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Published on June 16th, 2010 | by Rahel Bailie


Skills to transition to content strategy

You may say that all this is fine and good to position content strategists as the management consultants of the content world, but what does an aspiring content strategist do with that information? What concrete steps can you take to make the move to content strategy?

I quite dislike the laundry list approach to skill sets, and avoid the allure of “top ten” lists  that are supposed to be a one-dose-fits-all remedy. However, in an attempt to provide a succinct resource that can be useful to those wanting to round out their knowledge, I’ve created a suggested reading list. It is not meant to be a definitive list, and likely has more benefits to technical communicators who want to manage large bodies of technical content with more efficiency. However, I stand by my belief that those wanting to make the transition to content strategy will benefit from havin some knowledge  in each of these areas. I’d be interested in feedback and additions.

Requirements Analysis

  • Identify business needs
  • Understand corporate motivations and goals


  • GAP analysis
  • Requirements matrix
  • Process models

Learn from:

International Institute of Business Analysts – Body of Knowledge

Information Management Center – Information Process Maturity Model

User Analysis

  • Identify key audiences
  • Understand user motivations and goals or tasks


  • Needs assessments
  • Personas and scenarios
  • Flow diagrams

Learn from:


The User is Always Right

UI Flow Diagrams

Content Analysis

  • Take inventory of existing content and documents
  • Categorize content


  • Content inventory
  • Content audit
  • Metadata taxonomy
  • Content models
  • Content architecture
  • Wireframes
  • Delivery design

Learn from:

Adaptive Path on inventory

The Rockley Group on audits

Gerry McGovern on metadata

Content modeling

Content standards

Information Architecture Institute

Multi-channel publishing

Get Content, Get Customers

Content Design and Production

  • Production workflow analysis
  • Create content business rules
  • Design content
  • Develop content


  • Business process maps
  • Topic maps
  • Customization and personalization maps
  • Localization plan
  • Page tables/layout templates
  • Standards and style guides
  • And, of course, the content

Learn from:

AIIM Training Programs

Steve Pepper on Topic Maps

Letting Go of the Words

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The Culturally Customized Web Site

Content and Technology

  • Managing content
  • Content standards
  • Content management systems


  • Technology recommendations
  • Implementation strategy

Learn from:

Content Management Bible

W3C Standards

OASIS Standards

LISA standards

Wikipedia review of CMS types

There are a few resources not included in this list, only because they span multiple areas mentioned above. These are the books about content strategy, whether or not called by that name:

Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy, by Ann Rockley

Web Content Strategist’s Bible, by Richard Sheffield

Content Strategy for the Web, by Kristina Halvorson

Information Development: Managing Your Documentation Projects, Portfolio, and People, by JoAnn T. Hackos

As a final note, hats off to the founders of the content strategy knol (unit of information) where practitioners are welcome to contribute resources, to consolidate information into a central location.

Previous posts in this series:

The extraordinary world of content strategists

Abilities and aptitudes for a content strategist

Content strategy: the skills conundrum

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

12 Responses to Skills to transition to content strategy

  1. This is a great list of resources – thanks for putting it together!

  2. One content strategy book you missed: “Audience, Relevance, and Search: Targeting Web Audiences with Relevant Content,” from IBM Press, by James Mathewson, Frank Donatone and Cynthia Fishel.

  3. Don Platon says:

    Looking forward to using this as a reference for a new client. Thanks for this creating this well researched post!

  4. Sita Bhatt says:

    very useful post, thank you for sharing. I also feel communication is a key part of content strategy – as it is for any strategy. While the deliverables themselves are a sort of communication, summarizing the deliverable in an email or in less than 10 slides is both an art and a science. Should be part of the Content Strategy lesson, in my opinion.

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  6. Rahel Bailie says:

    The question of how to turn your existing skills into something concrete – something that you can sell to a client – doesn’t have a hard-and-fast path. There is no BA in Content Strategy, at least not yet. I think it’s something you take on and grow into. And at that point, you package your skills into an offering that you know clients (or your employer) need, and the rest is marketing. Heather Hedden discusses her own transformation into a taxonomist quite eloquently. As does Richard Sheffield, discussing his own journey from technical writer to content strategist. If you were to compare my own offerings to some of the CSes I’ve come to know over the past year or so, you’d see that we all have different offerings, and thus end up with different clients. Finding your own path, and developing it, has more to do with understanding the market and what you can offer than it does with the actual work. And that’s a whole other topic!

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  8. Very useful information, thanks for providing!

  9. Great post, content is always a huge piece of the puzzle.

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