There is a large period of transition happening in the Audience Development profession. Five or six years ago, your audience developer was relegated to handling circulation and distribution. Today, it’s at the forefront of most publishing/media companies and a key resource of the C-Suite. While the importance of the field within a company has risen, the talent pool has not, making it a challenge for the C-Suite to find the right fit. From our view, we’ve seen some of the signs of what makes someone successful or unsuccessful in this role that may not be in your Audience Development job description. Here are our suggestions on the skills (or personality traits) to seek when hiring your next A.D. superstar.
1. They’re good with Google.
The smartest people don’t have to know all the answers—just how to find the resource that does. If your A.D. professional doesn’t have “how-to” youtube videos as a part of their search history, sound the alarm. Note: please don’t use this as a reason to view your employees search history ;). The industry is changing daily, no one should expect a digital marketer to know everything, but they should expect that individual to find the resource that does.
2. Curiosity is key.
“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” - Zora Neale Hurston
Similar to the ability to find the answers, a digital marketer or motivated A.D. professional is genuinely INTERESTED in the answer, because to them knowledge = thrilling. A curious marketer is learning from industries other than their own and signing up for events not specifically designed for them. In their personal life they are also likely trying new things and seeking new experiences. A curious mind is a mind open to possibilities. This position requires someone willing to entertain those possibilities.
3. They’re not tied to routine.
There is NOTHING constant in the world of the audience developer (think Facebook algorithm change, GDPR, Apple News, the newsstand industry to name a few). With an ever-changing landscape, no day is the same. Hours can be lost to an email deliverability issue or down a Google Analytics rabbit hole. Make sure your marketer is prepared to invest in whatever the day brings as it likely won’t be the same as the day before or a day next week. As a person who is admittedly more rigid than they’d like to admit, one of my mentors gave me the best advice on when I would get frustrated at “distractions” and that is those distractions ARE the work, time spent on those should not be undervalued.
4. They’re bilingual.
Audience is the center of your business, and therefore so is your audience developer. They’re required to work with developers, sales representatives, writers, the C-Suite, the consumer and so on. An A.D. professional should be able to speak to a developer (hint: drawings help!) as easily as they can speak to your sales team (hint: cut to the chase, how does this help them?). An insightful marketer identifies the difference and change their language to accommodate both.
5. They aren’t afraid to ask WHY.
Asking your C-Suite, or even yourself, WHY is a brave act. WHY you ask? I don’t know many situations in which asking why created less work for myself. It’s always a risk to the ecosystem when questioning practices that have been in place. There is a high risk the question will upset the entire balance when you discover there is no good reason why. Procedures and practices will change in an environment where the WHY is constantly examined, your A.D. person should be prepared ask that of themselves and the work they are accountable for.
6. They are empathetic.
It’s annoying to click on a dead link, it’s annoying not to hear back from a brand after you’ve reached out. It’s annoying when a COMPANY DOESN’T DELIVER YOUR COUCH ON TIME FOR CHRISTMAS (sorry, personal problem). Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge the pains of consumer, however small, should NOT work in a field devoted to representing the consumer. Sure the dead link was a result of a poor CMS, or you weren’t able to call back because the customer called after hours. It doesn’t matter. Consumer marketing is not about YOU. If your marketer can’t first empathize with the consumer, before providing explanations, they are in the wrong field. Consumer pain points should drive your department strategy, not be written off.
7. They Like Numbers.
Notice I didn’t say they are GREAT with numbers, just that they enjoy working with them (no calculus required). This field is one part accountant/analyst and your A.D. personnel will likely spend at least 50% of their time preparing reports and stats needed for both internal and external purposes. Your hire should be comfortable with that and be best friends with their calculator.
Audience Developers require both left and right brain skills, beyond what is listed here. As long as you align your company with a person that possesses detective-like analytical skills, empathy for your audience, and the ability to understand and translate audience needs and touch points to different teams within your organization, you’ll be in good shape.