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What should a business look for in a chief content officer—the key person responsible for the content on your site, or the one charged with creating or sharing content for your business? That person might go by another title, by the way—a content marketing manager, an editor-in-chief, a chief blogging officer, or whatever. But whatever the title, what are the critical skills they need to succeed in the role?

Joe Pulizzi has crowdsourced a chief content officer job description over at Junta42. The responses there outline necessary requirements—such as who the job should report to (someone in the C-Suite, for sure), level of education, responsibilities, and so on. In my contribution, I talked more about the skills—sometimes tangible, sometimes less so—that I think are critical for anyone creating content on behalf of a business.

This is a subject near and dear to my own heart, of course—and not merely because of my role as the chief content officer of MarketingProfs, or because (and I'm going out on a limb here) I am the first person in the US world galaxy to have held that job title. But also because I've been banging this drum for a long time—well before "Content Marketing" became the newest and shiniest tool in Marketing's tool shed.

In a piece I wrote for ClickZ almost 11 years ago, I outlined what any online "publisher" should look for in a "site editor." And now that everyone doing business online is a de facto "site publisher," that piece has new resonance.

Here's what I'd look for in a content creator, based in part on that ClickZ article (and in part on what we write about in Content Rules), but updated for a newly social age.
1. Training as a Print or Broadcast Journalist

Journalists are trained to tell a story using text, images, or audio, and they understand how to create content that draws an audience. Good journalists' innate understanding of audience also gives them a critical outsider's perspective... a nuanced perspective that marketers can sometimes lack. They might be on your payroll, but they are better at expressing neutrality—a distinct advantage in creating content that resonates with your audience.

2. Nose for a Story

The best content creators are the ones who can smell a good story. They also recognize the bones of a story easily, and they instinctively know how to develop the content to make it human and interesting. Is your candidate bursting at the seams with ideas for content that your business might create? Does she think in terms of content? Do you hear her utter phrases like "that would make a great blog post!"?

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image of Ann Handley

Ann Handley is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author who speaks worldwide about how businesses can escape marketing mediocrity to ignite tangible results. IBM named her one of the 7 people shaping modern marketing. She is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a LinkedIn Influencer, a keynote speaker, mom, dog person, and writer.