How Switching Industries Could Transform Your Content Marketing Career

Managing Editor at Foundr, a global media and education company for entrepreneurs. 

As a content pro who freelanced and worked agency accounts for years, I felt like I’d won the career lottery when I landed a coveted role at a VC-backed fintech almost five years ago. Working at a thriving fintech startup meant I’d get a regular paycheck, the chance to focus on a single brand and access to an abundance of dev resources.  

I did get all of those things, and I thought I’d never leave fintech — until the pandemic prompted me to rethink what I wanted out of my career. 

Six months and one existential crisis ago, I left fintech for a global media and education company. And it turned out to be the hands-down best thing I could have done for my content career. 

A switch may be all it takes to reignite your career too. Read on for the content marketing advice I wish I’d had years ago.

There’s content marketing, and then there’s marketing your content.

In most companies, content is simply a vehicle for attracting and driving leads. Content marketers create content to educate and engage an audience around a product, then encourage that audience to buy. 

These same companies often throw most of their marketing budget behind paid, email or product marketing channels — which leaves content marketing playing second fiddle. This structure results in an uphill battle for content marketers, even if there’s a steady flow of organic leads.

At the other end of the spectrum are companies whose content is the product. These content-first companies turn a profit either by selling the content itself or by selling ads and sponsorships within the content (think podcasts, online courses, e-books and paid subscription blogs or newsletters). 

And here’s where it gets interesting: When a company’s success hinges on content, stakeholders not only understand the value of content but also evangelize it in its many forms. Conversations center on strategies, ideas and quality rather than getting buy-in. Budgets and resources are accessible. Scaling isn’t just possible but also inevitable. 

A content-first company changes the game. 

Here’s what I wish I’d realized five years ago and my best advice for ambitious content pros.

1. Look for content-first companies …

You can work in service of the product or you can create the product. This distinction can greatly impact the trajectory of your career. Know the difference between a company that values content in and of itself and a company that values leads generated by content. (To be clear, there are companies that value both — these two things aren’t always mutually exclusive.)

A company that puts content front and center is one where it can be easier to thrive as a content writer, editor, strategist or even SEO manager. Working on content as a product rather than just a lead generation channel will challenge you in the best of ways: What would you create if you knew all eyes were on your content? How could you create content so superior to your competitors that customers would pay a premium to access it? If your company has built its reputation on content, how will you elevate it even more?

Six months into a new role, I’m still finding the answers to these questions. But I have the most support, autonomy and inspiration I’ve ever had, so I’m confident I’ll find them. 

2. … But know that content-first won’t solve all your problems. 

Shifting to a content-first company isn’t about calling the shots; don’t expect omnipotence. No matter what kind of organization you’re part of, you still need to build strong, reciprocal relationships with design, UX, development, paid marketing, social media and other teams.

And the frustration of buy-in conversations will likely be replaced with new eye-popping challenges in a content-first company — such as our current efforts at Foundr to seamlessly layer content calendars for a digital magazine, two podcasts, six online course launches, four online course relaunches, daily digital articles, a gaggle of YouTube videos and at least six other social media platforms. It’s not all roses.

3. Strive for a mix of creativity and structure.

Foundr is a company full of creatives. There are more designers, video producers, writers, marketers and content creators than a tech bro could shake a stick at. This means there’s no shortage of ideas or inspiration here. But it also means that strategies and processes are essential to keeping everyone on track.

This is a natural, necessary tension in the marketing world at large. Too little creativity and we’ll be dull — we won’t launch anything worthwhile. Too little structure and we’ll be distracted — we won’t be strategic, or we won’t ship it, as the saying goes. Either way, output suffers.

After spending 10 years on the job, I’ve come to firmly believe that the best environments for marketers offer room for both creativity and structure. We should be able to ideate, dream and test while always keeping sight of the goal. When there’s a harmonious balance, excellence happens.

4. Try new platforms.

Don’t hang your hat on a single corner of content, especially if you’re still in the early days of your career. Although few things are as valuable as strong SEO performance or a high-converting email list, there are countless other ways to get your content discovered these days: podcasts, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, TikTok trends, micro-influencer partnerships and even SMS campaigns. Try them out and see what sticks.

The content marketing landscape is changing every day, which brings new challenges and new opportunities. The worst mistake you could make is to simply sit still. So if you’re feeling uninspired or hindered, move on. Change your environment and you may just change your career.


Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2021/09/24/how-switching-industries-could-transform-your-content-marketing-career/

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