Analysis of 300 Job Listings Reveals What Employers Are Looking For in a Content Marketing ManagerMay 9, 2014 by Jay Ivey
According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 93 percent of all B2B marketing companies use content marketing. Of course, to fuel a content marketing strategy, you need content: 58 percent of companies surveyed plan to increase their content marketing spending this year, while just 1 percent plan to decrease it.
More spending means companies are looking for new hires, particularly for the role of content marketing manager. For many firms, however, this position is still a novelty. The role frequently blurs the lines between marketing, PR and journalism, which can make things confusing for employers and candidates alike.
If you’re an employer, for instance, do you prioritize a candidate with a marketing background over a savvy writer with newsroom experience? If you’re a candidate, should you spend more time developing your editorial skills or learning the ropes of SEO?
To help you answer these questions, we analyzed a random sample of 300 job listings for content marketing managers or comparable titles (explained in our Methodology section at the end). We also shared our research with Michele Linn, content development director at CMI, and Jesse Noyes, senior director of content marketing at Kapost. Their insights are integrated in the findings below.
- Forty-eight percent of employers sought candidates with marketing degrees, but many also requested degrees such as communications, journalism and English.
- Nearly half of employers wanted candidates to have at least three to five years of professional work experience, with the majority preferring marketing experience.
- Employers want a content marketing manager to have a wide range of skills, but most listings (68 percent) placed a premium on writing and editing skills.
Employers Will Consider Varied Academic Backgrounds
Seventy-one percent of the listings we analyzed for content marketing manager roles explicitly required candidates to have earned a bachelor’s degree (BA/BS). However, just 12 percent mentioned any preference for a master’s degree (MA/MBA)—somewhat surprising since many content marketing managers will be leading editorial teams. Just one listing actually required a master’s degree.
This leaves 29 percent that either included no specific academic requirements, or accepted experience in lieu of a bachelor’s degree. Together with the low emphasis on graduate education, this indicates that many employers are willing to be open-minded about candidates’ university credentials.
Breaking down the specific degrees by field of study supports this view. Unsurprisingly, marketing was the most requested concentration, at 48 percent. But nearly as many job posts (39 percent) had no preference whatsoever, while nontraditional business degrees such as journalism and English were also among the most frequently listed, behind only marketing and communications.
Top Requested Degrees by Field of Study
This again suggests that employers are open-minded about the educational background of prospective hires. Candidates interested in a content marketing career need not despair if they majored in an area like art history, so long as they can demonstrate they’ve acquired sufficient skills and experience in other ways.
Most Employers Want 3-5 Years of Minimum Experience
Nearly half (47 percent) of listings required candidates to have at least three to five years of professional experience, with many requesting five or more. To have access to most opportunities, prospective content marketing majors should plan on spending at least three years in the trenches, preferably in a digital marketing or professional writing capacity.
Required Years of Experience
However, 18 percent of listings mentioned no professional experience requirement whatsoever, and 38 percent did not explicitly require marketing experience. This suggests that those with little or no marketing experience may still find opportunities with some companies, especially if they’ve published or managed content in other capacities, such as for a media outlet or blog.
Content Marketing Experience Isn’t Required (But It’s Helpful)
Unsurprisingly, the most common experience listed in job postings we evaluated was that directly related to content marketing. While not all employers required it, half preferred it.
Similarly, 38 percent sought candidates with experience managing a brand’s social presence. But according to Noyes, it’s not only because employers want likes and shares. “Social media has become a primary distribution channel for content,” he explains, “and marketers need to know how to get the most out of it.”
Thirty-one percent also mentioned the need for management experience, usually hiring and managing freelance writers. While this was one of the most commonly desired types of experience, it also means that 69 percent of listings did not include a preference for candidates who’ve managed direct reports.
Experience Preferred or Required
This suggest the role of content marketing manager means different things to different companies. According to Linn, some may have content marketing managers working beneath a marketing director, managing in-house content creators and freelancers, while others may have them simply operating blogs, social media or email platforms, without any people management involved.
Although most listings preferred some degree of marketing experience, many made it clear that other professional backgrounds could be a viable substitute. A quarter of them, for instance, called for applicants with editorial, digital publishing or credible blogging experience.
Another 14 percent looked for candidates with newsroom experience—a significant number, but still low considering how well-suited many journalists can be for the job—and an additional 12 percent sought PR or communications professionals.
Noyes believes these employers are willing to substitute related experience for content marketing experience because the field is still relatively new. “But as the market matures,” he says, “that will shift.”
Employers Want Different Skills, but Most Want Strong Writers
Different companies need content marketing managers with very different skills: 39 percent want them to be SEO gurus, tracking keywords to divine which topics to write about, while 22 percent want them to be data-savvy, using quantifiable metrics to tell a story to readers or demonstrate results to leadership.
Others want marketers with design sensibilities or campaign managers proficient with marketing automation software platforms, such as Marketo or Eloqua.
Top Skills Requested
However, if employers agree on anything, it’s that content marketing managers should be writers, with 69 percent preferring or requiring candidates to have exemplary writing and editing skills—not surprising, since quality is king in the content marketing game. Whatever their marketing or technical expertise, candidates should first and foremost be adept writers and content creators.
One thing they may not have to be—at least not yet—is a skilled researcher. Startlingly few employers (7 percent) included any sort of research skills or experience in their listings. Still, candidates should expect this to change as more marketers begin to understand how powerful original research can be as a content marketing tool.
“Employers are likely so deep into finding people with a mix of writing, management and prior marketing experience that research gets neglected,” Noyes suggests. “I expect this to change as original research outperforms many other content types.”
Few Job Listings Require Writing Samples or Assignments
Oddly enough, only 12 percent of the listings indicated that candidates would either need to submit a portfolio of previous writing or complete an initial writing assignment as part of the application process.
With so many employers searching for proven writers and editors, it’s surprising that more don’t require candidates to actually demonstrate these skills. It’s especially odd considering how many companies listed no specific academic or annual experience requirements, and therefore need to screen candidates in some other way.
It’s not as if marketing departments don’t understand how valuable it can be to evaluate applicants’ prior work: copywriters applying for a job live and die on the strength of their previous work. So why don’t content marketers?
Number of Employers Requiring Writing Samples
It should be noted, however, that some employers may choose to request writing samples or administer assignments later in the application process, which isn’t mentioned in their listings. This may explain why so few of the listings in our sample required them, at least to some extent.
Most Content Marketing Manager Roles Are in California
Thirty percent of all content marketing manager job listings we evaluated were for positions in California, with the majority located in the San Francisco bay area. New York followed at 9 percent, with Texas and Massachusetts close behind.
The results also indicate that Chicago and Seattle are promising cities for content marketing hopefuls, with 5 percent of listings for jobs located in Illinois and 4 percent in Washington state. Half of all Virginia and Maryland listings fell within the D.C metro area, making the nation’s capital another good place to find a content marketing job.
Job Opportunity Location by State
In addition, a significant number of listings (19 percent) were spread across other, less-represented states. So there are still opportunities for in other parts of the country, even if the pickings are slimmer than in California or New York.
While most employers want to hire content marketing managers with experience in digital marketing, many are willing to consider applicants who come from other backgrounds if they can demonstrate adequate editorial skills and marketing aptitude.
Prospective candidates should do everything in their power to do just that. Don’t have content marketing experience? Get some. If you’re already in marketing, try to find blogging or social media management opportunities within your current organization.
If that’s not an option, try to secure some freelancing gigs from a reputable content marketing outlet: 43 percent of B2B marketers outsource content, so there’s definitely work to be had.
Other top-desired skills can be developed on your own. Spending a few weeks trawling MOZ Academy is no substitute for boots-on-the-ground SEO experience, but understanding the basics of on-site optimization, for instance, can set you apart in an interview.
Likewise, content management systems such as WordPress are designed to be picked up quickly. There’s no reason serious candidates shouldn’t be able to format a blog post or know what a title tag is.
Finally, management skills will become more important as the role of content marketing manger becomes more widespread. According to Noyes, “[the number of employers requesting management experience] is not as high as it needs to be, frankly. Content marketers don’t just manage bloggers and blogs. They’ll often manage writers, designers, agencies, developers, sales and marketers.”
This study was conducted by reviewing 300 hundred job listings, most of which were found through aggregators like Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn. Our final sample encompasses a diverse spectrum of employers, from big brands like JPMorgan Chase to tech startups both large and small, including leading content marketing companies such as Hubspot and Moz.
We began by surveying listings with the exact title “content marketing manager.” Eventually we progressed to close equivalents, then to titles with comparable job requirements. For more general titles, such as “digital marketing manager,” or roles that are sometimes used in other industries, such as “managing editor,” we only included listings where it was readily apparent that content marketing functions comprised the majority of the position’s responsibilities.
Less common titles (constituting the “Other” segment in the graph below) included additional close equivalents to “content marketing manager,” such as “content marketing coordinator.” They also included a range of quirkier titles, such as “inbound marketing guru,” “content crafter” or “digital storyteller.”
Job Titles Included in Survey
We also attempted to ensure that more senior titles were comparable based on the companies posting the listings. For instance, we only considered titles like “director of content marketing” when they were posted by smaller employers and it was evident that the position involved managing a smaller number of reports.
Because this study aggregates a wide range of job listings, the results paint a general picture of what companies want in a content marketing manager. They do not create a perfect, one-size-fits-all candidate profile. Every company has its own particular needs, and applicants should do their best to customize submission materials to meet them.