What makes a Content Marketer?

Peter, who is a friend and content marketer is best described as big and tall with wavy brown hair and a boyish look. His mouth is slightly crooked when he laughs. He is the type of guy that you want to hang out with after work: easy-going, non-assuming, chill, laid-back and funny. Because of his build, he reminds me of a big and huggable Teddy Bear.   His career choices intrigue me. He received a degree in Physics from the University of Chicago. Then, he worked as a reporter for Forbes and the New York Times for several years. He managed a group of writers to create content for brands in a content marketing start-up.

Recently, I discovered that he became a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) for a local Palo Alto newspaper in July. CFO? Really?

We met up for a cup of coffee at Philz Coffee in San Mateo when I was in San Francisco for a client meeting last week.   Since he just started his CFO job three weeks ago, I asked him what he thinks of his new job and how it is going so far. He told me with his usual childlike smile that he is still learning the ropes about accounting. The company could have hired a well-qualified CFO with years of corporate and audit experience for the job, but he chose Peter instead. Initially, his hiring decision puzzled me.

My conversation with Peter solved that puzzle immediately. Granted, Peter doesn’t know how to post account ledgers, create balance sheets or income statements, but he does know the composition of revenue and cost. Since he was a reporter and a content manager, he understands how a newspaper (print and online) works. He knows the quality of editorial content is vital, yet advertising revenue is what keeps the paper going.

Because of his background, he can talk business with CEOs and chat about editorials with editors, copywriters, and designer. He can talk about CPC, CPM and web traffic analytics with the digital marketing manager. Heck, I can see him accompanying sales to negotiate with advertisers because he knows his cost figures and walk-away positions.   Peter is a smart guy, eventually, he will learn how to read and analyze a balance sheet and income statement.

It’s hard to teach a well-trained accounting professional about the ins and outs of a newspaper, but it’s probably easier to teach a reporter and content manager with a solid analytical mind (majored in Physics) to learn about accounting and finance.

I believe that the CEO understands that logic.

He hired Peter as the “CFO”, but he really doesn’t want Peter to be the “CFO.”

Essentially, he doesn’t want his CFO to be a typical CFO that only focuses on numbers on the balance sheet and income statement. He wants the CFO to think beyond that and help to grow the business. Although I don’t know this CEO, I think he is pretty smart and I also understand why he hired Peter.   My conversation with Peter prompted me to think about the necessary skillset for marketing nowadays. Traditionally, marketing organizations are divided into distinctive functions. The event team does events. The direct marketing team manages e-mail and postal mail marketing. The media team focuses on media-buys.

There are interactions between teams, but everyone has specific and clear roles and responsibilities while overlapping is rare and manageable. Today though, technology has started breaking down these pre-determined boundaries between marketing functions and makes lines blurry. For example, an event manager who always manages physical events needs to launch virtual events on the Internet or produces real-time paid webinars. In a way, you are hired to be an event manager, but you are not just an event manager. Your title may be an event manager, but you are really an event manager, a webinar producer, and a virtual event technical expert. You may also need to do produce a keynote production or even learn to edit videos. You need to do a whole lot more than your title represented. This is especially true for content marketers.

A content marketer’s job is not as defined as traditional marketing roles.

You may be helping social media on copywriting, working with sales on sales training, creating content for the company’s major events or acting as an editor to review everyone’s content. You are hired as a content marketer, but you can be a social media manager, editor, copywriter, content creator or even an actor for the video you will produce. While enjoying Philz coffee, Peter told me that he still needs to know his numbers, do his month-end closing, payroll, accounting compliance and whatever other tasks a traditional CFO needs to do. However, his CEO expects more of him, he expects Peter to also understand the business and help grow it. The CEO hired Peter as a CFO, but he really doesn’t want Peter to be ONLY the CFO. I think that also applies to content marketing:

Though a company may hire you as a content marketer, the hiring manager really doesn’t want you to be JUST a content marketer.

He or she expects you to get things done depending on what projects you are tasked with. He or she also expects you to be creative and find ways to contribute and grow the business. You need to be more than just a content marketer.

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