The Weight of Your Words: How to Get Paid What You’re Worth in Content Marketing

Shannon K. Murphy is a Content Marketing Strategist with 10 years of content and publishing experience, based in Boston. When she’s not teaching tech companies how to craft a cohesive strategy around personable, human content, she hones her improv chops, photographs the world, and innovates in the kitchen. Learn more on @shannonkmurphy or at LinkedIn.

Remember those carefree days of college? Hanging out on the quad during a delicious spring day feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin?

Some people pine for those lazy, laid back afternoons. Not I. Back then, I couldn’t wait to get out into the “real world” and start working. I wanted money, and I wanted clips. While in journalism school, I couldn’t help but wonder, how far could I have climbed the rungs of a publication in the four years I spent earning a degree? I felt like I was wasting time.

That sense of urgency hasn't left me. And in that way, I've always been passionate about career advocacy and advancement: learning new skills, seeking out mentors, networking at conferences. That’s why recently, when I came across the 2018 Marketing Salary Guide, which put the median salary of a web content manager at $52,000, I felt compelled to offer (unsolicited) advice.

Source: MarketingProfs

Source: MarketingProfs

Let’s examine additional salary data:

Wherever you are in your content career, you’re likely facing the same issue as many of your peers: how to get paid what you’re worth. You’re not average and you shouldn’t be paid an average salary! Content marketers are a perfect blend of artistic and analytical talents, bringing immense value to an organization. I could wax on about the importance of content marketing, but simply put: Every marketing touchpoint is dependent on intelligent content. So, how do you go about monetizing your value? Here’s my advice.

My First (and Last) Salary Negotiation Mistake

Like anything, negotiation is a skill, and we need to start learning early. Admittedly, I didn't negotiate well at my first job in media sales. During the exciting offer call, my manager simply stating what the salary was -- she stated it. To me, it didn’t feel open to discussion. When I deliberated as to how to proceed, she interrupted my silence with, “That is what the role pays,” in a very matter-of-fact tone.

I balked and then accepted.

Later, I was disappointed in myself. Having researched salary negotiation, I had tactics I was ready to put to use! That being said, the salary was fair, and I was lucky to work for a good manager. She educated me on the products I was selling so well, and I easily started making an additional 30% on my base in commission.

I’m not in sales anymore, but I like that green stuff. I like money. I’m not materialistic, but I enjoy the experiences that money can afford. Never be ashamed to talk money. We all have goals and money helps us meet them. I haven’t hesitated since that early moment, which has allowed me to raise my base salary by roughly $20,000 every two years.

That was my first and my last negotiation misstep, and soon, you’ll be a negotiation master as well.

Below, I’ve provided some scripts that should help you to respond to, as well as introduce the topic of negotiation while in a job transition.

How to Negotiate with a Recruiter or Hiring Manager

I love recruiters. It’s not a common sentiment perhaps, but when it comes to negotiating numbers, they're frank -- and I appreciate this. This honesty should allow you, as the content marketer, to feel extremely comfortable talking about what you want to be paid in a given role.

Your first “friendly chat” with a recruiter will be exploratory on both sides, and compensation will  be discussed. Be ready.

Do your research -- but don’t lowball yourself.

Of course research salary sites like Payscale, Glassdoor and Salary.com. What is the going rate in your area? But remember, we should all want to help content marketers earn a higher average salary, and sticking with the status quo won’t achieve this aim. Use this number as your low benchmark. Your years of expertise and complementary skill sets could make you much more valuable than crowdsourced data!

Don’t forget to also do an internal audit. What do you need to be paid to support your current lifestyle and achieve growth-oriented personal goals? Run the numbers.

Lastly, research the company. How great is their content need? Their current content savvy? By assessing their digital sales process, you can also estimate how much value content  interactions will have to the company. You want a piece of this.

Here are the scripts I promised. Recruiters will typically ask you one of two questions:

“What did you make in your previous role?”

Your Script: “I made [X] at my last job [NAME], but like anyone, I would like to improve on that number. Based on my number of years in the field and what I think I can achieve for [X company], I'd like to make [X].” (List your highest number -- you can negotiate later.)

Note: Legislators understand that being underpaid can follow you from job to job. For that reason, the above question has been made illegal in the state of Massachusetts and major metropolises like New York City and Philadelphia. Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont are considering similar laws in an effort to close the wage gap. For those Boston Content members applying for jobs outside of Massachusetts or considering remote work, remember that often recruiters expect an applicant to slightly pad their salary history or to supply a number in line with what they would like to earn in their next role.

“What are your salary requirements?”

Your Script: “I’m glad you asked. I would like to be in the range of [X] to [X] given my expertise and what I’d like to accomplish for [X] company /goals we have discussed for the business. That is what I would need to feel comfortable moving forward. Does this fit with the range for the role?”  

When applying for a job with a hiring manager, the process will be slower and discussions around compensation will be more nuanced. In fact, there is even this assumption you should take the job purely because you love it. That is silly and unrealistic.

How to Talk About Your Salary with a Hiring Manager

Inevitably, as you get further in the interview process, the hiring manager will give you some insight into how the organization works, how teams interface, and future plans for the marketing team. Follow it up with the below script:

Your Script: “Thank you for sharing this information with me. Speaking of the development of this role/growing your team, has a budget or compensation range been approved for [X role]?”

Then, wait. Silence is your friend. Don’t negate or soften your question by explaining why you’re inquiring. It’s a reasonable expectation.

The above question provides clarity, allowing you to understand the progress your potential manager has made in getting a budget approved. This process could still be underway and it’s vital for you to know if the manager is interviewing candidates but “flying blind” as to her salary limitations.

One time, a manager and I came to a mutual consensus not to work together after the budget approved did not meet my salary requirements. To her credit, she didn’t ask me to accept less. This could happen: You could price yourself out of a job. Alternatively, you would be unhappy and unhealthy in a low-paying job. Ask about the salary approval process after your first in-person meeting, ideally upon accepting to return for additional interview rounds.

Negotiation isn’t combative; it’s collaborative! Both parties are looking to make the other happy so the working relationship can start on a positive note. Go high! This is a starting point for negotiation with the expectation that you’ll meet somewhere in the middle. So come to the table with ideas, passion, and most importantly, confidence.

You may be surprised; they may say, “YES!”

Questions? Comments? Drop me a line on Twitter or LinkedIn. Better yet, stop by Boston Content’s Career Night, Tuesday, November 28th. I will be on site dispensing personalized negotiating advice. Come have a pint and we’ll role play!

Baseball Cards and the Evolution of Content Marketing

Boston-based Chuck Leddy has been crafting engaging content since 1995, as a journalist and B2B brand storyteller. He's written for B2B brands such as General Electric, ADP, Office Depot, Cintas, the National Center for the Middle Market, and many more. He's also been published in print publications such as the Boston Globe, Forbes, the Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle. His website and blog are at www.ChuckLeddy.com.

When I was a kid growing up in Dorchester in the 1970s, I was an avid collector of baseball cards. In fact, I probably spent all of my discretionary income buying those 25 cent packs of Topps cards with the hard-as-a-rock stick of dusty chewing gum inside. I'd open each pack, tossing aside the worthless gum in breathless expectation of finding my favorite Red Sox players -- maybe a Carl Yastrzemski (Yaz), Jim Rice or Freddy Lynn card.

Baseball cards began as content marketing around the turn of the 20th century. Kids from Boston in 1910 were probably the same as I was in the 1970s, saving their pennies, buying packs of cards hoping to find a Ty Cobb or Honus Wagner card, which today are worth tens of thousands of dollars. Baseball cards were brilliant marketing vehicles to sell chewing gum and (for adults) cigarettes too. The cigarette and gum companies were looking for creative, non-traditional ways to engage customers and stimulate sales (today we’d call it content marketing), and thus the baseball card was invented, to the delight of generations of kids like me.

The radio and television soap opera is another pioneering example of content marketing -- aimed at engaging the emotions of at-home mothers, who presumably would tune in for dramatic stories about the complicated lives of rich, attractive folk for the price of being bombarded with soap powder commercials. The soap powder companies actually sponsored these daytime dramas, giving them the name they still bear. Hey, we all want our colors to be bright and clean, and we also want good stories about amnesia, serial betrayal, and revenge among the upper crust (though I'm not exactly in the daytime soap opera demographic).

The basic idea behind content marketing, which stands in stark comparison to "interruption" marketing (such as TV commercials) is that you can use content -- basically entertaining, emotionally-engaging stories and helpful advice -- to engage target audiences. By providing strong and usable content that keeps target audiences coming back, you can deepen the relationship between the content consumer and the brand that sponsors that content. This, at its most basic level, is content marketing. It drives awareness and gains customer engagement/sales by offering value in the form of stories that connect with human emotion.

Why is content marketing the present and future of customer engagement? Because people won't tolerate the "hard sell," which places the focus on the product and the brand instead of the needs of the consumer. People don't care that a company or its pushy salespeople need to sell products to meet their monthly/quarterly/annual sales targets. Today's customer wants a more personalized relationship with a brand. Brands need to become like friends we welcome into our lives; friends who care about us and have something to offer. The pushy, demanding, talkative friend who knocks on our door at the end of the month because they need our “help” meeting their sales quotas isn't really a friend for long. And it’s never been easier to shut the door in a brand’s face (thank goodness).

Content marketing works because it gives value in exchange for engagement. People will actually pay hard-earned money to avoid commercials, whether online or on TV. That tells you all you need to know about the "effectiveness" of interruption marketing. What do today's consumers want from brands? Understanding, a willingness to listen and sympathize; someone there to help them when needed -- in other words, a friend.

Engaging potential consumers through great content has the benefit of engaging hearts and minds. People don't want data or sales-y pitches (however creative they are); they want stories that connect with their needs, their emotions, their problems, their aspirations and their everyday lives. Content marketing, if done well, is always people-centric. I write B2B content, but I’m always addressing the concerns and emotions of a human being (who may happen to be a buyer).

The challenge of doing content marketing is in creating the content itself. Content marketers like me, who often call ourselves "brand storytellers," "digital content providers" or "digital storytellers" try to engage our target audiences through the heart first, then the head. It's more about engaging and connecting, and less about selling product. Do my business clients, the brands I write for, expect to use great content to convert prospects into customers? The answer is yes, but knowing this doesn't help me engage audiences around the stories I craft.

Providing great content is about understanding your target audience at a deeply human level, knowing what drives them (their hopes), what concerns them (their worries), and what, in short, offers meaning and purpose to their lives. Good content marketers know that it's a service job, which requires empathy and a deep willingness to help the audience. There’s one rule above all to gain influence: Show them you care about them first, and then the audience might care about you and your brand. Be human, and be a friend.

Offering a solution to a complicated problem helps, because it makes life easier for others. Making people think or laugh also helps, but you always need to give something to get something (attention, brand loyalty, and so on).

I'm still learning exactly what content marketing is. I had no idea at age 12 that baseball cards were my first encounter with content marketing, but I do know that great content, like baseball cards for a young Red Sox fan in 1978, engages my passions and keeps me coming back for more. And I’m not alone in this -- almost every brand knows that great content is the present and future of marketing. We’re all storytellers and “story-sellers” now, because nothing else will work.

 

9 Ways to Get Your Creativity Groove Back

Kathleen Ohlson is a writer and editor with over 10 years of experience. Previously, she was a high tech reporter covering various topics, including 9/11 and virus attacks. You can follow Kathleen on Twitter, @kaohlson.

You’ve got another deadline. You’ve worked on this topic before, but you’re wondering how you are going to make it sound new and exciting. You start to think, think some more… and before you know it, you resemble Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

But, wait, don’t panic. Seriously, don’t. Really? Really. You certainly can go back to the content calendar, revisit buyer personas or go through the list of topics you’ve been keeping. But the following tips might help you come up with a different angle to create content.

1. Dig into the past

Yup, you’ve written about this topic before and you can do it again. Add to the conversation. Take one point and expand upon it. There’s almost always more you can say than you can pack into a blog post or a video. By elaborating on a previous topic, you’ll add additional value to your audience and help get you back on a creative track.

2. Take a Q&A approach

If you’re stuck getting started or organized, go back to the basics and answer those questions you first learned in English class: who, what, when, why and how. Think of this project as a list of questions you need to answer. What do your customers need to know? What are their concerns? How would your new product or service help them out? Think about the questions they may have. This approach is another way to brainstorm and may help you come up with angles you hadn’t thought of before.

3. Bond with your customers

Remember them? Ask your customers directly what they want to read and learn more about. Use short surveys to prompt them for feedback about your company, products and services. Encourage conversation in blog comments or on social media, and respond promptly to your audience. Analyze their responses and come up with content ideas to address their comments. By talking to them and using their feedback for your content, you’ll boost your credibility with them.

4. Storyboarding time

Stock up on some sticky notes. Meet with your team to discuss a project, as well as your thoughts and research. Don’t worry about having anything finished; jot down ideas, hang up pictures, and use any other relevant information. Once the notes are hung up, start arranging them in order of the story you want to tell and nix the ones that don’t work. By putting them in order, you’ll likely see a project from a fresh perspective.

5. Find inspiration

Looking for ideas? Follow major brands and authors through daily alerts. Use keyword indicators (e.g., Google Trends and Keyword Planner) to see what trends are showing up in search engines. Find out what your audience is reading, such as blogs or news sites. Check out what the competition has done. The catch with this last idea: Don’t compare yourself to the competition. It’s worthwhile to look at them for inspiration and how audiences generally respond. Keep in mind your competitors are not you and what may work for them, won’t necessarily work for you.

6. Just keep writing

Are you stuck? Keep writing; don’t worry about that first version.

In Everybody Writes, Ann Handley says to keep writing and create a first draft, “The Ugly First Draft (TFUD).”

Handley describes TFUD as “where you can show up and throw up. Write badly. Write as if no one will ever read it.” In this version, don’t worry about writing complete sentences, grammar, spelling and usage. Focus on writing down key ideas and thoughts. She says using TFUD is a necessary step to create above standard work, but doesn’t give a pass to produce substandard work.

Once TFUD is complete, you can go back and clean up your draft.

7. Stick with writing

If you’re a writer, do you work on a few sentences, stop, reread and start editing? If you do, STOP! If you’re focusing on editing while you’re writing, you’ll likely get distracted from writing.

Learn to get uncomfortable when you’re writing and resist the urge to reword sentences and rearrange paragraphs until you’re finished. If you can pull this off, you’ll find yourself in a rhythm.

8. It’s picture time

So you’re really stuck? Maybe let the images tell the story. (Sorry, designers!).

More studies are showing videos and pictures increase audience engagement and drive conversions. According to Business Insider, 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook daily, while more than 100 hours of Facebook video ads are watched every day.

9. Run away

If all else fails, run. Hide. Seriously, step away from the scary blank screen with that annoying cursor. Take some time and clear your head. Find another place to work or go for a walk. Put on some tunes. Anything to make you more comfortable to start creating again.

Creating good content is made up of data crunching, lots of research, conversations with people and putting the pieces together. While you may be stuck now, remember you’ve created content before and other people have gone through what you’re experiencing right now. And your customers want you to be real, so focus on that and what your instincts tell you to create.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Unsplash.

Why Your Infographic Needs Data-Driven Writing to Deliver Results

Katie Burkhart is the founder of KBurkhart & Co. and serves as the lead brand strategist and designer. You can follow Katie on Twitter @KBurkhartCo and read her posts on the KBurkhart & Co blog.

Content comes in many shapes and sizes these days. One of the forms that continues to grow in popularity is the infographic, due in part to its bite-sized, eye-catching nature. But it’s still content and should be treated like any other form of content: strategically, and with purpose.

While the end product is predominantly visual, you must start with some amount of written content. That content is often produced separately and then sent to a designer who is responsible for creating the infographic.

How do you write that content to get the best results?

To start, know what you mean when you say “infographic” to your designer. In our world of marketing buzzwords, it’s easy to have two separate conversations even though you’re using the same words and standing in the same room (or looking at the same email, however you prefer).

An infographic is literally an information graphic. It’s a visual, be it a chart, graph or counter that gets accompanied by minimal text. Its goals include: simplifying the presentation of large amounts of data, showing patterns and relationships, and monitoring changes over time. This is why the term “data visualization” is often used in the same conversation.

Without that clarity, it’s hard to move forward productively because the expectations of the outcome are often different.  Secondly, the definition states outright the best thing you could do when writing the content: Give your designer data.

For an infographic to turn out in its iconic, counting ticker, colored bar graph style, you should be going to your designer with data, preferably quantitative data, or data that deals with numbers. Doing so gives your designer the nuts and bolts they need to create what we all know as an infographic. Some examples of quantitative data include:

  1. Stats (preferably related to your brand, such as how many scholarships you gave out)

  2. Percentages

  3. Number of Items

  4. Averages (in numbers, such as an average weight or height)

Without the numbers, the infographic loses what makes it distinct. No, there’s nothing wrong with qualitative data, such as interviews, articles or reports. They’re all great content, but they’re other forms of content and would be best represented in a different format. Trying to squeeze them into a brightly colored graphic suit isn’t doing justice to your content or your audience.

The next step you can take is to make sure you put your data in context. 60% of people opened your email. 65% of scholarship needs were met. 7 kids graduated. These are entirely random stats because there is no context. Context, in terms of data, comes by comparing one figure to another to establish a relationship, which ultimately allows you to justify why all the figures are relevant in the first place.

Of the 300 people on our email list, 60% opened our monthly emails, which was up by 52% from last year: Now that means something.

The last thing you can do to produce a better infographic is to have a story in mind. Yes, even numbers need to weave together with a beginning, middle and end. Perhaps it’s an overcoming challenges story, where the data from last year leads off, and then the data from this year goes from least impressive to most impressive. Or, maybe it’s an annual report and it follows along a timeline because the data and points build upon each other as the months go by.

Writing your infographic content with an underlying story will help your designer to prioritize specific pieces visually. It will also give key guidance on how to arrange the entire infographic so your audience can more easily connect the dots, and thus be more engaged with the content from start to finish. Whatever story you choose, it should help to support the data you have selected and feel authentic to your brand.

It’s more likely that your infographic will look like an infographic if you approach it as an information graphic. By strategically driving your writing with data, and giving purpose to that data with context and story, you will get a better, bite-sized piece of content primed to deliver results.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Unsplash.