A Few ‘Kick-Start Your Career’ Tips From Top 6 Most Influential Women (Plus One Man) in Content Marketing

Have you had a chance to get your hands on Lee Odden’s latest ranking of 50 most influential women in content marketing? He’s been publishing lists like this for many years now. This one, however, seems special, because this time the TopRank Marketing’s CEO prepared it not only based on this year’s 200 speakers, moderators, and panelists who have presented at CMWorld 2017 but he also took into account those experts who have actively taken part in the conference over the past three years. And that gave him a sizable crowd of 392 content marketing specialists.

50 most influential women in content marketing via Top Rank Marketing

To fish the real influencers out of this crowd, Lee used Traackr and described the methodology in his blog post. Heading the list is Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs (@marketingprofs). Check out the whole thing here.

Shortly after the publication of the ranking, I decided to reach out to some of those fine ladies and ask if they could share some of their tips for people who are just starting their careers in content marketing. For if you seek knowledge and inspiration, you should get it from the best, right? Some of the women I contacted even shared with me the details of their beginnings in content marketing. Take a peek yourself.

 Rachel Parker

Rachel Parker @rachparker
Content Marketing Consultant
Resonance Content Marketing:

I had started my business in 2010 as a social media consultancy, then in 2012, I started hearing about this new thing called content marketing. It offered the perfect opportunity to blend my background as a copywriter with the expertise I had gained on the social media side. At first, I got a lot of strange looks, “Content management? You mean, like Sharepoint—so you’re in IT?” Now everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s been exciting to have a front-row seat and see the discipline evolve and become the standard across all industries.

Here are a few brief tips off the top of my head:

  1. Always be learning. Our field is ever-changing, and that “best practice” you learned about at a conference last year may already be obsolete. Read, attend webinars, listen to podcasts—whatever you need to do to stay current on the latest developments.
  2. Be mindful of your personal brand. Even if you have a great full-time job, keep nurturing your contacts on LinkedIn, and continue to post and publish under your personal profile. If/when you find yourself needing to (or choosing to) make a career move, those relationships will be a huge asset.
  3. Get better at writing. All great content (including video, infographics, webinars, etc.) comes down to great writing, and quality is the “IT factor” that will allow some brands to rise to the top. Even if you’re already a pro, look for ways to take your skills up a notch.

Carla Johnson

Carla Johnson @carlajohnson
Keynote Speaker, Author, Storyteller, and Creative Explorer
Type A Communications:

I started my education in engineering and finished with a master’s degree in history. I got started in content marketing because I understood technical subjects and I could write. History taught me storytelling. I worked for architects and I loved being able to understand everything they were doing because of my engineering background, and then telling that story to audiences because of history. I was lucky in that I worked for companies that appreciated the art of storytelling. And much of architecture is about telling a story of culture, societies, and how people interact. Every conversation started with, “What experience do you want to create?” and not “What is it you want to sell?”

Here is my advice for people starting out in their content career. At its root, content marketing is about telling a story. For anyone starting out in this profession, my advice is twofold.

First, consume great stories. Read fiction and nonfiction. Watch movies with great plots. Talk to people who are natural storytellers. Get a sense for different types of stories and different mediums.

Next, write. Write anything and everything. Practice writing ads. Writing labels on cereal boxes. Writing blog posts. Writing as much and as diverse of things as you can. Read books about great writing, like Stephen King’s “On Writing” or Ann Handley’s “Everybody Writes.” Make E.B. White’s book, “The Elements of Style” your best friend. With this, you’ll be able to dig into any situation, uncover the story, and then communicate it. That’s the foundation for every successful content marketer.
Ann Handley

Ann Handley @marketingprofs
Chief Content Officer

Ann has been writing and consulting on content marketing for almost 20 years and was one of the first practitioners to recognize the power of creating content to engage customers.
In an interview for Intercom (here you can find the entire podcast), she described the beginnings of her career as follows: “I started my career as a journalist, writer, and editor, primarily in the B2B space. I founded a website called ClickZ, which in 1997 was one of the first sources of online information as it relates to marketing. It was actually pre-email marketing.”

It only gets better:

“My whole career has always been about creating content to engage audiences. I realized about seven or eight years ago that all businesses who are doing business online are publishers. We’re all trying not just to get in touch with customers, but to build an audience. I never considered myself a marketer. I always thought of myself as an editor and a writer first, but I realized that what I had been doing in that field—in the B2B space around marketing information—was actually directly relevant to what every marketer at every organization needs to be thinking about. That was really an “Aha” moment for me, where I thought, “God, I’ve been creating content to build relationships with individuals to build audiences for my entire career.” That’s essentially what we all, as business owners, as startups, as businesses need to be doing as well.”

And what is Golden Ann’s (in Lee’s ranking, she’s the winner of the first place and the title of “The Most Engaging Influencer” for men and women combined) advice for novice content marketers?

Pam Didner

Pam Didner @pamdidner
Senior Marketing Consultant, Author, Speaker
Relentless Pursuit:

Pam is no ordinary marketer. Staying active in the corporate world for over 20 years and having gained experience in various areas, from accounting and supply chain management to marketing, has given her a holistic view of how companies operate. She’s a strategic thinker, and she can translate the big picture into viable plans and tactics. Her book, “Global Content Marketing” (McGraw Hill, 2014) is the first marketing book to offer a step-by-step process to create strategies and scale content globally.

Here’s her advice for how to kick-start (and play with) your content marketing career:

“Just do it! That’s the best way to learn content marketing. When you start taking action, mysteriously, the universe starts to take note. A path will somehow appear, or a door will open up… Just jump in and get your hands dirty. You’ll see.”

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich @ginidietrich 

CEO of Arment Dietrich and author of Spin Sucks

The very best tip I can give to someone starting out in content marketing is to just hit publish. It’s going to be awful. We ALL start out very, very poorly. In fact, we started out so poorly on Spin Sucks, I publish our very first blog post on our birthday every year. That’s so people can see you have to start somewhere. Not one single content marketer—even the very best in the world—started out with the perfect content.

My favorite quote is, “Don’t let perfection get in the way of getting it done.” We agonize. We stress. We overthink. We just need to hit publish and go on to the next thing. You’ll get feedback on what needs to be tweaked and you’ll improve.

Amy Higgins

Amy Higgins @amywhiggins
Account Manager
TopRank Marketing:

Amy Higgins’ broad marketing experience and expertise covers all areas from social media and content marketing strategy to community engagement. She also describes herself as a “hardcore bacon nerd.”

In her response to my LinkedIn message, she underlined the importance and power of relations. And, what’s even more important, she offered me help in reaching the other girls who made Oden’s list this year:

“One tip that applies to any career or building influence is to build your network. Make sure you have people in your community that you respect and love getting to know. These people will not only become great friends, but they can help you build your career with helpful tips and valuable insight.”

Finally, the frosting on the cake, which in this case is what the author of the top 50 content marketing influencers ranking, Lee Odden, considers to be the most relevant at the beginning of ever content marketing career:

Lee Oden

Lee Odden @LeeOdden

CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog:

I started blogging in 2003 as a way to document industry observations. That evolved into thought leadership and a group blog that is now one of the most popular marketing blogs on the web. TopRankBlog.com is actually the only blog to be ranked the #1 content marketing blog three times by Content Marketing Institute.

When starting out in a content marketing career, skills development is essential. The industry changes quickly but there are a few core skills that will always be important during your content marketing career. In particular, I would recommend paying equal attention to both the art and science of content creation and promotion as well as measurement. Amazing writing skills are not worth much if no one sees your content, so understanding how to promote it to the right audience is essential. It’s also pretty difficult to improve or justify your content without measuring performance. Having a basic understanding of URL tracking and analytics can go a long way towards finding a content sweet spot with your customers.

And what is it that you had found helpful at the start of your career in content marketing?

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