Advice to new content managers

Posted February 9, 2021 in
Content Managers Content Managers

Justine Timoteo

Director of Training Services, IMPACT

Hey all!

I'm writing an article that will provide actionable steps for new Content Managers to take within their first 90 days in order to set themselves up for success (and wow their boss!).

What advice would you give to someone stepping into the Content Manager role at a new company?

Let me know, thanks!! 

Please note: I will use answers within my article and cite your name, title and company 
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Connor DeLaney
Call me crazy, but I'd highly recommend they check out our brand new course on Your role as a content manager that  Kevin Phillips  just published! 
Liz Moorehead
100% should be the CTA for that article,  Justine Timoteo ! We just added it in. :D
Brian Casey
Kelly Kater   Steven Calhoun   Nathan Dube  - what do you guys think?
Mark Wilson
Come up with an editing regimen to hold yourself accountable. A second set of eyes is great, and tools like Grammarly help too. But ultimately, no one else is going to be responsible for the quality of your content. I do several "passes" on any piece of content. Some take seconds; others, minutes. But they each act like a checkbox:
  • Did I leave any sentences or thoughts incomplete?
  • If I scan quickly, is it obvious the text is broken up visually through pictures, videos, sidebars, bulleted lists, etc.?
  • Do the sub-heads (H2s) logically follow one another?
  • Do I explain any jargon or acronyms that are mentioned, particularly if someone else wrote the first draft?

As soon as you identify common struggles in your writing, they can be adapted into additional editing parameters.
John Becker
I love this,  Mark Wilson ! Quality takes time. 
Mark Wilson
The other bit of advice that's served me well in my content management is this: work with what you have and get the content out. If I wanted to turn it into a cliched aphorism, I'd say "Don't let the great be the enemy of the good." That's true not just of content, but also content plans and company infrastructure.

In practice, it often means producing content while the foundations of great content marketing are still being built at a company. Don't have great lead magnets to include in your blogs and build an email list? No problem, use videos. No videos yet? No problem, use images. No photography budget? No problem, just focus on creating clear visual and conceptual hierarchy in your writing and supplement your work with free-use images if possible.

Fully integrated content calendars that incorporate different media types and multiple subject-matter experts are the same way. It's a great goal, but you won't be there on Day 1.

All of those things need to be built out in order for a content marketing machine to truly hum. But they're not required to start seeing great results.

___

Hope those help, and shoutout to Kevin for suggesting I chime in!
Justine Timoteo
That's great, thank you!
Kelly Kater
3 things that I would recommend:
1. Never forget that you don't write for you or for your company.  You write for your customers.  Focus on what they want to learn, what they're asking, what they're searching for, and provide it.  It's very easy to get caught up in what you want a prospect to know, but that will never produce quality content.  Whenever I plan an article I start with the questions that are now neatly provided in Liz Moorehead 's Compass.  I'm not exaggerating when I say this:  every time I struggle with a blog, it's because I am skipping this step and not speaking to my audience.

2. Organization is critical.  Keep a detailed spreadsheet of all the articles you write, and essential info about each.  For me, that's the title, summary, hyperlink, date published, date updated, and if it contains pricing.  We recently revised our pricing and this last piece of info saved me a significant amount of time and energy.  This sheet also doubles as a resource for my sales team- they can do keyword searches for a topic and find the content they need to send to their customers. 

3.  Have a kick-ass coach like Brian Casey who won't let you take an easy out.  I still struggle to write good conclusions that don't all sound the same and he calls me on it Every. Stinking. Time. 
Jolie Higazi
That's solid advice, Kelly!
Justine Timoteo
"Never forget that you don't write for you or for your company.  You write for your customers" -- that's gold, Kelly!
Steven Calhoun
One big thing for me has been embracing the fact that I'm new to the company. It's a great excuse to ask as many questions as I need to drill down into concepts for articles. 

I'd say be curious for the customer's sake, and don't be afraid to lean on the experts in your company. The best articles I've written have come from discussions involving multiple coworkers, often all out in the open on a big email thread. Discussions like this reinforce the idea that content creation is a team effort. So stay consistent in asking questions and involving the experts as often as possible!
Justine Timoteo
Love that you use being new to your advantage!
Chazz Hirschfeld
First off, ditto on everything already said here. Secondly, get to know the name “Liz Moorehead” and read/watch/listen to everything she says. And then DO IT. 😊 And subscribe to “THE LATEST,” join IMPACT Elite on Facebook, and become part of IMPACT+. 

My personal contribution (although I do not need any credit) is below:

When interviewing your subject matter experts, take a voice recorder with you. No matter how fast you write, you may not be able to keep up with every word. 

Plus, by using a recorder, you can actually focus on the interview subject, jot down a few notes for yourself, or even add a new question that comes to mind during the process.

Yes, this does take a long time to transcribe. But a recorder allows for more flexibility on the front end and enables you to capture more of their tone and exact wording to add nuance later. You’ll also feel more comfortable if you ever pull a quote out of the copy to emphasize.

Also, have a list of questions prepared beforehand on a notepad. As the interview proceeds, you can easily find the next topic to address.

But don’t be afraid to let the subject matter expert wander a little in their answers and explanations. Sometimes they’ll bring up something you never expected. Go ahead and “go down that rabbit hole” for a few moments.

You may discover a fresh perspective on what you’re writing about or even a new topic for a later blog post. 

If possible, consider having the interview videoed, too. Segments can be edited later for use in multiple ways.

NOTES: Let them know you’re using a recorder, then set it to the side and ignore it—they will, too. There are transcription services available, if your budget allows. And if you use video, you may be able to use that audio as your recording instead.

ALSO: Listen to this Content Lab Podcast with Liz and John Becker on “How to Interview Subject Matter Experts.”
LINKS:

Justine Timoteo
Great advice, thank you!
Nika Hancock
I would say for new Content Managers to be ready to constantly receive feedback on how to make your articles better. Even if you think you have just written the most fan-frickin-tastic article ever, your Content Coach is ALWAYS going to give you suggestions, pose questions, and push your content to be its very best.

But it's not a bad thing or a thing that should ever make you feel like your work sucks. I think that some people who are good writers (in their pre-Impact lives) might have gotten used to always getting full approval, a gold star, and a cookie every time they write an article. I haven't gotten any cookies yet so I don't know what's up with that . . .

I usually like to take a look at the suggestions, watch the feedback video if there is one, and then take a break from the information I have just been given. Frankly, sometimes I get a little bent out of shape when people critique my work *I blame my parents for this but that's another story LOL*.

When I take a breather, I can always see the value in the feedback I am given. It's always coming from a place of practicality and promoting a positive user experience for the reader.

The feedback is never arbitrary or "because I said so or want it that way" in nature. I really appreciate that aspect of these Impact+ Services.

I could definitely see a new person getting down on themselves if they don't keep the perspective of "this doesn't mean I am no good, it just means I can make it better for the reader."

My advice is to only handle one edit suggestion at a time, slowly and deliberately. Don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed with the plethora of comments raining down on you. Hold on to your *positive reframing* umbrella and you will be just fine.
Jolie Higazi
This is GREAT advice,  Nika Hancock  . Thank you for sharing your experience.

P.S. Are you a chocolate chip fan? 🧐
Nika Hancock
The more chocolate the better, baby! 8 )
Justine Timoteo

Suuuuch a good point, thank you!
Jolie Higazi
I'm sure each of you could offer some great experience and advice here! What do you wish you knew when you started your role?

Matt Carter   Marissa Olson   Bri Stauffer   Jennifer Baily   Corin Cook   Timothy Kelly   Adam Stahl   Jack Nunziato   Maggie Bright   Rebecca Lane   Russ Godek   Ronnie Brown  
Jack Nunziato
I wish I knew how important marketing is to the success of an organization! Really starting to understand the power of educating your client and building trust by being a thought-leader in the space. So important and an ethos of what I now stand for!
Nathan Dube
You will want to make sure you have the proper editing tools. I would start with the Hemingway app and Grammarly. You will want to ensure that you are writing at an 8th-9th grade reading level. Make sure all of your topics fall in the line with "They Ask You Answer" and "The Big 5" topic guidelines. 

Answer questions rather than attempt to sell products. Make sure your intros do not give away the main answer to the question so that the reader is compelled to read the whole article.

Your outros must guide the reader to another blog post on the same topic. You will want to find out what the average number of blog posts read is prior to a prospect becoming a client and attempt to get your readers to read that number of posts.

Make sure your title and H2s have the proper keywords targeted within (use SEMRush to find this information).

Hire a third-party consulting firm such as IMPACT to analyze your articles to ensure that the posts are properly written and optimized for SEO and technical correctness. 

Build a team of internal SMEs and interview them. Take that content and write your post based upon their feedback.

Get comfortable with critiques from the SMEs and the consultants you use. Don't take negative feedback on your work from the SMEs or Consultants personally. It will take time to produce content that hits the mark and achieves your sales and marketing goals.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Expect success to take anywhere from 2-5 years and do not get down on yourself if it takes time to produce the quality of content you are trying to provide.
Adam Stahl
In no particular order (much like my thoughts):

  • Get to know the experts that you'll be working with regularly especially if you'll be writing as them. This might sound obvious given your role but in my experience when you get to know your subject matter experts as people and not just expert wells of knowledge to draw from when needed, you can bring more of their personality into your content. Coming from a journalism background that was a big change for me.

  • Silence during a content interview is good to an extent. If the person you're interviewing for a piece is explaining something and pauses, let that silence breathe for a moment. Frequently you will find that your interview subject will continue digging deeper into the prompt that was given.

  • As the Content Manager, part of your role is to share your expert's insights in order to answer the burning questions of your audience. A wonderful side benefit of that effort is when you've helped an SME bring their first piece of content into the world and you witness that moment when they realize that these are their thoughts that are resonating with your readers. When they realize that they've had these brilliant thoughts all along that are helping others and all it took was a little help from you as the content manager...that's one of my favorite parts of publishing content. With that in mind, always be thinking of ways to celebrate your subject matter experts and the work they've helped create. Share notable content out through all employee instant messaging groups or have a timely internal newsletter with new and notable content, superlatives (like most views, most clicks, etc.), and highlight when their pieces were used in winning deals.

  • It's one thing to show all the things you're publishing but it's quite another to show how it's helping. Know the impactful stories and metrics that you want to be recording and reporting. Have processes in mind for things like sharing what content helped influence a recent closed deal, if content is helping to shorten the sales cycle, if content is helping to bring in qualified leads, and more. If you can't show those things right away, make sure you at least have methods in place to track the data now that you'll need to report on those things in the future.

  • Try to attend events, tradeshows, and other times when your company or one of your experts is presenting. These are great opportunities to gather insights, ideas, and observe your audience asking questions first hand. For example, at a tradeshow booth if you notice that visitors are asking a similar question or if your expert is telling a similar story multiple times to answer a question throughout the day that could be a solid starting point for future content. Taking that a step further, once you've published content that addresses that question, see if the conversation at the booth changes at future shows.

Justine Timoteo  if you'll be using any of my comment above you have my permission to slice, dice, tweak as needed.
Justine Timoteo
This is great, thank you!!

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