Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s twice-monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists. Send us your questions!

How Can I Set Goals That Make Sense for My Team?

Dear Content Therapist: I manage a team of content creators and marketers. As we enter the new year, I want to set ambitious, achievable annual goals. However, I often struggle to strike the right balance between setting challenging targets and overwhelming my team. Keeping track of goals and progress can also be difficult, as we get caught up in deadlines and busyness. How can I effectively set goals that align with our company’s objectives and ensure that my team remains motivated and focused throughout the year? — THE GOAL-SETTING MARKETER

Paul Chaney: It’s great that you want to set ambitious goals for your content team this year. Striking the right balance is tricky, but these tips can help: 

Align With Company Goals

Start by aligning your marketing goals with the company’s. Break down ‌company goals into specific, department-level targets that contribute to the larger goals. Use the SMART framework to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals. That will bring clarity, alignment and a way to track progress.

Involve Your Team From the Outset

Don’t wait to get your team involved in the goal-setting process. Brainstorm in an open discussion to tap into team members’ expertise and creativity. This approach allows you to gauge the team’s capabilities while fostering buy-in and ownership over the goals. Collaboratively set structured OKRs — objectives and key results — that focus on ambitious outcomes rather than tasks. 

Establish Milestones

After setting goals, break larger targets into smaller milestones that act as manageable checkpoints. Otherwise, you stand a good chance of overwhelming the team, leading to lower morale and productivity. Milestones help you measure progress while giving your team moments to celebrate (or recalibrate). Use goal-tracking software to monitor progression and surface bottlenecks.

Schedule Regular Check-Ins

Schedule regular check-ins to review goals and progress. These meetings build transparency and accountability. Celebrate small and big achievements, highlight exceptional work, and discuss any challenges that need addressing.

Give Your Team the Resources It Needs

Provide your team with everything it needs to get the job done — physical resources, training, professional development and more. Distribute tasks based on individual strengths to maintain motivation. Build a supportive environment, focused on a growth mindset, peer-to-peer collaboration and your own leadership guidance. 

Remain Flexible

Nothing but the 10 Commandments is etched in stone. Be ready to revisit and adjust goals periodically based on changing internal and external circumstances. Foster a culture of transparency and accountability, and watch your team rise to meet the challenge. 

Dear Content Therapist: With the new year beginning, I want to take the next step in my career while keeping up with all the changes in content marketing. Between AI, the economy, and all the uncertainty about social media and other distribution channels we used to rely on, I know I need to keep learning. But I’m not sure where to focus. Are there any trends you see for content marketers who want to stay ahead of the curve in 2024? — PLANNING FOR 2024

Paul Chaney: I commend you for wanting to stay abreast of content marketing trends. Knowing what’s next will certainly pay dividends as you advance in your career. 

While I am a content therapist and not a sage, I see several trends, most of which are already in play and will continue to escalate in 2024. 

  1. Social Media Is Becoming Less Social 

Social media has been around so long that it has “jumped the shark,” not to mention the catastrophe Twitter/X has become, with users and advertisers running away like their pants are on fire. Nothing has surfaced to replace it to date, although Meta’s Threads is a contender. But I don’t see much marketing trend content published there yet. 

Instead, people are flocking to subscription-based private communities around topics or personalities. Medium and Patreon are two examples; newsletter hosting sites like Substack and Ghost are two others. 

Then there are all-in-one private social network communities built on platforms such as Mighty Networks, Hivebrite and Circle. These have been around for some years — Ning was co-founded by Mighty Networks’ founder Gina Bianchini in the 2000s — but have seen a resurgence more recently.   

I’m not throwing the social media baby out with the bathwater, as people still gather on these networks in droves. Continue producing content for the channels your customers frequent, but perhaps limit your focus to one or two core channels. Meanwhile, investigate these other community-building formats.

  1. Marketing Continues to Be Data-Driven

Data-driven marketing is not a new trend by any means but will continue to grow in 2024. TopRank Marketing, a well-known content marketing company, argues that data will be integrated into content creation in more sophisticated ways than just SEO optimization. 

Additionally, Katelyn Drake writes, “Gartner’s insight that ‘Data-driven marketing strategies can help to target and re-target the ideal customer’ is particularly relevant in crafting content that resonates with specific business audiences.” 

  1. Video and Audio Continue to Dominate

TopRank also says that video and audio content are only increasing their online dominance, with particular implications for content marketing and B2B. 

B2B content marketers can embrace video in numerous ways: short-form videos on social channels or YouTube Shorts, livestreaming on LinkedIn Live, YouTube and more, and long-form webinars, tutorials and events across platforms. Don’t forget about your audio content strategy — after all, podcasting is only becoming more prevalent.

  1. AI Is Never Going Away

Take it to the bank — generative AI is never going away … EVER! If you’ve kept AI at a distance, stop. Its use in content marketing will only become more prevalent. 

Here’s what Gini Dietrich, founder of PR company Spin Sucks, had to say in an article predicting 2024 marketing trends: “Everyone will probably say AI is their prediction for 2024, and I don’t disagree. It will continue to disrupt how we do our jobs next year, and I, for one, am here for every second of it!”

In the same article. Dennis Shiao, founder of marketing agency Attention Retention LLC, says, “Artificial intelligence is here, and it’s going to change everything. Be open-minded because we know that change, in one form or another, is coming for all of us.” 

One thing that will change is the focus on how AI gets used. Everyone from platform developers to AI ethicists to marketers (yes, even marketers) is focused on AI ethics. Understanding how to ethically and effectively use AI for content creation while balancing AI-generated content with human creativity and oversight is vital. As Managing Editor’s founder and publisher Mary Ellen Slayter says, “AI generates; humans publish.” 

Now that we’ve discussed trends to watch for, let me share four ways to stay on top of trends as they develop: 

  1. Subscribe to newsletters from reputable sources. Obviously, Managing Editor’s weekly newsletter should be on the list. Others I recommend include those produced by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), HubSpot and Copyblogger.
  2. Listen to marketing podcasts. This list includes Neil Patel’s Marketing School, This Old Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, and Content Inc., also by Joe Pulizzi. 
  3. Attend conferences. There are too many to count, but Content Marketing World from CMI and Inbound, hosted by HubSpot, are two to consider.
  4. Follow content marketing “influencers.” People like Joe Pulizzi, Ann Handley and Robert Rose immediately come to mind. Seth Godin, too — although he may not classify himself as a “content” marketer, everything he writes is pure gold. 

One word of warning: ​​Once you go down this path, it’s easy to get so overwhelmed with newsletter and podcast subscriptions that you reach the point where you don’t care to read or listen to any! Moderation is key. Find a few newsletters and podcasts you really like and stick to those for a while. You can branch out later — selectively. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.