‘There are so many egos’: Confessions of an in-house content marketer

This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →

Recruiting the right people is the hardest part of building an in-house team. According to a content marketing director we interviewed in the latest edition of our Confessions series — in which we grant anonymity in exchange for candor –it’s easy to overlook someone’s personality for the skills they have.

Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

Why is recruitment so hard?
Agencies can seem more appealing to talent because they cover so many different brands. We have a mix of sub-brands, but essentially we’re focused on one message. I struggle to get investment because we’re not a content organization, and so people have a very binary view of the value we bring. It’s hard to navigate the internal politics that secure the budgets needed to build a team and then the subsequent pressure to hire the right candidate. I’ve had bad experiences where I’ve hired candidates on hope and optimism rather than placing more value on the interview part of the recruitment process.

What do you mean by “binary view?”
It’s easy for my bosses to equate the value of the videos we create to views or to the traffic they drive back to the site. It’s harder for them to see how those videos and the rest of the content we create have a long-term impact on the brand. I’ve had to explain why we can’t stick a link back to our site on every video we run in order to qualify it.

I’ve also had to maneuver myself in front of decision-makers to demonstrate how our content can create value that won’t yield an immediate return, but will have a bigger impact on the brand over time. I don’t have a mathematical way to show that yet, but I find it helps to try and compare the work we did to the PR team in the sense that they’re not always directly impacted to an outcome, but they’re still valuable. I tried this out recently when we needed better facilities because the current setup was stretched too far. I managed to get in front of the boss of my boss and explained the situation with the previous analogy and within two weeks we had a new edit suite.

Is personality more important than expertise when building an in-house team?
It’s not a clear-cut issue. When I hire people now, I expect them to have the skills to do the job. The harder area for me is the candidate’s personality. The content team I run is small, so I need people who are can to work to short deadlines without cracking under pressure. Despite those pressures, the dynamic within the group has to be relaxed enough that each member can come to me if they have a problem. One of our producers met me a few weeks back to ask for more ownership on projects because I was being too much of a control freak. I need those sort of characters on my team when we’re trying to be progressive as a small part of a wider marketing division that isn’t as integrated as it should, which makes our job harder.

What are those complications?
There are so many egos to try and please when you’re a small team that doesn’t have the same buy-in at the executive level of a business as with other parts of the marketing division. The marketers in other parts of the organization have their own priorities and don’t want to compromise them for ours, so we’ve had to work out how our expertise fits into the work they’re doing. We often get caught in the crossfire between the marketing and communications teams when the former want to do disruptive things that are going to get people talking, whereas the latter want to keep a low profile where we can. It’s not helped by the fact that we’ve been shunted around different parts of the business to the point where we’re now working with both the brand and sponsorship teams.

How do you retain talent?
We’ve had to accept that we’re going to train our content creators, and then they’re going to leave once they advance to a certain level. We don’t have the budget to compete with agencies, and there isn’t much scope for progression in a job like ours. I tell my team that what they’re doing has to be the start of a bigger career for them: It can’t be the end of the rainbow.


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