Content strategy is a big field. It’s a conceptual category that encompasses numerous fields of practice. Talking to someone about content strategy as a career is like talking to someone about being a doctor. The profession of doctor encompasses everything from neurologist to podiatrist, and all body parts in between. Yet there is a unifying theme, whether a doctor is a gerontologist or pediatrician, psychiatrist or orthopedic surgeon. Doctors start with the same training to understand basic functions of the human body, and then specialize in a chosen area.
Content strategy is a little like that. We are practitioners who understand content. We understand it at a level that many people never stop to consider. We understand the potential of content in ways that others overlook. We understand how content connects to other content, how the development and delivery of content affects, and is affected by, practices connected to our profession, and how content connects to content consumers.
Where content strategy differs from the medical metaphor is that our understanding comes, not from a common educational background or some content boot camp, but from a wide range of professions. There is no Bachelor of Content Strategy upon which you can build a specialization in technical communication, marketing communications, social media, or enterprise content. Instead, practitioners come to the content strategy table with their specialties already in place, and stretch their wings to embrace ideas beyond the confines of their existing fields of practice.
Makings of a content strategist
The model for content strategy is more like that of management consulting. Every management consultant has come from a different background – accounting, operations, technology, communications – with the commonality of understanding industry best practices, and being able to apply them appropriately, according to the situation. In fact, the Wikipedia definition of management consulting is both the industry, and the practice, of helping organizations improve their performance, primarily through the analysis of existing business problems and development of plans for improvement. Using this paradigm, then, a content strategist is a management consultant with a specialty in improving performance of content.
The Wikipedia article on management consulting goes on to explain that “consultancies may also provide organizational change management assistance, development of coaching skills, technology implementation, strategy development, or operational improvement services. Management consultants generally bring their own, proprietary methodologies or frameworks to guide the identification of problems, and to serve as the basis for recommendations for more effective or efficient ways of performing business tasks. ” This sounds a lot like what we do as content strategists:
|Management Consultants||Content Strategists|
|Strategy development||Develop better ways to handle content as corporate assets, in context of the organization’s business goals and the goals of those who consume the content|
|Operational improvement||Look at ways to improve how content is handled throughout the content lifecycle|
|Technology implementation||Analyze content creation and production methods, and recommend technology that increases efficiency and effectiveness|
|Change management||Recommend organizational changes, often to corporate culture, to better support the development and publishing of corporate content assets|
|Coaching||Training and support of content developers and other content stakeholders to help them understand and embrace the new paradigm|
|Improved performance of business tasks||Fashion the content strategy to mesh with business goals and activities|
The skills to look for in a content strategist, then, can be specialized – for example, a content strategist working with newspapers concentrates on areas different than the strategist dealing with website marketing, who concentrates on areas different than the strategist dealing with user assistance content – but share some common underlying qualities.
Next posts in this series:
Abilities and aptitudes for a content strategist (coming Jun 11th)
Content strategy: the skills conundrum (coming June 14th)
Skills to transition to content strategy (coming June 16th)
- When technology is no longer disruptive, but confounding
- Content strategy and design thinking
- The Summer of DITA becomes The Autumn of…?
- Authoring in DITA: the good, the bad, and the sometimes ugly
- DITA Maps and the Real World
- A Standard for Exchanging Stories – Meet DITA Maps
- Holes in the Template: Piping content into the CMS
- To DITA or not to DITA: That’s a Good Question – Part 2
- To DITA or not to DITA: That’s a Good Question – Part 1
- DITA: Not Just for Technical Content
- Content classification and findability
- Content development
- Content management
- Content strategy
- Information design and usability
- Professional development
- Social media
- User experience