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7+ Skills Every Content Marketer Needs To Be Great

Content marketing’s importance rose again in 2022.

Nearly three-quarters (71%) of content marketers say content marketing has become more important to their organization in the last year, according to the latest Content Marketing Institute research.

That means companies will need to hire and train content marketers for the foreseeable future.

“There’s a greater emphasis now on people in content roles,” says Nick Lake, senior director of global content marketing at Pega. Nick based his observation on research his company conducted for its Future of Marketing report (registration required). “CMOs are going to have more content creators. The salaries for content creators will increase because they see it as a more strategic role in the organization.”

What skills should those content pros have?

We know which skills frontline content marketers believe are important: SEO, data analytics, working with technologies, audience development, and writing and editing topped the list of desired training in another recent CMI study.

Content Marketers Interested in Learning These Skills

But are these the same skills the people who hire content marketers, lead content programs, and consult with brands care about?

At Content Marketing World this year, we asked several content leaders what skills and backgrounds they think are most important for a content marketer.

Read what they told us (lightly edited for clarity), or watch the video for the highlights.

Writing, editing, SEO, data analytics top the list of desired training by #Content marketers, according to @CMIContent #Research via @KMoutsos. #CMWorld Share on X

Get curious

Be curious – I would say that’s one of the skills you should refine. Curiosity is going to fuel you to want to understand your audiences. What matters is what you ought to be creating. – Deanna Ransom, president and executive director of Women in Revenue

Develop a journalistic viewpoint

Ultimately, we’re all telling stories. When you’re in journalism, you’re learning about interviewing skills, writing skills, and really telling people’s stories. I think that’s a great place to start. – Amy Fair, content marketing manager at SpyCloud

The core tenets of journalism are so important for content marketing. Understanding your audience – having a deep desire to answer all their questions, educate them, and be a helpful resource. Those principles are shared by journalism and content marketing.  – Monica Norton, head of content marketing at Yelp

#Content marketers need skills similar to journalists – a desire to answer the audience’s questions, says @monicalnorton via @KMoutsos @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

Hone your strategic thinking and data analysis

Not neglecting the strategic point of view is important. Even if you’re in creator mode at a certain part of your career, understand why certain content works and others don’t, and make sure you have access to performance data so that you can dig in and really get that deeper understanding. Eventually, that’s going to be how you level up. It’s getting to a more strategic perspective. Even if you keep the creator hat for a while, get as quickly as you can to understanding the strategic perspective behind what we do. – Andrea Fryrear, CEO and co-founder of AgileSherpas

A broad understanding of marketing is needed. I’m not a data and analytics person. But you still have to understand how the content you create works in this specific digital platform. How is it being measured? How is it being promoted? How is it being promoted organically versus paid? What are the inputs that go into creating this content? Who do you need to work with to do it?

When you think, “Oh, I’m going to go work on creating content. I’m going to be a writer,” that’s what you think it is. That’s only a piece of it. You really have to understand the whole ecosystem of content marketing. ­­– Lukas Treu, content strategist at Swagelok

Learn to love numbers. Data and metrics are very important. What are the results? Make sure you’re spending time on the content that’s producing something that’s getting someone to take the next step, that you’re not just doing something for the sake of doing something. How does it fit in with the overall marketing strategy? How do you make sure you know what you’re doing is moving the needle and helping the business grow?

As content becomes more and more popular and more companies and brands are producing more, the ability to rise above the noise is getting harder. The metrics can show you what’s resonating, what people are engaging with, what they’re responding to, and how you can take them on the journey you want. – Jeremy Bednarski, content strategist at Salesforce

Practice (flexible) organizational skills

Project management – checking off things, staying organized, and planning ahead. Being fluid and flexible and able to change the content calendar if you need to. Being able to switch gears if you need to. – Asia Johnson, content marketing specialist at Express Employment International

Content marketers need to be able to switch gears if needed, says Asia Johnson of @ExpressPros via @KMoutsos @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

Have a heart – and improve your improv game

I think what we’re missing is heart. I think we need people with empathy. I think we need people with improv skills. I’ve met some people in marketing. Y’all need some improv skills.

And I say that with love because “yes, and” is about life. It’s not just a business skill. It’s a way of looking at the world. And when the world throws itself off the script, like with COVID, how do we move forward? – Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder of Keeping It Human, Inc.

Sharpen your writing, but don’t stop there

Writing skills. If you can’t write, you really want to go find a new thing to do. I would argue the essential role of any marketer needs to be extreme communication – the ability to communicate at a higher level. You have to use communication in words or video or whatever. You’re really presenting to your audience to get them to take some kind of action. And if you don’t have that skill set, you’re going to be extremely challenged.

Equally important is the ability to understand technology and utilize technology. Know how to use things like Salesforce and how to hack it in the background. That’s how you’re going to be able to duct tape your own solutions and make things work in your organization. The reality is that your goal as a marketer is to be the world’s best marketer for your company. And to do that means you’re going to have to create a lot of bespoke solutions. – Vish Khanna, chief commercial officer at HealthPrize

A little bit of everything, all at once

Content marketers need to be pretty good at research and looking at the competitive set before creating something – or you’re more likely to make something that’s bland and undifferentiated.

Content marketers need to be highly empathetic and have a good sense of how this piece will land or be consumed when it hits that audience.

Content marketers need to be flexible and adapt to new channels and new trends because stuff is gradually changing all the time. Plus, there are production skills, there are writing skills, there are recording skills, and basic editing.

If you like using both halves of your brain all the time, content marketing is perfect for you. – Andy Crestodina, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Orbit Media Studios

If you like using both halves of your brain all the time, #ContentMarketing is perfect for you, says @crestodina via @CMIContent Share on X

Investing in content skills should pay off

Not every content professional needs to excel in each skill mentioned. But if you’re looking for a job, looking for a new team member, or just want to keep your skills competitive, use this list as a starting point.

Need more guidance to hone your content marketing skills? Enroll in CMI University and get 12-month on-demand access to an extensive curriculum designed to help you do your job more effectively.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute