Content marketing is a newish role, and we can’t always find that person with a journalism background. So what do you do? Spotting and mentoring talent has become an important skill for content marketing managers.

Creating engaging content continues to be a focus for content marketers, with 2016 Content Marketing Institute research citing it as the top priority for B2B (72 percent)  and B2C (56 percent) marketers. Content as a priority is due, in large part, to the difficulty in having the resources to create compelling content that maps to the varying stages of the buyer’s journey.

Many marketers pursue increasing their freelance writing budgets or syndicating content to fill those gaps. And although those are great tactics, they overlook a frequently underutilized content resource: your current staff outside of the content team.

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Early in my content marketing career, I spotted a departmental administrative assistant with some extra time on her hands who had a knack for proofreading and copyediting. In fact, it turned out she had been doing significant research and rewrites for one of our team’s writers on a regular basis. Like any smart content marketer would, I sat down to talk to her about career goals and asked if she was interested in pursuing a marketing career. Once I found out that she was, I gave her bite-sized writing assignments, kept track of customer praise for her work and met with her regularly to provide mentoring and feedback.

In a few months, I was able to make the case for promoting her to a writer position on the team. Not only did this broaden our team’s writing bench strength, but it also launched her on a career path she’s still on today. As the manager who saw that initial spark, that feels great.

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Who are good candidates for content mentorship? Of course, not everyone is interested in joining your content team. Many employees are happy to be right where they are with a full plate of duties. Still, I have consistently found content rock stars in a few of the same roles:

Product Managers: With insight into your product road map and a knowledge of your customer’s key issues your customers bring up, these folks can help you identify the day-to-day problems your customers face and how to fix them.

Sales Reps: Your sales team spends every day talking to prospective customers. If they’re engaging in social selling, they can be a great resource for the latest trends and news that you can build off of for your content, not to mention insights on thought leaders to quote.

Data Analysts: Whenever you see a great piece of content that involves slicing and dicing an organization’s user or customer data in a meaningful way, you’ve likely been consuming the work of a data analyst. They can help pinpoint unique and exciting data while deriving insights your customers find interesting.

Customer Success or Community Managers: If you’re looking for stories to elevate and real life examples for how your product or service is making a difference in customer lives, these are the folks who can uncover the right stories to feature.

Executive Admins: These professionals often have a better sense of what’s going on in the company—from what partnerships are in the works to what the CEO said in his most recent media interview—than anyone else. And thanks to spending the bulk of their days on executive communication activities, they typically have sharp and efficient writing skills.

Ideal Buyer: In many cases, your organization has someone in the functional role that your company sells to (B2B), or has numerous people who make up your typical consumer base. If they have access to and experience with your product or service, they’re a valuable resource for your content team.

How to start mentoring new content team members

Once you’ve identified a couple of prospective content mentees, how do you begin a mentorship relationship with them? It all starts with a conversation. Set up a private in-person meeting to talk to them about the content team’s needs and ask them about their career goals. How do their goals and your content needs overlap?

This conversation will serve as the foundation for your mentorship road map. During your initial meeting, you’ll be looking to determine what sort of role, if any, this person is interested in and how to make the most of their time. By the end of the conversation, you’ll want to know:

  • Do they have an interest in writing for the blog or creating other written resources?
  • Do they have another skill or talent, such as photography, videography or illustration, that they can use to produce content?
  • What unique perspective or information do they have that you can amplify?
  • What expertise can they contribute to the content team?

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While it may seem time-consuming, even daunting, to set up a series of meetings to recruit employees onto your team, this approach is more successful than sending out a blanket call for blog authors or another narrow, tactical request. Why? Because instead of framing your appeal through the lens of what team members can do for you, you’re approaching them from the perspective of how this opportunity can assist them in their career.

Your company culture will dictate if you will want to setup a more formal mentoring program, or if a casual approach is best. Regardless of which approach you take, a few common best practices will come into play:

  • Set clear expectations. How often will you meet? How long will the mentoring last? What is the result? Make sure both parties are aligned.
  • Define a goal, and how to get there. In this context, it could be writing a specific number of blog posts, completing an e-book, or creating a template.
  • Encourage and inspire your mentee. Invite them to content team brainstorms. Acknowledge their contributions in all-hands meetings.
  • Celebrate their success and attainment of their goals. Provide timely, constructive feedback.

For more ideas on how to increase your content team by nurturing internal talent, check out our recent infographic, Infographic: Don’t Outsource Content Creation–In-Source It! and e-book In-Sourcing Your Content Creation.

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