THE KEY POINTS
- Audio version available at the bottom of the page.
- It’s always a frustrating answer, but cost depends on numerous variables like format, length, location, required crew, etc. It’s not like buying a widget.
- The need is going up, the demand is going up, but the number of truly exceptional talent isn’t keeping pace. That means content prices are going up.
- There are many areas of cost you must be cognizant of; strategic, tactical, creative, technology, and analytics.
- No need to start with an epic. Get a solid content plan together first, then start executing on the priorities in it as budget allows.
What does effective content marketing cost? The answer is always, “It depends.”
And that really is true. A blog post is going to cost less than a podcast which is going to cost less than a short video which is going to cost less than a long video or video series. That makes sense, right?
But when you know what you’re trying to get made, it’s always been a pet peeve of mine when no one will come right out and give me some numbers I can negotiate or say yes or no to. It’s like pulling teeth sometimes or trying to extract state secrets. Well I don’t want to be guilty of that, so you’ll see some dollar figures in here so that you can at least know what ballpark you’re in.
I love the folks at NewsCred. They’re awesome for many things, but they took a look in April of 2018 at content marketing salaries. In their survey, they found that Director of Content salaries went up 13.08% from 2017 to 2018. So assuming the same would happen going into 2019, the average salary for a Content Director would now be $98,540. The average salary for a Content Manager would be around $79,100. And for a Content Marketing Specialist, it’d be around $60,000.
You should be super happy if you find someone who’s worth well above average.
As a hirer of content marketing talent, you’re going to have to be keenly aware of the many, many disciplines and skills that fall under the content marketing umbrella; strategic, tactical, creative, technological and analytical. You’ll also want to assess job candidates’ soft skills if you really want top long-term performers. The broader and deeper the skill set any candidate has, the higher above the average in your market you can expect that salary will have to be. You actually should be happy if you find someone who’s worth well above average.
If you’re of the mind to cut corners by making content just “part” of someone’s job, you should know that generally, what you get out of content will be directly proportional to the seriousness with which you approach it. Half effort = weak content = some C-suiter saying, “See? Content doesn’t work!”
Payscale says a Social Media Manager, or Community Manager, averages about $50,000 . That’s probably on the low side because again, social media managers have taken on, out of necessity, a much broader and more valuable range of skills that go beyond posting, keeping an editorial calendar and answering tweets. They’re going to know paid social tactics, analytics, and be masters of the marketing platforms widely in use.
Yes, your nephew has a good camera on his iPhone. Just know the quality of your content will be a reflection of your company. It will set your image.
Despite the current trend of trying to bring as much in-house as possible, if you’re doing content right, you’ll probably be outsourcing some of these content roles. You’ll definitely be doing that on the production side. You should get some cost breaks from outsourcing thanks to agency economies of scale, but using the salaries we looked at above, you can now break down what you’ll probably be paying per hour on the top end for these services.
Now let’s talk about content production. You can go through an agency if it makes life easier for you. Or if you want to skip agency markups and your Content Director knows how to crew up for and run production teams for any format, you can let them put on the producer hat. For most of our discussion, let’s focus on video.
If you’re of the mind that your nephew has a really good camera on his iPhone and knows how to edit, and you’re excited because he’ll take $25 to make you a video, that’s most certainly your right and a choice that’s available to you. Just know that the public at large is used to seeing high volumes of very high-quality content all day, every day. Your content is going to be a reflection and representation of your company. If low quality, homemade and cheap is the quirky brand image you’re going for, rock on. This approach could work.
There are ways to keep professional production costs down, like having a comprehensive plan so multiple shoots can be done same time, same location.
The other route a lot of companies are taking is hiring one poor soul, giving them a pro grade Canon camera, an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, and a storage closet with a green sheet hanging on the wall, and making them responsible for all their media production. While better than the $25 nephew, that’s a pretty non-serious effort that won’t scale when it comes to creating the volume of content needed to keep distribution channels filled and to fully execute a proper content strategy. They’ll get crushed and quickly start regarding the $70k or so salary you’re paying them as “not worth it.”
For everyone else, let’s look at professional production rates for video. We all know it really does “depend.” How long is it? Is it a straight up interview with some b-roll or is it a creative commercial that uses special effects? One location or several? Will professional on-camera talent be needed? But for example’s sake, let’s say you want a training video done. You can keep a figure of $2,000-$3,000 per finished minute in your head. A more involved commercial or episodic style shoot will be in the $8,000-$10,000 per finished minute range.
There are ways to get these numbers down if you want, like packaging multiple productions into one deal if you know you’re going to need them done anyway. Or doing multiple shoots in one day in one location; that will help stretch your production dollar. If you want your content staffer to play Jerry Bruckheimer and produce the whole thing themselves as opposed to getting a video production company, they’ll have to call around and get “day rates” in your market for all the crew positions required such as videographer, editor, lighting, sound person, production assistants, etc. They’ll also need to handle craft services (snacks) and lunch/dinner. These people expect to stay fed. And there’s always plenty of location agreements and proof of insurance issues to deal with. It’s quite a job.
With pricing, very little is hard and fast. The point is to get a content plan in place, then start making what’s needed to execute effectively on it as you can.
As I outlined in the “How to Find Writers that Make a Real Difference” post of the Content Marketing for the Very Busy series, writers are all over the board depending on who they are, their experience, and their quality. They might invoice per finished page or per finished video minute, but more likely they’ll have an hourly rate since writers write for everything from websites to blogs to infographic copy to video scripts. Just remember that the ideas and writing are everything. If that element isn’t strong, nothing else is going to save you. My writing rate is $80/hr. by the way. And my content strategy consulting rate is $150/hr. You don’t often see someone just go ahead and spout out their rates on a blog post. But since cost is the whole point and topic of this post, I didn’t see why I should be coy. Caveat: That’s what the cost is until I’m maxed out, then they go up to keep my number of clients manageable. I know copywriters that are getting $250/hr. Pencil in $65-$75/hr. for a graphic designer.
At this point, many of you reading this haven’t flinched at any of the numbers you’ve seen. Others slipped into sticker shock long ago. The point is, we at least showed you some numbers. And we didn’t even get into the costs of acquiring technology tools and platforms that might be needed, or the costs of content distribution and promotion. That would be boiling the ocean in a series meant as a primer.
Just know that with pricing, very little is hard and fast. The talent is vast, and the price ranges broad. Just like in Hollywood, productions can come in under or over budget. Your producer will advise you asap of any cost overruns or unanticipated needs. They’ll also advise you on less expensive approaches so you can stay within budget and still get the essence of what you need. You can always spend more and go big with a celebrity or special effects. Or you can always use your charm to negotiate lower rates. The point is to get a content plan in place, then start making what’s needed to execute effectively on it.
Once you’ve gone through the series and feel like you’re ready to talk about what sensible next steps can be taken, we’d love to talk shop with you, no commitment. Just fill out the easy form, or email Stiles, or we hear sometimes people still actually use the phone! Feel free to do that to.