Content in disarray? Website a mess? Call in the content strategist.
A content strategist is a relatively new position in many organizations — so new that many people may wonder what content strategy entails. In the book Content Strategy for the Web, content strategy is defined as the “practice of planning for the creation, delivery and governance of useful, usable content.”
It’s about giving website visitors the right kind of content at the right time.
According to content strategist Erin Scime, there are five stages in the content life cycle: audit, strategy, plan, create and maintain. Depending on the project or company, content strategists can be involved in any or all of these areas.
PLANNER, WRANGLER, DATA CRUNCHER
Common Job Titles
Content Strategist, Digital Content Strategist, Web Content Strategist, Content Strategy Manager
Median Annual Salary
Seattle Area: $73,214
Sources: Labor Insight, O*NET, PayScale.
“It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of creating well-written, visually attractive content and forget what you were trying to accomplish in the first place,” said Peter Luyckx, a content strategy consultant and instructor in the online Certificate in Storytelling & Content Strategy
offered by UW Professional & Continuing Education. “As a content strategist, you need to keep a strategic perspective on how your content is aligned with your business goals and the needs of your customers.”
So what do content strategists do? They gather information and use data to develop plans. They evaluate existing content and analyze the competition. They consult with stakeholders to determine project goals. They consider technical questions related to taxonomy and content management systems. They plan for content production and maintenance, and they get knee-deep in SEO.
And, after the content is up on the website, content strategists rely on various ways to measure its effectiveness, including web analytics, social media metrics and user feedback. If the strategy isn’t working, they re-strategize and try again.
DEMAND ON THE UPSWING
Job postings for content strategists have been on a general upward trajectory over the past few years. In fact, according to Burning Glass Technologies, a job market analytics company, listings for content strategists more than quadrupled in the United States between 2011 and 2016. We're seeing a variety of organizations — including tech and health care firms, marketing and advertising agencies, universities and other institutions — bringing content strategists on board.
“Companies now realize content is product — its quality is indispensable,” explained Cheryl Lowry, a content strategist at Facebook. “If products and services don’t speak to users in clear, useful and compelling ways, they won’t stand out; there are countless other voices competing for our limited attention,” said Lowry.
BREAKING INTO THE FIELD
You can break into the content strategy from a variety of related areas, including writing, editing, technical communications and information science. Cheryl Lowry started out as a technical writer at Microsoft, gradually assuming more content management responsibilities. Peter Luyckx arrived at content strategy after stints as a web producer and editor at Microsoft and digital editor at an actuarial consulting firm.
To move from more tactical work into content strategy, Luyckx recommends looking for opportunities to get involved in projects at your current job that involve aspects of content strategy and content management. “Then create a portfolio of relevant projects to highlight the strategic thinking behind your work,” he said.
Interested in content strategy? Explore our related programs to see how you can keep learning.