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Content Trainer, 5+ Years of Project Management and Digital Marketing Experience
October 1st, 2019
If you were to ask me what one of the most common misconceptions business leaders have when looking to hire a content or video creator at their company, can you guess what my answer would be?
Well, blog title gives it away, doesn’t it?
But yes, it’s this mistaken idea that your content manager or videographer needs to be experienced and already in-the-know with your industry.
Also, don’t let the term “content manager” throw you off. This is just a blanket term we use when we’re talking about the point-person in the organization who is responsible for the creation and distribution of online content.
You can also call this a digital marketer, a content specialist, content writer, or something similar. Corresponding job titles can also be used for videographers.
If you’re looking into making that next hire for your team to insource more of your content production efforts, you’ve likely already made it ⅔ of the way through the process of making this shift a reality:
You understand that using freelancers and agencies for your content/video production isn’t the best way to see results: taking it in-house is.
Your leadership team is bought-in to the strategy and is willing to invest in those new key hires.
This leaves you with only one step left:
Getting the right person in that seat!
It’s natural to assume that the “right person” is someone who has the skills you need and is already in your industry.
However, there are several significant disadvantages to doing so, and several advantages that you miss out on if you hire someone too familiar with your industry.
Before we dive into all of that, though, here’s a real-life case example.
A real story about a non-industry-specific content hire...Me!
I graduated college with a BA degree in journalism (and sociology). I got my first content-related job six months after graduating as a Content Specialist for an ophthalmic digital and print publication. In case you’re wondering, ophthalmologists are eye surgeons. But don’t worry, I didn’t know that at the time either!
I was making $30,000-something per year, and I got to spend my time throwing red ink all over articles, interviewing for and writing new articles, and managing e-newsletters and social media; it was a dream come true.
I had absolutely no idea what ophthalmology was about – I could barely even pronounce it – and I was as squeamish as you can imagine any time I needed to edit an eye surgery video that would go along with an article (don’t tell me you’ve never seen a femtosecond laser deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty procedure? Warning: don’t click unless you’re really feeling brave).
However, my managers at the time knew the key answer: as long as you’re willing to learn, you’ll learn it. It’s more important that I had the skills to write and the wherewithal to figure things out as I went.
I was so successful in that role that within two years I was managing the digital content of numerous brands (more than anyone else in the company). And it’s not that I had any kind of medical background into these topics: it’s just that I knew how to write, and I knew the questions I needed to ask in interviews with doctors so I could get the information I needed to write and edit my articles.
In addition, I was able to come into this company with a fresh take on the way they were approaching content (though I was only just out of school and knew a minuscule fraction of what I know now). I was able to offer new ideas and ask questions others weren’t asking because they had been in the industry for years or decades and forgot how to see things from an outsider’s point of view.
In today’s world, I’d call this being able to think like a buyer. Others call it the curse of knowledge!
Coming from someone who has been on both sides of this coin — once being that new hire, and now coaching clients on how to make the right hire for themselves – here are some points to consider for why that new content/video hire shouldn’t be from your industry.
So, my content manager or videographer doesn’t need to be from my industry?
Nope. And in many ways, it’s actually preferable if they’re not.
For example, think of a biographer. They don't know the intricate details of someone’s life off the bat like a member of their family would, but they know how to research, ask the right questions, and explain it to others.
As another scenario, think of a video crew. They’re paid to tell a story through film. As long as they know how to pull the information and the story line from the characters on set and shoot it with best practices in mind, it’s okay if they’re not previously up-to-date on the subject matter.
Will Schultz, Video Consultant at IMPACT, agrees with the benefits of not being an insider:
“This allows the content creator to ‘learn with their readers,’ and it positions them in the marketing department to be the perfect advocate on behalf of the undereducated prospects.
There is value having someone raise the question of,
'Is this information something that 100% of our audience will understand, or are we only writing to educate the 80% that will understand all of this? Because it doesn’t yet make sense to me entirely.'
This is where we want our writers/videographers positioned during the inbound content creation process – as the person who makes sure that no viewer is left behind on the education train.”
You don’t need to limit your search to only those folks with industry knowledge, because the focus should be more on the soft skills, not knowledge. In the case of a content creator, it’s easier to teach a writer about the tenets of marketing for a new industry than to teach an industry expert how to write. The same goes with video.
As long as you know how to write or shoot and edit a good video, those skills are more important (and take longer to master) than knowledge about an industry.
10 benefits of hiring someone not from your industry
As counter-intuitive as it may originally seem, there are numerous reasons why it’s not only okay to hire outside of your industry, but actually preferable.
They aren’t caught in the cognitive bias trap of already being an insider of your company – this means they can think more like the people you want buying your product or service and deliver the content you need to engage potential customers.
They won’t be as caught up in industry jargon that they can’t simplify their story telling for the average reader or viewer.
They know the right questions to ask to get the full story across.
They will be just learning your industry: meaning it’ll be more fresh for them to understand and explain the things that originally confused them.
They know the questions customers are probably asking because they aren’t that far removed from the “outsider” perspective.
They can bring a different “flavor” to what others in your industry may already be doing.
Because there may be a lot of questions from the beginning, they are able to form a closer relationship with others in your organization — who will be seen as the experts.
In the case of content creators, they have the experience behind them to follow deadlines and understand that “on-time” always beats out “perfect.”
They know the best practices for creating written or video content that are needed to best promote the work (there are enough industry experts on your team to review for any factual errors).
They’re easier to find and recruit than an industry expert who happens to have the skills you need.
When you look at it this way, most of these benefits are things you lose with an industry insider, further making the case for investing in someone with the skills you need to get the job done.
The industry knowledge will follow.
So, who IS the right hire for a content/video production role?
As marketers, we aim to be experts in digital marketing and bring those best practices to our clients, no matter what industry they are in. We know how to interview and research — and pick up key aspects of new industries. These are similar traits we need as we look to expand marketing teams and interview/evaluate potential candidates.
“Instead of just looking at someone’s subject expertise, find a writer/videographer that has the ‘softer’ leadership skills required to speak up about improving content. Your content creators must ensure that your inbound efforts are going to have hyper-clear information that 100% of your audience will know how to use.
They need to understand the ‘why’ behind what we’re doing to be able to ‘own’ the inbound mission. This is the biggest ‘make-or-break’ factor of a successful inbound content writer/videographer.”
With this in mind, the non-industry insider with the appropriate skills is likely to be the ideal candidate for these positions. It’s much easier to learn about a new industry than to learn a new skill, not to mention learning to do it well.
After all, their job isn’t to be an expert or spokesperson for your company, it’s to drive inbound traffic, leads, and sales through the content and video that’s produced and distributed.
So, get those job posts out there, and get that person in the empty seat!