A (John) King of all trades gives us his thoughts on life as a writer turned content marketing strategist and where he sees the industry going

From writer to content marketing strategist: one Braftonite gives his take

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While he’s rarely seen – if ever – wearing an actual hat in the office, the fact is John King has a closet full of proverbial hats that he’s worn during his time at Brafton. Throughout his two and a half year tenure in our Boston office, John has gone from editorial writer to a content marketing strategist for small- and medium-sized businesses to strategizing for enterprise clients. So what has fueled John’s various transitions? Read on to find out.

From quality content writing to extraordinary content strategy creation

John spent his time as a content writer on the Health, Lifestyles & Education team, creating exciting blog posts like “Is your Christmas tree plotting to kill you?” and articles detailing the similarities between Spain’s best vineyards (based on client-provided, proprietary data rather than first-hand research, unfortunately).

But John wanted to get his hands even dirtier by developing content marketing strategies, and when a spot opened up on Brafton’s SMB account management team, he made the move.

I wanted more control in client strategies, and I was obsessed with collecting the data behind my work. I studied on the weekends to get Google Analytics certified so I could read the reports the account managers shared with me. [Account management] became a natural progression after that.”

For about a year, John worked exclusively on SMB accounts, and when the opportunity arose to work with larger brands, he took it. Now John continues to spend his days lending his expertise on content marketing to a diverse set of clients and explaining how their strategies can become successful in an ever-changing digital field.

We caught up with John to get his thoughts on his experiences at Brafton, the content marketing industry and what his childhood career aspirations were (among other fun facts).

What skills did you gain while working in editorial that have helped you in your current CMS role?

Knowing the content writing experience is insanely valuable when tempering client expectations and being realistic about deadlines and production schedules. As a former writer, I knew exactly what the blog post creation process was like and what practices has direct benefits for SEO. Explaining those elements to clients became very easy because of that experience.

What are some common challenges that arise when developing a new client content strategy?

Clients have a lot of difficulty communicating goals to us. Getting a solid goal post is pivotal for judging our success. Unfortunately, many clients come to kickoff calls expecting “thought leadership” and “brand building” to be perfectly specific goals. Defining more finite goals is always a challenge.

What do you wish clients knew before kicking off a new content marketing campaign?

For many of our clients, we are the content creators and the partnership ends there. However, we could create the best content on the planet, yet it wouldn’t make any difference if it isn’t promoted in some way. Before we create anything, we should consider where the content will be published and why.

Are there any content marketing best practices you find have become ineffective recently or think are on their way out?

Internal autolinks for a short list of keywords need to die. The anchor text on internal links already matters very little, and I’d wager that overusing this across hundreds of blogs is more likely to:

  • A: Appear fishy and automated to Google.
  • B: Annoy users and create a poor user experience.

For someone who is interested in account management, which skills and knowledge are needed for succeeding in the role?

  • Google Analytics certification.
  • Constant SEO research.
  • The ability to manage relationships is huge – so “people skills” is pretty high on the list.
  • Business acumen – making accurate estimations about how Brafton can help in broader initiatives – which may not have been shared with you – is pretty critical.
  • Experience in paid media is definitely a plus.

Where do you see the content marketing industry heading as we move toward the end of the year and into 2017?

The web is saturated with content, and we’re already seeing that only the best of the best work is getting the attention necessary to rank. I’m 100 percent certain that the content marketing industry is going to switch focus from heavy keyword-focused strategies to authoritative link building strategies. I could write a book about this, but I’ll leave it at that.

Always excited for content, John King is a strong strategist.

And now for the fun stuff…

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

That depends on what your definition of the word “kid” is. The trajectory of my career development from ages 5 to 16 goes something like this:

Mailman > professional wrestler > actor > lawyer

I don’t know why mailman was ever on the table. I’ll be going to law school soon. I am still undecided on the prospects of professional wrestling.

If you could be any character from any TV show or movie, who (or what) would it be, and why?

I’m at a loss here because The Fonz is my all-time favorite character and personal hero, but I don’t think I could be him. I just started watching West Wing, so let’s go with Sam Seaborn.

Any fun facts about yourself, or special talents?

I’m a drummer. I worked in a casino for two years. I was an RA and fraternity president in college. I won an AP award in radio pre-Brafton. I still get carded at the movie theater for PG-13 movies because of my baby face. One of my nicknames in college was Baby Gap.

Tressa Sloane
Tressa Sloane is the Sr. Manager of Editorial Development in Boston. Born a Southern belle, she now resides in the chilly (but wicked awesome) Northeast, and when she's not learning everything she can about content marketing, she's obsessing over Elvis, Auburn football and France.

Thoughts?