Five years ago, would knowing ChatGPT or other generative AI tools have been on your content marketer’s things-to-know list?
A year ago, CMI asked content marketers which skills they’d like to develop and sharpen as part of the 2023 Content Marketing Career and Salary Outlook. AI wasn’t even on the radar, while these skills were:
- SEO (53%)
- Data analytics (48%)
- Integration of new technologies (46%)
- Writing and editing (40%)
- Audio/video creation (34%).
We asked this year’s Content Marketing World presenters which skills will help content marketers meet the challenges we all face today – and the unexpected developments of the next several years.
AI takes center stage in the advice from the experts who offered their advice. But the full range of answers includes unique takes, unexpected advice, and helpful reminders about content marketing skills to carry you today and through 2028.
Data privacy, strategy, and innovation
We all need to continue to focus on data privacy compliance to ensure that we’re not collecting, storing, or using data in a way that creates risk for the customer or our business. Understanding the potential to leverage blockchain and Web3 solutions to manage data collection and storage will be key to creating hyper-personalized content over the next five years.
Marketers must develop the ability to look at the big picture and identify opportunities. Strategy, creativity, and innovation will be essential skills as more routine work gets turned over to AI. – Brian Piper, director of content strategy and assessment, University of Rochester
It’s critical to have a basic knowledge of what artificial intelligence is, what it means for marketing and business, and how to identify and pilot programs based on existing business problems or use cases. Marketers need to overcome the fear of AI to understand how it can help us do our jobs and love our work even more. – Cathy McPhillips, chief growth officer, Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute
You don’t need to become a systems engineer or obtain a Ph.D. in linear algebra. However, having a solid grasp of the fundamental architectures at play and understanding how they relate to various aspects of marketing – such as content creation, distribution, and audience consumption – is highly beneficial.
Companies are increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence to streamline operations, save time and money, and boost marketing productivity. Here’s the bottom line: AI won’t take your job. A marketer skilled at AI will take the job of a marketer who is not. Therefore, acquiring a working knowledge of AI principles is key to staying ahead in marketing. – Christopher Penn, chief data scientist, TrustInsights.ai
Two words: Prompt engineering (i.e., how to do it effectively). – Dennis Shiao, founder, Attention Retention
Customer-centricity, resilience, and adaptability
As marketing landscapes become more competitive and marketing activities become more complex, marketers must think outside the box and develop innovative solutions to their challenges. This includes fostering a creative mindset with your team, embracing experimentation and testing, and being open to new ideas and approaches by continuously learning, especially about new technologies and trends.
We can hone these skills by embracing diverse perspectives, brainstorming, and maintaining a customer-centric approach that can spark innovation. Cultivating resilience, adaptability, and a “test, learn, and adapt” mindset is also key, and it can be done while integrating AI into our work. – Andi Robinson, content consultant, Hijinx Marketing
A test-learn-adapt mindset
Versatility, adaptability, and transparency will become critical to delivering high-quality work reliably. Efficiencies due to technology will help marketers expand the ways they work, from channel delivery and outputs to targeted outcomes based on niche audiences and data analysis. It may also mean a shift from external content creation to new ways of working within and across internal teams.
Key skills to boost results include communication and engagement around change, user research about customers and team members, and ways to unblock problems based on collaboration and experimentation. – Melissa Breker, change facilitation and support, Breker Group
Bravery and risk tolerance
Marketers are deeply impacted by an organization’s inability to tolerate risk. Because customers and clients are humans first (and buyers second), connecting with them as such will help differentiate one company from another. Milquetoast content will get milquetoast results. We, as marketers, need to fight for innovation and connection in our content to ensure we can rise to the growing revenue expectations. – Maureen Jann, chief marketing strategist and CEO, NeoLuxe Marketing
Individuals and companies that will have staying power are compelling storytellers and not afraid to address the serious issues faced by their audience. That will make their content remarkable, memorable, and able to achieve long-lasting impact.
TV shows like Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and Star Trek told entertaining stories, and they weren’t afraid to talk about topics that made others uncomfortable. Decades later, people still go back and view them for the lessons they provide, in addition to being enjoyable to watch. That’s what gives them lasting value. – Ruth Carter, evil genius, Geek Law Firm
Keeping calm and carrying content on
Whether it is geopolitical issues, technological advancements, or economic turbulence, the world is much harder to predict today than pre-2020. This doesn’t mean chasing after every fad. Figure out which trends matter and which are just noise. Learn to tweak your tactics to respond to a changing environment without panicking. – Jesse Harris, digital marketing coordinator, ACD/Labs
Shore up your writing skills. Regardless of those who say generative AI will replace writers, I say that having strong writers who can create original content will be more important than ever. Unique content will stand out in the sea of sameness that we’ll increasingly see as more companies rely on robots to do their writing. – Michelle Garrett, consultant and writer, Garrett Public Relations
Tagging for audience segments
A well-defined tagging structure or framework for categorizing content will be pivotal to how we label our assets. We can no longer rely solely on labeling content by format, such as “blog post” or “webinar.” Instead, we must consider factors like buyer personas, industry verticals, and – most importantly – the buyer journey stages. – Randy Frisch, co-founder and chief brand officer, Uberflip
Strategy, planning, and orchestration
Strategic thinkers and planners will come out on top in the next five years as we see more automation of low-level marketing tasks. As AI tools create efficiencies and provide more information about prospect behaviors, interests, and preferences, marketers who can effectively analyze, customize, and apply AI-generated content and data to specific markets will benefit the most.
Successful marketers will understand the business, study their target personas, care deeply about messaging, and have the skills to plan and orchestrate integrated marketing campaigns that span the entire customer journey. They will accomplish all of this in lockstep with sales and executive leadership. – Wendy Covey, co-founder and CEO, TREW Marketing
Strategy, planning, and orchestration
Talk to each other. Communicate. Share. Marketing has been incredibly splintered. Silos have always been a challenge, but COVID + remote work + channel-specific trends + social media fickleness = a greater divide and communication void across teams. (Don’t get me wrong: I am 110% in favor of remote work – as long as there’s strong communication.)
To succeed, marketers need to facilitate – and yes, even force – the collaboration, conversation, and connection points between different tactics, executions, and departments. The more your organization works together – talking, connecting, atomizing, and supporting each other’s efforts – the more effective you’ll be in using your resources, time, and budgets and reaching your various segments and audiences across multiple channels. – Jennifer Harmon, content strategist and creator, Convince & Convert
Marketers need to develop the skill of discernment and the ability to say no, or they’ll end up burned out from continually chasing the next shiny object. In researching our book, Change Fatigue: Flip Teams From Burnout to Buy-In, we talked to leaders and teams unable to accomplish much of anything because of so many competing initiatives.
If you slow down, plan strategically, and gather the team for a concerted effort instead of scattershot priorities, you’ll have a significantly better chance of being ready for the next big thing. – Jenny Magic, founder, Better Way to Say It
Workload management and burnout avoidance
Marketers need to stop thinking outside the box all the time. Sometimes thinking inside the box – and within your available resources – then maximizing what you’re currently capable of will help reduce the possibility of campaigns or strategies that are too much to handle. – Leanna Pham, head of creative and social, Convince & Convert
Too many marketers are reluctant to get in the head of their customers, opting to make assumptions instead. To get this critical information, you need to talk to customers. If you can’t speak to them directly, work closely with customer-facing roles such as sales, customer success, or community to discover their pain points. Sit in on calls and demos to learn. If that’s not an option, do social listening and scan review sites.
Words from the customer make some of the most compelling marketing copy. With the rise of AI, there will be an explosion of content, but most of it won’t be great. Marketers who can speak to their customers will win. – Adrienne Sheares, owner, ViviMae Labs
Marketers need to be better at creating messages that account for the ways people really make decisions. Very often, our customers don’t even know the real reasons they buy things. They think they do, but science has shown that there are usually other factors at play that prompt the decision – factors people are often unaware of. These factors include hardwired psychological needs, such as feeling autonomy or minimizing loss.
Over the next five years, the ability to understand how people make decisions and the skill to craft marketing messages that include relevant prompts will become increasingly important. Marketers will need a solid understanding of behavioral science to succeed. It will be the key to getting people to pay attention to a message, understand it, respond to it, and remember it, especially as AI-generated content continues to grow. – Nancy Harhut, chief creative officer, HBT Marketing
Deep organization knowledge
I’d like to see more organizational longevity. There is a trend toward job-hopping. I get it – job-hopping has its benefits. But the depth of learning you get from company longevity can’t be replaced. Moving up within an organization, learning more about how things work outside of your role, and gaining a deep understanding of systems and processes (and working to change them when needed) all come from time spent in one organization. I’d love to see more resumes with three to five years at one company instead of nine to 12 months. – Ahava Leibtag, president, Aha Media Group
Constant exploration and upskilling
The most essential marketing skill in the next five years will be the ability to learn on the job. This could mean embracing new tools, trying new processes, and acquiring new skills. Marketing changes too fast for formal education to provide point-by-point training, so marketing professionals will need to continue to adapt, learn as they go, and try something no one’s done before. – Nicole Martin, managing director, Pace
Hard work and networking
Network. Louder in the back … NETWORK! If people don’t start getting out of their homes and back into the world (particularly young professionals), they will miss out on vital opportunities to network with potential clients, mentors, bosses, colleagues, etc. My entire career is built on hard work and networking. – Kristyn Wilson, executive vice president, digital PR and communication, Adept
Marketers need to amplify their competencies in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) to connect, find new customers, and drive long-term loyalty. In fact, according to a 2021 Kantar Global Monitor study, it’s no longer a choice but an imperative: Fifty-nine percent of consumers want to buy from brands that actively promote diversity and inclusion in their business, marketplace, and society. And aren’t we supposed to give consumers what they want? – Karen McFarlane, chief marketing officer, LetterShop x KMC
Relationship and project management, vision, and humanity
The marketing world is going through a paradigm shift. Going forward, marketing teams need to focus on the things that AI can’t do – managing relationships, project management, cross-team collaboration, strategy and vision, and human connection.
When boiled down to its essence, marketing is about getting people to engage with you. You still need humans to help facilitate that and make it effective. The strength of tools like ChatGPT is not in what they generate. It’s in their conversations with the people on the other side.
The best results I’ve seen with ChatGPT, Bard, Midjourney, Dall-E, and so on come when I get involved, dig deep, and iterate. That still requires a human mind with innovation, ideas, and a clear vision. So, soft skills are going to become more important. Understanding how to leverage AI is going to become more important. And yes, creativity is not dead; generative AI is just a new kind of paintbrush. – Inbar Yagur, director, content and product marketing, Lusha
Outcome-driven data analysis
Understand how attribution works. It all comes back to analyzing your data on how things are performing and what’s worth the investment. In times of economic turmoil, confidently saying that each dollar invested in marketing yields $3 in sales is golden. But it’s impossible to make this argument if you can’t match the investment to the outcomes. – Karen Hopper, senior director, performance marketing, Bully Pulpit Interactive
Invest in your future marketing success
Expanding your creative capabilities and technical know-how will benefit your brand, organization, and content marketing career. No matter where your core areas of expertise lie, the more you learn, the more you can achieve.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute