Congratulations! You’ve just been hired as the leader of a content marketing team. Now what?
It can be intimidating to step into any new position, regardless of if you are new to the company or just to the role after a long tenure. Then there’s the fact that marketing roles in particular have an increased importance to help teams recover from the initial shock of the pandemic and deliver sustained value for customers.
But don’t take that as meaning you have to overhaul your team’s content strategy right after you walk in the door. There is a misconception that the first 90 days for new leaders is a make-or-break period where they need to immediately generate value or risk losing their position. The truth is that they’ll need at least six months to achieve real impact.
Use these first 90 days to get acquainted with the team, digest the full scope of duties under your new role, assess your team’s shortcomings and opportunities, and then chart a path for success. Here is an overview of how to make the most of your first quarter as a new content marketing leader, based on my own successful in-house and external 90-day plans.
What To Do In The First Week As A New Content Marketing Leader
The first week as a content marketing lead or equivalent role should primarily focus on onboarding, with only light involvement in the strategy and planning elements of the position.
Day One Onboarding Schedule For A New Content Marketing Leader
In general, Day 1 will involve paperwork and familiarizing oneself with their new workspace. Your human resources or similar team will have a few required documents and protocols for you to review and sign on the first day.
We recommend the following schedule for day one as a new marketing leader. If you see any of these areas missing from your team’s planned schedule, introduce these elements into any free time during the first day or week:
- Office Tour: If your team primarily works in-person at a company office, start with an office tour. Note where important rooms are, including the break room and bathrooms, and where to find printers, copiers, and medical supplies. If you plan to work remotely for a company with a physical address, ask for a video tour of the office so you can better picture where your team works. If your company does not have a physical office, you can instead start the day with an extended chat with a team member to get to know them and the company better.
- Introductions: End the tour at your new desk or office location, and ensure you can log into your work computer or access other required equipment. Familiarize yourself with the workspace, greet any nearby colleagues, and get ready to say hello to the entire team. Send a new hire announcement via your team’s preferred communication channel(s). Include your background, the responsibilities and goals that come with your new role, and any other details you think the team should know. Consider recording a video introduction to further showcase your personality.
- HR Paperwork: Your HR team will need you to sign a variety of documents related to their new role and conditions with the company. Ensure you save a copy of all paperwork, both digital and physical, for future reference.
- Setup Accounts/Login: Learn how to use your new work equipment, access all necessary accounts, and how to use your video conferencing platform. Review the processes for booking conference rooms, and bookmark any guides or how-to documents that your team shares.
- Update Social Media Channels: Update your social media channels to reflect your new role. Be sure to update any channel where you may have a presence, even if you no longer prioritize that channel. Consider deactivating any irrelevant accounts to streamline your efforts and easier maintain your social footprint.
- Lunch With Team: Coordinate a casual lunch with your new team, a leadership colleague, or a member of the HR team. This is a chance to genuinely get to know your colleagues in both a personal and professional capacity. If your team is hybrid or remote, consider hosting a virtual lunch hour, and send out delivery service gift cards everyone can use to have lunch on their new boss.
- Company Culture Overview: The company culture is possibly one of the most important things for any new hire to quickly learn inside and out. How does the team operate? What motivates them? How do they celebrate with one another? Ask a member of your HR or executive team to discuss the company’s mission and values, and how these translate into the day-to-day operations.
- Supervisor 1:1: Connect with your new supervisor to learn more about what is expected of you in your role, how you fit into the team’s overall strategy, and where you should focus your attention in the coming weeks. Ask them what success will look like at your 90-day check-in.
A Typical First Week As A New Content Marketing Leader
Your first day will go by quickly. Anything you are unable to address should carry over to the rest of the first week.
Spend the next days, in part, reviewing any existing marketing plans, materials, and documentation. Get a clear understanding of upcoming campaigns or launches, as well as any hurdles that the team is facing. What opportunities for success can you see over the next six months, and what challenges will they need to overcome? How does the team track its activities?
Specifically, ask to review the following materials (if they exist):
- Brand style guide
- Marketing plans for both the previous and current year
- Editorial calendar for the current year
- Quarterly, annual, and monthly marketing dashboards or KPI reporting
- Team roles and responsibilities document or job descriptions
- Marketing SWOT analysis
- Company blog, social media, and other channel-specific guides or audits
- Buyer personas and customer buyer’s journey maps
In addition to reviewing existing materials, schedule 1:1 meetings with each of your direct reports, your peers, and content marketing stakeholders across the organization. The goal of these meetings is to gain an understanding of content marketing’s role in your organization and start building relationships that will help the team be successful. Align on how to best work and communicate with your stakeholders inside and outside of the marketing team, and seek to understand their top priorities.
By the end of your first week, you should be able to answer (or know where to find the answer to):
- Who are my direct reports, what are their roles, and how do they support the marketing team’s goals
- What tools and technology does my team use for marketing, and how do I access those tools
- When is the marketing team’s next big campaign or launch, and how is the content marketing program supporting it
- What challenges does the content marketing team currently face
A 90-Day Plan For New Content Marketing Leaders
The first week will likely pose more questions than it answers, and that’s to be expected. The goal is to get a high level view of everything you influence, and the following weeks will dive into specifics—what are your team’s goals, and what will they actually do to accomplish these?
During the first month, become familiar with the nuts and bolts of your Martech stack and how your team conducts its work. Explore how your team creates content and how content distribution strategies vary (or not) across different types of content.
Months two and three will involve activating your team’s plans. As you start working on essential marketing activities, like content creation, social media management, and other forms of stakeholder communications, you can compare those initial conversations with the realities of how your team gets things done.
Observe how the team works when there is a task at hand, and identify any potential internal struggles that your team encounters. The goal is to simply observe how the team operates and note some areas you want to follow up on. Wait until you have a full reading of the team before attempting to introduce new processes or revamp how the team works (if that is even necessary). While you may be tempted to immediately change up the way the team works, absolutely no one wants to hear “this is how I’ve always done it” from a new leader who hasn’t yet given the team the opportunity to show you their working style in action.
The 3-Month Content Marketing Strategy
As a new content marketing leader—in addition to lots of relationship building, watching and learning how the team works together and what their existing processes look like—it’s a good time to review existing content strategy documentation and audit your content marketing channels.
Here are the strategy elements I always review and update or create documentation for in my first 90-days on the job:
Content Inventory and Audit
Audit the team’s blog and any other external content hubs. This helps you become familiar with your team’s content strategy and identify pieces of content that should be refreshed. We explain how to complete this audit step-by-step and provide a free content audit template in this post. At a high level, capture the title, date, and key KPIs for the past year of content on your blog. KPIs can include page views, comments, social shares, and clickthrough rate.
Blog Channel Plan
Once you have an idea of your most successful blog content, review the team’s plan for the next six months of blog content. Apply any learnings from your audit that the team may have previously overlooked when developing its plan. Review the priority topics, planned posting cadence, and key details about your blog creation process.
Blog Editorial Guidelines and Guest Posting
One final company blog-related onboarding element is your team’s editorial guidelines and guest post solicitation strategy. Seek to understand the ideal guest authors for your company blog, the preferred format of their content—including word count, topic areas, and formatting considerations—and your plan to build a relationship with them. It can help to develop a blog post planning and submissions template for both guest bloggers and your internal team members, incorporating your best practices and blog strategy.
Contributed Content Strategy
What are the key media outlets and industry websites your team hopes to place its content in? What is the goal of these activities, and what is your team’s approach? Document this strategy, if it is not already written.
Social Media Channel Audit
Review the success of the team’s social media activities, and assess how the team can refine its approach. We share a free template to get you started and plenty of tips from other marketers in this #ContentChat recap. For this audit, you will document all of the brand’s social media channels, review engagement levels on the content, and assess your competition’s social strategy.
Social Influencer Strategy Review and Documentation
Social media influencers are increasingly powerful as a marketing avenue. Does your team have a social media influencer strategy? If not, ask them to begin researching potential influencers that your team can work to engage with on social. If a plan is currently in place, what has its measurable impact been? How much traffic has it driven to your website, and has any of it turned into sales?
Conference and Events Strategy
Discuss the team’s conferences and events strategy. What events will the team attend, and what does the engagement look like (i.e., will you exhibit, speak, or attend)? How is success defined for these engagements?
Once you’ve internalized your company mission and values, review your team’s website, social media channels, and other content properties to see if they align with your company’s intended branding. Should the team update its company descriptions, profile or header images, or other ways that the company is positioned? Have you defined and consistently used a unique brand voice that differentiates your content from that created by the rest of your industry and competitors?
Get Your Content Marketing Leadership Role Off on the Right Foot
If you address all the foundational elements of your new role in the first 90 days, you are better prepared to activate your team and launch content that will drive actual results. You are also ready to revise—or draft for the first time—core documentation of the content marketing team’s mission, vision, and values, and how that will be put into action in your content marketing program. This core content marketing documentation includes:
- Style guide. What is your brand voice and personality, and how do these carry through in your communications? What branding elements should the team be aware of? Ensure you can access your team style guide, and connect with a member of your design team to answer any questions.
- Content strategy. Building on your blog channel plan, how does the team coordinate its entire content ecosystem and related workflows? What templates or documents does the team use to submit requests or draft works?
- Integrated editorial calendar. Where can you get a cross-functional look at your team’s editorial plan? A shared document is essential to discourage departmental silos that cause duplicate efforts and wasted team resources. The calendar should detail the key editorial topics, planned pieces of content by channel, and upcoming subject matter expert, customer, or other interviews that will inform the content.
It’s important, as you develop this documentation, that it comes from a place of trust and understanding. Collaborate with the content marketing team members on this documentation, and solicit their feedback for process improvements. Show that you’re here to work with them and find solutions to their challenges, not to overhaul everything they know for no reason. Meet with your supervisor and colleagues at least once every-other week to ask about how they are doing, how you are performing, and any ways that they can better support the team in your role.
To help get you started on the right foot, use our 90-day planning grid for new content marketing leaders. It discusses the main activities for day, week, and month one, as well as 31-90 days into your role.