What Are Content Managers, and How Do You Become One?
Content managers build a company’s content strategy, create targeted and relevant content, and distribute marketing communications to audiences online. They are organized, well-versed in fostering a brand voice, and often know their way around a blog post.
You might just be learning about the content management role and want to know the basics. Or, maybe you know this is the job for you, but want to make sure you're prepared to be successful.
Below, you'll find everything you need to know about content managers, from what they do to how to become one. Let's take a look.
What are content managers, and what do they do?
Content managers develop and distribute timely, relevant content for audiences. To do that, they have a deep understanding of their company’s brand voice and use it to communicate with customers.
In addition to creativity, being a content manager usually involves the management of projects and a content team. They also might collaborate across other teams for projects.
This role is not entry-level — content managers are generally expected to lead their team and foster growth, so it's a job that's filled by someone with a couple of years of experience in marketing, communications, and project management.
That was just an overview of content managers and the job role. Next, we're going to talk about some specific duties of a content manager.
The role of a content manager can depend on company structure and size. For instance, a startup's content manager might be their only marketer, while an enterprise company might have content managers assigned to multiple teams.
You might find a content manager taking the ownership over an editorial calendar, developing content topic strategy, compiling data reports, managing social media accounts, or writing long-form editorial pieces.
Alicia Collins, Global Brand Marketing Manager at HubSpot, says, "Content managers wear many hats. Their job consists of so many moving parts — managing blogs, managing social, managing offers … in some cases, they can be a one-person marketing team."
Even so, there are common responsibilities that define a content manager. Let’s take a close look.
Content Manager Responsibilities
The responsibilities of a content manager include:
- Audit the existing content on the company’s website for brand voice, relevance, and optimization
- Research competitors to find content gaps and keyword gaps that your company hasn’t yet covered
- Create a new content strategy that can help your company reach its traffic goals
- Promote a consistent brand identity through the company’s social media profiles
- Create a long-term and short-term content publishing calendar and social media calendar
- Write the new content or manage a team of freelancers and writers to create the new content
- Monitor the performance of the content through online tools such as Google Analytics, Ahrefs, and Google Search Console
What sorts of skills do you need to carry out these responsibilities? We’ll dive into more detail up next.
So, you know what a content manager does. What about some of the skills you'll need to exceed as one?
Content managers are brand advocates and know that the way stories are delivered reflect their company's brand and audience preferences. We've lightly touched on a few of the skills you need to be a content manager, including creativity, writing, data interpretation, and organization.
But it's also imperative to have working knowledge of a few other things.
1. SEO Copywriting and Blogging
Content managers need to have a general understanding of SEO. That way, you can effectively reach audiences through organic search. In addition, you'll also have to know how to be a storyteller using the voice of a brand, and how to connect with customers using that brand voice.
Take it from Senior Podcast Producer Matt Brown, who says, "Empathizing with your audience and telling a story worth listening to is always the greatest skill a content manager should have."
In order to deliver those stories, you’ll need to be familiar with copywriting and editing. Writing skills would be applied to writing marketing communications and blog posts. You’d also use them when editing the work of others.
If you're worried about the grammar and comprehension front when it comes to writing, check out Hemingway Editor or Grammarly. Hemingway Editor is a free website that checks your writing for technical errors and readability, while Grammarly is software that analyzes your work, spell-checks it, and offers suggestions on how to improve sentence structure.
2. Data Analysis
As a content manager, you’ll spend some time analyzing datasets. Data from past campaigns, SEO research, and audience behavior are all helpful numbers to look at in order to execute job functions, because they inform leadership decisions and collaborative projects.
If you don't analyze the results from your content performance, you won't know if your messages are accurately connecting with your customers.
3. Basic Coding
By no means do you need to be a code whiz to become a content manager, but knowing some HTML and CSS can help you jump in when you don’t have a web developer on hand. As a content manager, you’ll be tinkering around with your website’s content management system. That may sometimes necessitate inserting a line or two of HTML and CSS code.
4. Content Management System Proficiency
On that note, you should know your way around popular content management systems such as CMS Hub and WordPress. You’ll be directly editing the content on your company’s website, so you’ll want to know how to use a CMS.
CMS Hub offers a 14-day trial that can help you get acquainted with a top-of-the-line content management system in an intuitive drag-and-drop environment. Once you learn CMS Hub, you can try your hand at a more complicated system such as WordPress.
You’ll also want to know your way around a few other tools. Generally, knowledge of one or two marketing tools for every facet of content production and management will cover your bases. This includes programs to enhance content as well, such as automatic grammar check software or graphic design tools.
It's also a good idea to know about how social media is used as a business tool, and when that applies to marketing campaigns for your company. To help with social media management, knowing how to use a tool like HubSpot would be beneficial.
5. Strategic Planning
As a content manager, you'll spend ample time strategizing how to deliver targeted messages to your audience. That means you won’t throw out messaging willy-nilly, but very carefully and strategically craft the messaging’s wording and timing.
Justin Champion, Principal Product Manager at HubSpot, says, "An effective content manager needs to have a vision of what story they’re trying to tell. This will help them create a cross-platform content strategy that will give the best experience possible to their audience."
6. Time Management and Organization
As a content manager, you’ll be handling various content calendars and juggling a wide variety of responsibilities. That makes organization and time management skills a top quality of the best content managers out there.
Luckily, you don’t have to be innately organized or a strict time-keeper. You can use project management apps to keep everything going along smoothly. Remember, as a content manager, you’ll likely be the leader of a team and the go-to person for status reports. As such, you’ll want to be as organized as possible. That way, you’ll have access to the information you need when you need it.
A good content manager has some leadership skills under their belt — but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be an extrovert speaking at the front of the room. You can be a leader by keeping the content management projects progressing smoothly, sending reports before higher-ups ask for them, and launching new campaigns to keep your company top-of-mind for leads and customers.
In some cases, you may need to manage a team of content coordinators or writers. That’s where more traditional leadership skills come in, such as being a great people manager and adopting a leadership style that helps your team grow. Pay close attention to the wording in any job listing for a content manager. You could be the only person in your team or the leader in your team.
So, you know what it takes to be a content manager. But how do you get there? Time to find out.
How to Become a Content Manager
1. Take a content marketing certification course.
No matter your background or years of experience, if you’re shifting from another career into content management, you’ll want to re-learn the ropes of content marketing to ensure you’re up-to-date. Take a course to help you strengthen your content marketing skills. I recommend starting with our certification course. Upon completion, you'll get a certificate that verifies your comprehension of content marketing (plus, you can add it to your LinkedIn profile).
2. Get familiar with SEO.
At countless firms, content marketing is synonymous with SEO, so you’ll want to have a firm grasp of the concept as you seek a content manager role. If you don’t know the rules of SEO, you might write content that’s not appropriately targeted or that doesn’t serve a purpose other than filling up your company’s blog.
You’ll need to know how to carry out keyword research and use the appropriate software to find “green space” for your company’s website. Green space refers to keywords with low competition and high potential for serving your audience’s needs.
3. Create a personal website.
There’s no better way to start content management than by building a personal website with content that you uploaded and wrote yourself. This website could be for your own personal brand, for a company idea you’ve had for a while, or simply for fun. Whatever it is that you create, you want to get familiar with creating a website from start to finish, so that when it’s time to manage your future employer’s site, you can do it easily.
You’ll learn a few things through this process, including how to upload content and media, how to manage that content once it’s been uploaded, and how to effectively structure your site. It’ll also teach you how to get around a content management system.
Use your learnings from this process to give thoughtful answers to your interviewers when you’re applying for content management roles.
4. Apply for an entry-level marketing role.
It’s time to search for a role. Unfortunately, content management is a mid-level role, meaning that most content managers have been in the marketing industry for a few years. If you’re just now getting started with marketing, you’ll want to start with an entry-level role first, then move up into content management.
Not all marketing roles are created equal. Look for the following words in the job posting to ensure you’re starting on the right foot:
If the job posting seems too general or if it seems to concern more traditional marketing methods, such as live event marketing or advertising, you’ll want to avoid it. Content managers work almost exclusively on the digital side of marketing.
5. Take on content management tasks within your role.
In your entry-level role, you’ll want to take on the duties of a content manager without yet being a content manager by name. For instance, if your team is missing a content calendar, could you volunteer to create one (without stepping on anyone’s toes)? What about volunteering to upload the week’s new content onto the CMS?
It’s important to continue expanding your technical and practical content management skill set as you gear up to apply to an actual content manager role.
6. Apply for a content manager role.
Once you have enough experience under your belt, it’s time to move into content management — either by becoming the manager of a content team or taking on more strategic roles within a marketing team.
Remember to use every piece of experience you’ve gathered thus far to show how well you can communicate with an audience and how well you’ve distributed content in the past. Lead with the results of your actions and measure them in numbers. Content reach, organic traffic, and other engagement metrics are just a few data points you can use to show how effective you can be as a content manager.
Start Sharpening Your Content Management Skills Today
If you're looking to become a content manager, it’s critical to deepen your knowledge of content marketing and SEO. Refining your skill set ensures that you're staying up-to-date as the industry changes. This is a must for content managers. If you don't know how the industry is changing, you won't be able to effectively connect to your audience — and connecting to your audience is what will make you an excellent content manager.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.