-consume diagrams (Think charts.) Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Heidi:
      Thank you for sharing your perspective and adding a fresh perspective, i.e., “easy-to-consume diagrams.”

      Best wishes to you!

      Roger

  • http://www.referralcandy.com/ ReferralCandy

    Hi Roger,

    that was a very useful post! I liked the way you drew parallels between the skill sets of a teacher with those of a content marketer, and there is indeed a lot of overlap!

    The best teachers are those who could spark curiosity and interest in a topic, no matter how dry or boring, and engage us in a way that was fun and most of all, vivid. The material wouldn’t be too complex or simple for our level, and it would be taught with a lot of care and a genuine desire for us to understand and learn. These are definitely skills that are crucial to successful content marketing!

    Apart from teachers, which other professions do you think would provide complimentary advantages to content marketing?

    • Roger C. Parker

      Good morning!

      I delayed responding to your comment, last night, because I didn’t have an answer.

      Then, it came to me. Psychologists or others interested in human behavior who were looking for challenges beyond “clinical,” or patient-treatment settings.

      There are already some good examples, such as Susan Weinschenk, author of four inspiring books like 100 Things Presenters Need to Know about People, and other books. She brings a neurological perspective to marketing. You can learn more at http://www.theteamw.com/. She is a master communicator who can read and learn from brain scans.

      What do you think of Susan’s example?
      Thanks for commenting. Roger

  • Margarita Prada Zuluaga

    What a good aproach to a difficult “profile matter”. Your post is a great way of checking skills for content strategists. Thank you for your generosity Roger.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Margarita:
      Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your comment.
      Roger

  • GratefulTeacher

    Couldn’t agree more! Great article! While I may only be just a LITTLE biased (as a former teacher myself)…all of what you said is spot on. At the end of the day, teachers are people who are interesting in helping and educating others, which is the foundation of content marketing. Teaching develops so many wonderful transferable skills and it is nice to see that acknowledged in this article. Thank you :)

    • Roger C. Parker

      Thank you for contributing your perspective! Your second sentence is a great summary.
      BTW, what’s the most important transferable skill you took away from teaching?
      Best wishes, Roger

  • @markmaps

    Roger -

    As a retired educator (40+ years) I can say you’ve nailed this insightful comparison and have provided a fine tribute to educators everywhere!

    Let’s look at the potential impact a well-educated student could have on a content marketing team, given this purpose of an elementary school.

    One of the primary purposes of an elementary school is to develop a student’s capacity to communicate

    for a variety of purposes [inform, describe, persuade, instruct, entertain],

    with a variety audiences [individuals, small & large groups], using

    a variety of modes [oral, written, visual, quantitative, performance] and

    a variety of technologies [digital & physical, including chalk.].

    Preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, graduate school and the world of work all place high value on these competencies.

    Teacher’s can bring these skills to content marketing but imagine what it would be like to have graduates seeking employment who came with that grounding from their elementary years and beyond!

    Mark

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Mark:
      Thank you for sharing your perspective, and, especially, for putting it in a new perspective while adding new skillsets. The origins of success in elementary schools is also fascinating.
      Thanks for expanding the conversation!
      Roger

  • PieterVereertbrugghen

    I agree more than 100%.In my opinion, the only challenge remains (it has been like that for years): the purpose is marketing and that is (thank goodness) seldom a teacher’s “raison d’être”.

    So content marketing is always about teamwork between intelligent accounts, motivated project managers, broad-minded content strategists, creative content producers (copy and design),… to “help and educate the audience” and to fulfill the marketing goals of an organization (company, non-profit,…)

    Pieter

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Pieter:
      Thank you for sharing your perspective.
      Your comment has provoked me to try to identify the source of the concern, or disconnect, you seem to be feeling.
      I wonder if your concern is centered in the environment, context, or field you’re involved in. In particular, perhaps the issue isn’t the conflict between eduction and marketing (i.e., “selling”), but the size and type of environment you thrive best in.
      Perhaps you’re an “entrepreneur” at heart, happiest setting your own goals and working independently, yet you’re in a corporate world or a large agency that puts a premium on teamwork?
      Anyway, thank you for sharing your perspective and best wishes!
      Roger

  • John Smithman

    Congratulations Roger for exposing the higher ’30,000-foot’ view. Many call it thinking outside the box; but your strength is also in being able to show the context of the box. As my coach for my first book, you taught me how to see outside the author’s box, look for the fit and feel good about it all.

    My life passion has been to uncover the core explanations for complex processes, and to make it simpler for people to learn and achieve. As management trainer, I help people believe in themselves and learn new ways to achieve goals with the help of others. Good teachers help students learn how to thrive anywhere. My training career has been a workplace experiment in this pursuit.

    I empathize with hard workers who are promoted without support into one of the most difficult jobs in the workplace: the supervisor. Being a good supervisor is not easy, but it is simple with the right tools and framework. But, being a good supervisor is not just about learning skills, it’s also about gaining the self-confidence that comes from successful practice.

    Content Marketing is not just about sharing knowledge, it’s about building trust too.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear John:
      Thank you for comments, and for sharing your perspective in a specific context.

      I love your comment, “Good teachers help students learn how to thrive anywhere.” So needed to remember in today’s “niche/specialist” world.

      You last sentence, too, bears repetition: “Content marketing is not just about sharing knowledge, it’s about building trust, too.” That should be etched on everyone’s computer monitor!
      Roger

  • Whitney

    I am a former elementary school teacher and am now leading our content marketing strategy and development initiative! I completely agree with your points above, especially the planning and relationship building aspects of the job.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Whitney:
      Thank you for sharing your experiences and congratulations on your new efforts. Keep us informed about your progress and successes. Roger

    • angel

      Hi Whitney, I am interested in learning more about this transition. Any advice would be welcome.

  • Gail W

    This is so insightful! I recently started work as the content manager for a new website after 20 years of teaching adults in the college setting (both online and face-to-face). I am also writing content. I am constantly amazed at how much what I learned in my years of teaching and curriculum development are transferable this new setting. It was very affirming to read the post, so thank you for that!

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Gail:
      Thank you for sharing your experiences in your new career. I am happy to hear the transition is proceeding smoothly. Thank you for re-affirming my decision to write the article! Best wishes. Roger

  • secarter

    This is awesome.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Secarter:
      Thank you for your kind words, and best wishes on your efforts.

      Roger

  • Nathan Greenberg

    As the husband of a former teacher, I find myself in complete agreement with you. The skills you mention are all immensely favorable to content marketing success. Well said!

  • Sergey Shevtsov

    I completely agree.
    Very universal and generalizing material. Brilliant comparison! Well explained.
    This article not only shows what features must posess a potential nominee for a content marketing job, but it also reveals the purpose and the main principles of this job. Everything just in one article.
    Thank you!
    http://writtent.com/

  • morly

    I completely agree.
    My current title is Ass. Creative Director/Content Strategist, but I started as a senior copywriter. To date, I’ve been told it’s rare to find a creative (and writer at that) with the analytic/organisational skills that I have displayed. I thought I was just being my ole anal self :-). I’ve developed workflow systems for my agency’s SEO & PAID departments, editorial calendars, budget calendars — you name it. Now I’m heading the new Content Marketing side of our agency.
    Wow … I see now how it’s all thanks to my early years as a teacher.

  • Pat

    This is an outstanding piece. As a seasoned teacher and MBA there are so many transferable skills and marketing is one of them! Thank you for sharing this!