What makes a good content marketer?

Sharon Tanton

Millions of words have been written about the crucial sharp-edged skills that help digital marketers but far less is said about the softer skills. Here are 6 squishy, less easy to define but equally important qualities which all good content marketers share.

What makes a good content marketer? Millions of words have been written about the crucial sharp-edged skills that help digital marketers – strategic thinking, the determination to follow a process driven approach, a single minded focus on ROI and measuring what matters – but far less is said about the softer content marketing skills.

Here’s my take on the squishy, less easy to define but equally important qualities which all good content marketers share.

Sharon and Brillo

Cuddling puppies and other content marketing soft skills.

Six touchy feely content marketing attributes

1. Empathy

Empathy rates highly. I think good content marketers are always able to see things from somebody else’s point of view.

One of the very many things that irritated my ex-husband about me is my instinctive understanding for the other person’s situation. (And my determination to mention it at every opportunity.)

Typical exchange. Approaching roundabout. Car in front changes lane at last minute.

Ex: Bastard stupid driver. Idiot. Fume fume.

Me: Maybe they’re lost. Maybe they’re dropping their son off at University and don’t know where they’re going. Perhaps they haven’t been here before. That last sign was hard to see, maybe they missed it.

Ex: Humph. Fume fume.

As a content marketer you are always thinking of the other person’s situation first. Why are they reading this? What do they want to know? What are they feeling? You need to start from here if you want to create websites that work instinctively and give people what they want, and to craft copy that strikes the right note.

2. Listening

Good listening skills are at the heart of every good piece of content marketing. Whether it’s listening so you understand the challenges someone is facing so can create the right content, or listening for precisely the right words to use to make someone feel understood, listening is everything.

The ability to listen well is what gives you the ability to create the right tone of voice in your content. And tone of voice is that hard to define thing that determines whether people bother reading past the first sentence. It really matters.

Listening is a soft skill with immense power. More precise than an iron fist in a velvet glove, maybe it’s a scalpel in a lace-edged hankie.

3. Playfulness

Let’s face it, a lot of content is boring. Boring, repetitive, yadda yadda yadda. Everything has been said before, in quite exhaustive detail, somewhere else.

The ability to have some fun with the material you’re dealing with, and to consistently come up with imaginative new angles is invaluable. Being able to enjoy the creative process is a quality that good content marketers share.

>> Look at Henneke Duistermaat’s illustrations and delectable word choices, or Velocity Partners’ brilliantly close to the bone SlideShares, and you’ll see people having fun with what they’re doing. Playfulness is infectious – readers love it.

4. Curiosity

Curiosity goes hand in hand with playfulness. It’s the drive to keep asking questions, and to want to explore ‘what if?’ and ‘why?’ These questions drive a lot of good content.

Curiosity about your customers’ lives, their feelings and challenges helps fuel content that hits the mark. Curiosity about new ways of doing things, excitement about the possibilities of new technologies and techniques fuels content that pushes boundaries.

>> Our favourite bit of home grown ‘what if?’ content is our map of the Land of Content. It began life with the phrase ‘what if the content marketing journey was a real life journey? What would the place be like?’

5. Self deprecation

There’s a fine line to tread with writing blogs. The best content marketing blogs are written from the reader’s point of view, but that doesn’t mean the writer needs to be completely invisible. Revealing a bit about yourself helps your writing make connections with your reader. And revealing times when maybe things haven’t gone perfectly– when you’ve been scared, worried, or out of your depth – can make your content warmer and more accessible.

>> If you want to see how it works, look at the way Chris Brogan writes. A sprinkle of self deprecation can make people like you.

6. Caring

If you don’t care about your customers, your content marketing will fail.

Caring is shown through empathy and listening, and expressed in generosity. If you genuinely care about your customers you’ll want them to do well. You’ll happily share your knowledge for free, spend time creating content you know they’ll appreciate, and putting energy and dedication into your relationship.

How do you feel about the balance between hard and soft content marketing skills? Any I’ve missed?

Do let me know.

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