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Building a Content Team

Many marketing departments in particular are grappling with the content demands of today’s 24/7, firehose media. Marketing departments were traditionally built on planning, research and strategy, with perhaps a freelance copywriter on call. With Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and your own website now clamoring for content along with traditional communications vehicles, the traditional structure can’t meet all your needs. When you need to expand your content team, how do you do it?

First, know your goals. I don’t mean the “what’s on your to-do list today” kind of goal. I mean the big, hairy goal. The “increase sales 15% over last year” goal, or “Cut call center volume by 20%” or “Improve customer satisfaction by 30%” kind of goals. Many people get stuck here because the company has a stated goal, and then it has the way it acts day to day. Do everything you can get to clarity on the real goals before you begin.

Know your timeline. Are you embarking on a campaign, or establishing a new method of operations? If you can clearly answer this question, it will help you decide whether you need to hire an agency or a staffer.

Know your core competence. What is your organization? Is your core competence something outside of the marketing and communications arena? For most organizations, the answer is yes. That doesn’t mean you need an agency, but it might make it more likely. Conversely, even communications-heavy organizations hire agencies to bring in fresh ideas or handle extra work.

Define the judgment needed. Anyone who’s going to be the last person to see content before your customers has to have judgment that you trust completely. Someone who’s writing copy and submitting it to you or another trusted staff member needs less authority. Sure, you’d let a 17-year-old run the register at a retail location [and thus represent you directly to customers], but you shouldn’t let a junior-level staffer with little training run your Twitter account without supervision. The potential for damage is significantly higher.

Finally, let’s talk skills. When you’re thinking about making a hire or signing a contract to procure content services, you not only must identify the skills you need today, but you also have to think about what you need tomorrow. If you can’t count on a budget for professional development [and time to support that as well], you are better off contracting with a freelancer or agency that aggressively educates its own staff. The world of digital content is changing minute by minute, and many of the skills we need today won’t be current tomorrow. You want to hire curious people who are always learning. If they’re on your staff, you have to support that. If they’re your vendor, expect to pay more for it.

So what’s right — hire a staff or an agency? There’s no right answer, but these questions may help you shape your thinking.

How did you decide whether to outsource or hire? What skills do you value in your content staff?

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