In 2001, after years in the motor industry, I started out as a professional photographer. Back then, we had lovely Mamiya 645 cameras, 120 roll film, lightboxes, dev labs. After collecting the rolls from the lab, my work was done. Many people still wish it was so, but personally, I love the digital, multi-media world we now inhabit. It’s meant honing and developing skills that were previously dormant, some from collage years, but now form part of my ‘toolbox’ of things I think are essential for today’s clients. In today’s editorial and content marketing world, you can no longer be labelled with just one profession. A recent chat with some friends and colleagues revealed that nearly all had transformed in a Darwinian fashion to adapt to their clients demands over the last decade. Here’s my Top Ten Skills and content creation tools I think are most vital in today’s creative marketplace.
1. Photographers need to write. People love reading about the lives of photographers, especially those that travel the world. Some of the best photographers seem to be able to create interesting blogs too. A great example is the blog of Formula One photographer Darren Heath. Each season, his post-race blog article gives an alternative viewpoint to the weekends events.
2. Writers need to take a picture. Sometimes, there just isn’t a big enough story to warrant a photographer, but even the shortest blog post or Facebook entry benefits massively from an image to bring context to the words.
3. Writers need to be flexible. The skills to write everything from a 2500 word feature to a 140 character tweet in an engaging way is vital both to develop your own audience and to help the clients you’re working for with their media channels. Which brings me to the next skill…
4. Work together with clients on social media channels. The old publishing ethos of only talking about your own content doesn’t cut it in social media channels, yet I’m surprised at how some media companies and publishers hardly ever share the love with either suppliers, colleagues or others. The best guys reach out with a thumbs up when they see a great article elsewhere. I’m constantly shooting BTS on my iPhone and giving a shout out to my clients and the colleagues we work with once the feature is out of embargo and running. Establishing a plan with clients on what should be shared in real time and what needs an embargo is a vital part of this. Done well, it helps more people be inspired to go look at your content. A win / win for everyone.
5. Video. The bogeyman of some writers and photographers. A few years ago, I wrote about how video was a challenge to traditional writers and photographers. Today, the ability to write, shoot edit and upload shot video is vital. It’s a skill that requires something else not historically found in the freelance world – teamwork. There’s nearly always a small group collaborating in video production, it pays to develop your preferred team.
6. Some basic HTML skills. You don’t need to be a hard core PHP coder, but knowing your b, h1, h2, alt tags is very useful if you want to make sense when writing online. The importance of these tags and how to use them effectively with images is an essential part of the content creators toolbox.
7. Knowing how SEO works. This used to be something the copy writers loved to skip past and and pass the buck to others to deal with. Content marketing has seen writing for SEO objectives become a significant part of my work. This doesn’t mean spammy links and keyword stuffing. Instead, writing articles with both humans and search engines in mind while still making sense is a writer’s skill that’s probably one of my most valuable today.
8. Be flexible with your rights. I can recall when magazines would pay additional fees for using images to promote next months issue. Cover shots were also a bonus and as for online? Everyone ran away and hid from that one… Today, the multi-channel nature of our media means that being flexible about the sharing of content, within reason, can actually be beneficial to all parties. That comes back to my point no 4 above.
9. Life Experience. This is one you can’t take an online training course for, or practice on the xBox. There are plenty of great writers and photographers out there right now. Some content is superb, but with the advent of the hungry mouth of motoring blogs, the lack of real life experiences of many shines through both in driving and in a mental, historical database to refer back to when commenting. Some of the howlers used to make me pound my keyboard with my forehead, but in truth, they’re no worse than some of the other glaring errors seen in modern journalism.
10. Never stop learning. You must always take the time out to look around, develop new skills and look for new marketplaces. For sure, some skills I’ve had for a while, but others I’ve developed as I learned new technologies. The trick is in selecting which new skills are going to be useful…
My son is currently studying a BTEC in film and media and it’s gratifying to see the diverse skill set he’s already developing even in just a few short months. We live in exciting times and it’s never been more interesting to write about cars and transportation, that’s for certain. The new digital technologies have given us some amazing cars, plus with it new ways of reaching readers and telling the story on platforms we didn’t enjoy a decade ago.