10 Qualities of the Best Content Marketing Managers Today

by Marcus Sheridan

content marketing manager

The more my company teaches, trains, and assists organizations with their content marketing efforts, the more I realize that nothing great ever seems to occur unless there is a super star behind the wheel within the organization. And in most cases, this person is referred to as a Content Marketing Manager (CMM) or possibly a Chief Content Officer, but ultimately, the name isn’t what matters.

Instead, what matters is that they(the organization) have one in the first place.

And once they do have one, they need to be good.

But what defines “good” in this case? What skill-sets should you be looking for, especially if you’re at the point where you’re seeking to fill this position within your company? Here are what I have found to be the 10 essential qualities of every successful content marketing manager, a list we use every time my team is tasked with hiring a CMM for an organization.

10 Essential Qualities of Great Content Marketing Managers

1. They love to write: This one goes without saying, but it’s a BIG deal. And remember, “writing” online isn’t just about fancy words. It’s about clean communication—done in a way so that just about any reader can understand what’s being said. As I always say, great writers and communicators don’t try to sound smart, which is never the goal of content marketing. Rather, they seek “communion,” and it’s this quality that makes them great.

2. They are skilled at editing: When companies leverage their existing employees to produce textual and video content (insourcing), the initial product can at times be “rough” :-) But great content managers can take what is a “5” in terms of quality and make it a “9” or “10”—doing their best to make the original source as clear and concise as possible for the reader.

3. They have excellent interview skills: This is HUGE. Because insourcing is such a big deal these days, subject matter experts are spread out all over companies, big and small. A great content marketing manager understands how to sit down with these people (and vendors as well) and ask the right questions to stimulate content that teaches, helps, and informs readers.

4. They embrace social media and “get it:” It goes without saying that social media is here to stay. Furthermore, it goes without saying those people that “don’t like” social media tend not to do incredible things when trying to build traffic, leads and sales through said media :-)

5. They have solid video editing skills: Video just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Heck, for a bunch of our clients at TSL, video is way more important than text when it comes to producing a heavy amount of content while attempting to utilize employees—especially those persons in the sales department.

6. They are extremely likeable: You may have heard me talk about the massive success of Krista Kotrla before, Chief Content Officer of Block Imaging. Well, amongst the many reasons Krista is wildly successful has to do with her likeability factor. Her company’s employees love her. She brightens up their day, she has their respect, and because of this they are quick to help with content marketing.

When it comes down to it, unlikeable people make AWFUL content marketing managers.

7. They understand what makes people tick: Again, when it comes to using employees as sources of content, knowing how to get said employees motivated and inspired is critical. This is exactly why the best CCOs know how to push the right buttons and get their employees the needed “boost” to contribute to the company’s marketing and sales goals.

8. They are organized and goal oriented: Content marketing, especially when done in businesses of any size, needs to have order. This starts with a main editorial calendar and continues with newsletters, trainings, interviews, etc.

9. They love analytics, numbers, and measurement: As I’ve worked so closely to so many business owners and marketers on the content marketing over the last few years, I keep seeing a simple trend:

Those persons that pay attention to the numbers get WAYYYYY more results.

This is also why a content marketing manager eventually needs to be skilled with not just Google Analytics, but also other tools, like a HubSpot, Infusionsoft, etc.

10. They are constantly thinking outside the box: Look around at the greatest content marketing examples and I’ll show you creativity and unique thinking every time. Fact is, the best ones in this industry aren’t looking for a set of “rules” or a “road map” that tells them exactly what they need to do next.

Instead, they just get stuff done, however they possibly can, and often with some serious creativity acting as the catalyst to success.

As you look at these 10 qualities, it’s pretty obvious why the journalism industry has taken content marketing by storm. In fact, at TSL, almost all of our hires for content marketing managers for our clients come directly from this industry, the majority of which are recent journalism graduates, ready for work, and perfectly suited to meet this position’s demands at a very reasonable price. With so much of this talent available (due to the dying newspaper industry), there is really no excuse for companies not to fill this position and start receiving the benefits to their business, brand, and bottom line immediately.

Your Turn

So those are 10 qualities we’ve found that make a great content marketing manager but now I’d love to hear your thoughts. What else would you add to the list? And have you been part of a successful content marketing manager hire before? Tell us about the experience.





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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Freeman April 3, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Hi Marcus,

Have you seen it work where this list of skills is split between several people? For example, I am in charge of our marketing team, I am definitely pushing the Content Marketing Agenda, but I don’t have time to do everything on this list. Have you seen it work well, where some of the tasks where taken by one person, but the actual production of content was done by others?

Thanks

Andrew

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Marcus Sheridan April 7, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Andrew, I’m so glad you brought up this point.
Yes, these are really “need areas”—which means if multiple people can fill in the gaps, then great. We see that all the time as well. That being said, you know what happens when you have too many chefs in the kitchen. ;-)

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Mona Hussain April 14, 2014 at 4:30 am

Marcus,

Really good post and getting things done, quite frankly, is something that deserves more attention versus accumulating more and more info.

However, sort of like what Khuram Dhanani said, can you give a few examples (or at least one) of your tenth point – thinking outside the box?

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Ryan Scott April 3, 2014 at 8:10 pm

“they just get stuff done” – I think this is one of the key ingredients in a marketer. When others never finish a project in the name of “quality control” or “branding” it’s the marketers that push it on through that find results. Not saying quality has to be bad, but those who attack the publish schedule fearlessly are the ones who every one else is using as examples.

Case in point, you left the Y off the first word in #1, Marcus. :)

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Marcus Sheridan April 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Nice catch on the typo brother! :-)

And speaking of getting stuff done, you represent that as well as anyone I’ve worked w Ryan. Seriously dude, you’re great at what you do.

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Kristina April 4, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I Love reading blogs just so I can live vicariously through everyone else! No, actually I am a writer and have been since 2009, so I like to see other genres of writing. I do mainly SEO work, so literally I write about everything imaginable.

Just wanted to drop you a like and say thanks for letting me read yours and making it public so I could. Write on my Friend!

Kristina
http://kristinawrites.weebly.com/

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Heath Rost April 4, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Hey Marcus! Just wanted to drop you a line and say I appreciated your write-up. The bullet that definitely stuck out to me that I haven’t even experimented with yet was #5. I’ll be giving it more thought down the road :)

I couldn’t make it to smmw’14 this year to catch up, hopefully we can butt heads at a conference down the road soon :)

Best, Heath

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Marcus Sheridan April 7, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Sounds great Heath, would love to catch up soon!

marcus

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Maria April 5, 2014 at 12:19 am

Hi Marcus. Thanks for the information. I’m a web designer and internet business analyst from very old school (graduated in 1983) I just have a comment.
This very important marketing aspect its extremely intimidating for any ma and pa business who wants to enter this business world. As you have mention there is a new generation of media savy writers who are our grandchildren age and may not have the patience to translate or explain the business jargon to a senior audience or market.
I think that the roll of a business internet analyst for these cases is essential to be the liaison between old school communication with new generation of marketing, otherwise you will miss an intimidated market outhere.
Thanks again for sharing.
Maria

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Marcus Sheridan April 7, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Maria, that’s actually a tremendous point. Ultimately, this person needs to be a great communicator—which is what you’re saying. Knowing how to put things in a way that anyone can understand it makes all the difference to digital success.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

marcus

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Darren April 5, 2014 at 7:56 am

This list is great however and the part about “getting stuff done” is interesting. However I would like to say the notion of being able to do things without a roadmap is not something that rings true for me.

I believe that someone who is multi skilled enough to tick most of these boxes does in fact require a roadmap, plan or agenda.

What you’re describing in this article is a jack of all trades, and people like this really do need focus and direction. I am someone who’s skills are quite broad and it is easy to get distracted with various new ideas.

When you do not know where you are going, any road will do. Because people with broad interests are wandering generalities instead of clear specifics, they need to focus on a strategy.

Of course, what you might be getting at is the idea that good content marketers are willing to take detours, to be flexible and creative in a world where the rules ARE ever changing.

The point you made about organisation and and editorial calandar are important points too. A content schedule together with some serious time management skills is exactly what is needed. I would say though, don’t create something just for the sake of it. It is tempting to believe we must publish more and more content faster and faster, just because everyone else is.

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Lori Appleman April 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I like this article with the exception of one thing – your ageist attitude. There are many people in Internet marketing who are not young and fresh from school, who have been writing and managing content for years. Your implication that only young people “get” social media is BS. They may have a great grasp of how it is used personally and what types of content get buzz, however they may be completely lacking in the understanding of how to use it for business. That has been my experience. I can teach them, but they don’t “get” it without being taught.

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Marcus Sheridan April 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Lori, I think you’re getting a false implication here. What I’ve said is that my company often ends up hiring younger folks for these positions. Why? Because recent grads often have these skillsets and are thirsty to work—and will work for less than someone who has been in the game for 20 years.

This is not about age, it’s about experience and qualities.

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peeweesf April 11, 2014 at 1:34 pm

can you explain why you deleted my response? Are “lack of transparency and fear of dissent” also qualities you espouse? Very uncool.

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Mike Gingerich April 7, 2014 at 7:52 am

Wow, quite a list! Demands a LOT of 1 person. So many nuggets within the points. I see too often gaps when they have the technical skill sets but don’t “get social.” That’s a deal breaker!

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Marcus Sheridan April 7, 2014 at 3:44 pm

yep, you’re right Mike. I’ve seen lots of people with a few of these, but having all of them certainly makes the person quite valuable.

Great seeing you stop by bud, have a tremendous week!

Marcus

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Justin Bennett April 7, 2014 at 9:11 am

Great list! In my opinion, #1 is extremely important and is the foundation for long-term success. When it comes to any pursuit in life, passion goes a long way!

Being clear in your writing style is also critical, especially when writing for a global audience as I do.

Thanks for sharing!

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Marcus Sheridan April 7, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Good points Justin, appreciate you stopping by :)

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Kenneth James April 7, 2014 at 10:19 am

Number 4 is a serious deal breaker. Most of the highly successful SM & content marketers I know (and I know MANY) are over 30. 20-somethings may use SM more personally, but that’s the equivalent to saying people who do their own taxes are good accountants. The blatant ageism in this article is not only problematic in a societal sense, but from a business perspective it is severely limiting for a firm trying to leverage dynamic content.

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Marcus Sheridan April 7, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Why is it a “deal breaker” Kenneth? Just use 9 of the suggestions and throw the other aside.

These 10 points are suggestions, all stemming from multiple hirings my company has done for other organizations. I’m all for someone that is 50 years having these 10 traits. Obviously, it’s not about age, although once you factor in all these things, averages do appear.

Marcus

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Ruth Zive April 7, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Great list Marcus. I work with a lot of startups that don’t have budget to hire someone internally with all of these qualifications. This is often the rationale to outsource much of the marketing function (to someone like me :)). I always insist that there be someone designated from ‘within’ to act as a point person and liaison, but in many cases, I end up fulfilling (or quarterbacking) many of the items on your list. I’m wondering your thoughts about outsourcing some of these functions, especially in the early stages, as a company is beginning to scale.

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Marcus Sheridan April 8, 2014 at 10:03 am

So I think outsourcing this makes a lot of sense Ruth, especially at first. That being said, in most cases I honestly don’t understand why someone would want to outsource this permanently (I say this knowing that some of my clients have paid me on a long-term, retainer basis). I just feel the subject is so very important that at this point it’s like outsourcing your company’s VP of sales.

But hey, this is a subject where the jury is still out :)

Thanks so much for stopping by,

Marcus

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Khuram Dhanani April 9, 2014 at 10:21 am

It was great Marcus. I was personally expecting a bit more for the 1oth point – “out of the box thinking”. It would have been great if you could just offer an example. People with clear communication and a bit different thought process do exceptionally well in this industry :- Khuram Dhanani

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sreeraj April 9, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Great list Marcus,great lists!The point you made about organisation and and editorial calandar are important points.
http://www.tinyserval.com

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Gawlik April 11, 2014 at 3:45 am

I think that this list is very useful! Great job! It’s really hard to be good manager this time…

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Davina K. Brewer April 11, 2014 at 10:23 am

For a #11 I’d add visual thinking, design sense so they ‘get’ when a picture or video that’s the better content to share, and where and why. This is a smart list of skills Marcus – as mentioned upthread, seems a lot for one person. Fair warning, I’m gonna disagree whilst agreeing.

Writing, interviewing, listening are all essential business communications skills. Knowing what’s inside vs. outside the box, when which will work and why; crunching numbers and stats; asking smarter questions, looking past the data to interpret what it really means. What makes people tick, and why – ITA that’s a big one; takes someone w/ some critical thinking for sure. IMO many of these skills are born of experience.

I know you’re not ageist Marcus. My thoughts: It’s not that someone older can’t ‘get’ social or get things done; or that by default someone young automagically does. What hit me as odd is the idea that a recent grad be a candidate for a SM manager position; new grad, by definition means limited practical experience. I’m fine hiring and training such talented candidates for entry level; I’m not sure they should be in a role where they have to train, monitor, lead, supervise… manage others of varying experience.

Via internships and student jobs, I actually had a lot of experience coming out of college and was fairly darn smart. (Seriously, no idea what went wrong. ;-)) I don’t think I’d have been ready to step into a manager role, nor a lead something like a CMM program for even a small brand. There are always exceptions to the rules, 25-year olds who are poised for world domination. I’d just caution any brand investing in Comms, in Social, in a CMM program to think past ‘reasonably priced’ and look for candidates w/ the right mix of these very essential (again, good list) skills, the technical knowledge – tempered by the wisdom of experience. FWIW.

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mung April 12, 2014 at 2:36 am

This article will be really helpful for me… Thank you!!

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abhi April 12, 2014 at 10:05 am

Well, you have covered valuable points here & one must have these qualities to be best content marketing manager.

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Iteire Apollos April 12, 2014 at 6:45 pm

I have a name for this article and it is “DA BOMB” i appreciate all the points but love the first two the more. When your content manager has the passion to share or get his or her voice heard through writing then you are going to get the best in most case. One thing i have noticed with people who has passion to write is that they are good communicators. I have quite a few friends online and if i would need something like that, I will definitely turn to them. Thanks once more for this explosive post. LOL

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Glenn David April 14, 2014 at 2:11 am

Hey Marcus, the quality of editing must be there in every content manager. If a manager is not good in editing already written content then its not worth anyhow. I was used to be team leader once and found that it is difficult to edit an article rather than write it. So its not at all a smooth job, rather it becomes frustrating many times..

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Adam April 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Some really great points in this, and they all flow into each other really well. Thanks for sharing.

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