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What would a content marketing degree look like?
Obviously, you don’t need a degree to take part in content marketing. But if it were going to be your profession, what would you need to know? I’ve been stumbling onto blog posts and articles that try to pin down whether universities ought to offer actual degrees (or at least classes) in online content marketing, or whether there are certain types of courses someone ought to take in order to prepare for a career in content marketing.
I’m an art major, and while people often joke about the usefulness of that particular degree, I would point out that it is a degree that taught me important core creative principles that easily translate into other fields. It wasn’t limited to the mechanics of drawing and painting, but included learning to give and receive critique, solving problems with my own ideas, working through a problem–good stuff to be able to do.
In other words, some college degrees are about more than just their official “title”, building skills and qualities that translate well into other careers.
Rather than worry about universities offering degrees for content marketing specifically, though, two better questions might be: What skills and knowledge would someone look for in hiring a content marketer? What kind of a training should you have if you want to pursue content marketing on your own? There are things every content marketer should know, and it doesn’t take a university degree to learn them.
Content marketing is about writing, creativity, marketing, sales, data, and being socially engaging. That’s a lot of skills. How do you approach getting them? There are six core areas of knowledge that a content marketer should have a fair working grasp of, and if there were a content marketing degree, it might look a bit like this.
Psychology is the study of how we behave, and what motivates us to take action (or non-action). Sociology is the study of human social behavior, organization, and institutions. Anthropology is the study of people using social, biological, and natural sciences, as well as the humanities (studying human culture through a speculative and critical lens). A special focus on cultural anthropology will give you insight into the customs, culture, politics, laws, religions, and language of a particular people group, which helps you understand a bit better why and how they react to things that other cultures perceive differently.
All of that to say this: You need to understand why people do what they do. You need to know how to motivate or convince them to behave in the way that you want them to. If you are creating content that you want people to notice and share, take action on, and engage with in some way, you must know what causes them to do so. As a content marketer, you’ll need to know about:
You’ll see a lot of content marketing blog posts with a psychological or physiological (how our brain responds to stimuli) bent these days, but I’ve always felt that, until recently, anthropology was lacking in mention despite having a very large role in how people groups act. The outcome of psychology and sociology sometimes gets altered when filtered through anthropology.
The need to create content of all types, for all occasions, means that you’ll need to be on your creative toes. A how-to guide on creativity is a bit hard to nail down, since we all approach it differently with habits, systems, preferences, and experiences. As a content marketer, you’ll need to know how to:
Really, when you think about it, problem solving is creativity.
Journalism and creative writing both have a place in content marketing. The journalist approach–getting the important facts and presenting the data with impartiality–mixes well with creative writing, the telling of a good story. As a content marketer, you’ll need:
In a sense, both journalists and creative writers are storytellers; one just has tangible facts that must be included with a goal of informing and educating the reader, while creative writing approaches the same goal through a more winding path. In the end, all great writing, no matter what form or style it takes, tells the truth to and about the reader.
Content marketers either work for themselves or for someone else, but wherever they work, they need to understand how to interpret data. This data is used in content itself (infographics, blog posts) as well as in knowing what kind of content the data suggests they ought to create. As a content marketer, you’ll need to know about:
Content marketing isn’t just writing nice blog posts with purple prose. It might involve understanding data and statistics, and applying your own experiences to interpret them. It also might mean having a handle on the business side of it, if you plan on making a living doing it.
Having actual experience in content marketing is the best way to get better at content marketing. There is no better teacher than actually doing something. You can gather lots of knowledge, but until you put it into practice, you won’t obtain the actual skills. You must, at some point, take action and start racking up real-world experience. What can you learn from the school of hard knocks?
Experience is the best teacher, though it is often a painful one. Experience is where you get intuition, which is really just familiarity with a scenario you’ve had to deal with before. And that “intuition” is extremely valuable.
Why all this fuss and, frankly, all of this reading?
That seems to be a lot of work for a busy content marketer, or someone who just wants to write some blog posts. But…imagine if everyone who decided to get in on the content marketing craze were required to do some of this prep? Lazy bums need not apply. It might cut down on a lot of the spammy, shallow posts.
Here at CoSchedule, we are firm believers that reading books and continually learning is an important part of what we do. You keep yourself from settling into idea ruts by always putting yourself into that “newbie” experience. And, when you read content from outside of the marketing “sphere” everyone else is in, it helps you make surprising connections and bring in a breath of fresh air, a new take that others aren’t able to come up with because they are feeding off of the same input.
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