Content marketing is now the centerpiece of many businesses’ advertising and promotion strategies. It’s easy to see why: Opportunities for engagement are wide open.

The fact of the matter, though, is that content marketing has shifted considerably in the last few years. This ain’t your mama’s marketing, and you must be equipped to not just keep up, but to set the pace.

What skills should you have, and what things should you be brushing up on to maintain your brand’s competitive edge? Here’s a rundown:

8. Communication skills

Coming in at No. 8 is communication skills, but don’t let this ranking demean its importance. If you want to be successful, you must be able to talk the talk, which means communicating with the rest of the marketing team and executives in a way that makes sense.

You should be able to whip out industry terms when speaking with subject matter experts but you must also be able to communicate complex content plans and strategy details to the executive team to support their approval and understanding.

These skills obviously also extend to the messages the company is sending to current and potential clients. Gaining attention and making a connection with consumers isn’t something that everyone is born with, but you should definitely consider this your core competency.

7. Work ethic

Successful content marketing includes numerous moving parts and requires a steady hand to keep everything humming along as it should.

“I dropped the ball,” isn’t something managers should ever hear from their content marketers – this translates to campaigns falling off schedule and missed opportunities with partners and clients.

You must be dedicated to putting in the work necessary to support your brand’s efforts throughout the process. This includes completing the required background and SEO research in the planning phase, overseeing content creation and following up with analytics results after the fact. Those that can’t put in the time, energy and effort need not apply.

6. Creative flair

Million-dollar marketing ideas don’t just fall from the sky, no matter how much we all wish they would. Content marketers are typically creative people by nature, and the most successful marketers are those that use these skills to their advantage.

Coming up with that make-it-or-break-it idea is key. You can lean on your research and the successes of others, sure, but taking a page out of someone else’s book only works so many times. And if your company is looking to achieve that sought-after thought leadership status, you should forget about mirroring other strategies or ideas altogether. Instead, take part in your own creative brainstorming and come to the table with that just-got-struck-by-lightning look in your eyes – these are the kinds of ideas that truly breed success.

5. Awareness of industry changes  

To say that content marketing is a fast-paced industry would be the understatement of the decade. So much has shifted in the last few years that without constant updates to content strategies, you’re wasting resources on outdated pursuits. Now, quality over quantity is the name of the game, and selfish content created without the consumer in mind simply won’t fly.

What’s more, your audience changes its mind all the time about the type of content they want to see and the ways they want to consume it. This, combined with the fact that the average person’s attention span is less than 8 seconds means that content marketers have their work cut out for them.

You must be on the cutting edge of the industry and pay special attention to trends and audience needs. Creating content that caters to this shifting environment is an absolute cornerstone of effective marketing.

4. Spirit of innovation

Innovation should run through every part of your content marketing. Building off of that all-important creative flair, you – and your decision-makers, for that matter – shouldn’t be afraid to try new things.

This mentality extends to new strategies, different types of written and visual content, industry certification, up-and-coming software solutions and beyond. Every company is different, and you never know what might emerge as the next big breakthrough to your ever-changing content marketing strategy.

What’s more, a spirit of innovation helps keep things interesting. Readers get bored with the same kinds of listicles and graphics – don’t be hesitant to break things, and then rebuild. Even less-than-stellar results can provide a learning experience and prevents things from getting stale.

3. Writing skills

We know what you’re thinking – how did writing skills end up at No. 3? The fact of the matter is every content marketer should have the skills to write about what they do on a day-to-day basis. Even internal subject matter experts need to be willing to participate, whether in terms of assisting with the writing, simply jotting down notes or reviewing content after it’s created.

Even when you work with a writer or team of content creators, there’s only so much you can communicate to them, and there’s simply no substitute for content written from an expert’s point of view. In this day and age, everyone is going to have to write their own content at one point or another, so start brushing up on your grammar and sentence structure.

2. Hands-on experience

Remember when we said that content marketers have to be able to talk the talk? Well, it should go without saying that they must be able to walk the walk as well. In this context, that means hands-on experience.

There simply isn’t any room for coordinators or marketers that don’t have knowledge of the website platform and content management system their company uses. Marketers should be able, at the very least, to add and edit content and make changes on the fly. Those that can’t just aren’t worth their salt.

And if you’re thinking of forgoing this proficiency by hiring a vendor to take care of it for you, think again – you still need the hands-on skill to back it up. That set-it-and-forget-it style doesn’t cut it anymore, and content managers should start brushing up these skills RIGHT. NOW.

This takes us to our No. 1skill that every content marketer should have.

via Giphy

1. Analytics expertise

Hands down, the most important skill is a keen understanding of analytics. The days of reporting on the quantity of published pieces and their bounce rates are long past.

Now, you must be able to provide a complete picture of the company’s content efforts, backed by robust analytics that highlight trends, show what is and isn’t working and can help shape future content strategy.

Analytics are key. We seriously cannot say this enough. The stats behind your strategy represent the only way to quantify your efforts and demonstrate tangible results. Today’s marketing stakeholders are much more savvy, and chances are good that your executive team is hungry for more data. So, say it with us now: Analytics, analytics, analytics.

Are you ready to tackle the challenges coming your way?

Jessica Wells is a senior writer and editor at Brafton, working remotely from Hawaii. When she's not writing, Jessica enjoys paddle boarding, snorkeling and enjoying the view (and a cocktail) from her beach chair.