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Pioneering Content: The Emerging Role of Content Marketing in A/E/C

In the past, I likened the A/E/C industry to the insurance industry in terms of its adaptability and reception to change. One would hear stories about companies banning remote work, and observe very few female or otherwise diverse leaders in the C-Suite, and wonder: what is with all the tree-killing?

However, in 2018 I am happy to see the seeds of change being germinated in our industry, particularly surrounding the role of “content.” As our marketing strategies center more on the client journey in a digital world, we are seeing an increased importance placed on engaging content and carefully crafted stories. With a need for dynamic content established, the tools of the trade are being developed to keep up with the demand and need to leverage data analytics (LinkedIn insights, HootSuite, Marketo, etc). Roles that have long been reserved for quick-moving industries like the high-tech scene are now sprouting up in A/E/C; thus begins our very own era of the Content Manager.

"As our marketing strategies center more on the client journey in a digital world, we are seeing an increased importance placed on engaging content and carefully crafted stories."

What is the professional path that ends here? What does the word “content” fully encompass? How do you communicate the value of content to leadership? I jumped at the chance to pick two A/E/C Content Managers' brains for these answers and inspiring insights into the mind of a professional content marketing specialist.

THE TEST GROUP

Traci Vogel, Content Manager at TEECOM

Rachel Stainton, Content Marketing Specialist at Northland Controls

TALKING TITLES

As you may note, Rachel and Traci have different titles. Knowing the umbrella word of “content” can be fuzzy for people to wrap their heads around (envisioning this person could be pulled in a lot of directions), I was curious to know if their titles accurately portrayed their daily activities. As it turned out, both felt their titles were spot-on. Traci communicated this idea eloquently:

“Everything I do is focused on finding, understanding, and creating the content that tells the stories of the work TEECOM does and the vision of our clients.”

READY, SET, WRITE

A day in the life for Traci and Rachel varied. While Rachel’s role has a larger focus on internal marketing campaigns (company culture pieces, internal newsletter), Traci’s daily duties looked a little more data-heavy, deep-diving into Hubspot and Google Analytics to monitor content efficacy.

Traci noted having 2 to 3 big pieces of “anchor content” per week (case studies, project stories, press releases, blog pieces) that she will have in progress at one time. Rachel’s content could span from a weekly newsletter to a piece on employee accomplishments to an Instagram post, all in a matter of hours, and she fully values the variety in her days.

"A Content Manager is not a lone entity, nor should they be positioned in a silo; rather, this person can be positioned as a key and visible thought platform within an organization, driving brand equity through engagement that resonates with the overall marketing and business development objectives."

NONTRADITIONAL GROWTH

What struck me most interesting about the Content Manager role is its newness to A/E/C. You have a linear progression at times for a marketing staff member (Marketing Assistant, Coordinator, Sr. Coordinator, Manager, Director, or some variation of this), but who’s to determine the progression of a Content Manager and how does one find themselves in a niche role such as this? Rachel commented on her firm’s organizational structure being an asset here:

“Our team is a bit more symbiotic than the traditional linear structure. My role is one part of the overall structure, more like a spoke in a wheel rather than a step on a ladder. Content is really an umbrella term and encompasses so much more than just writing, so I'm not limited to doing just one thing every day. Our company also values go-getters and people who don't need to be micromanaged, so the traditional task assignment doesn't exist for us.”

In terms of getting to this role, Traci notes a strong background in journalism helped her define a path in content.

“News to no one, it’s hard to live on a journalism salary in the Bay Area. A friend of mine who worked at an architecture firm asked if I'd like to come in and do some administrative support, and I progressed into the role of marketing coordinator. I moved on to another firm where I became Marketing Manager. When I learned about inbound or content marketing through an SMPS program, it resonated with me as a powerful tool for advocating the value of A/E/C services. I was fortunate enough to find a firm, TEECOM, that had a tool (Hubspot) in place and leadership with a vision for content. I've been here a little over a year and half.”

BRIDGE-BUILDERS

What resonated with me in talking to both Traci and Rachel was this theme of bridge-building through content. A Content Manager is not a lone entity, nor should they be positioned in a silo; rather, this person can be positioned as a key and visible thought platform within an organization, driving brand equity through engagement that resonates with the overall marketing and business development objectives. Rachel sees herself as a bridge-builder to engaging a very specific digital consumer:

“The way that millennials search for news, information, jobs, etc. is arguably through social media more than any other medium, so what better way to reach them than by posting curated content where they are looking for it.”

Traci sees herself as working to bridge the gap between marketing efforts and the rest of the organization:

“I recognize that proposals are vital to our business, but they're really just the last stage of business development. We need to step back and think about how we position ourselves earlier in the buyer's journey. The A/E/C industry seems to be learning that content is the avenue. There's a wealth of value to be found in sharing professional expertise, success stories, and the beauty of design... all of which will nurture business relationships and build excitement in the marketplace about collaborating with your firm.”

JUST THE BEGINNING

Traci and Rachel are living proof that the Content Manager role is a powerful tool to communicate value both internally and externally, even if the A/E/C world is just starting to catch on. As the A/E/C landscape continues to digitize, I am banking on seeing this role become a vital member of firms’ marketing teams, and less as a Unicorn title in the industry. For now, I will put my crystal ball away and continue to learn as much as I can from our talented peers who are working to change the face of our industry and the way we market.

Hannah Mobarekeh is the Senior Marketing & Business Development Coordinator at Mazzetti, where she leads regional business development and marketing efforts throughout Mazzetti's three California offices.

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