Ask four digital media pros to describe Content Strategy, and you’ll get five perspectives. And that’s if you’re lucky. With an evolving, “soft” discipline (many CS people come from literature, communications, journalism, or other liberal arts disciplines), it’s not surprising that the perceptions of the role vary so much. It’s certainly not as clear-cut as Project Manager or Front End Developer.
Here’s one take: Content Strategy is about efficiently creating and delivering a powerful message, in a persuasive context, to the optimal audience.
It’s a mouthful, but it comes down to three roles, really, and if you can find them all in one content strategist, appreciate your good fortune. And hire her on the spot.
1. Content creation – or the storytelling aspect (the “What”). This is why writing is the core of Content, crafting and editing a compelling narrative about the product/service at stake. It extends of course to storytelling in all its forms: short- and long-form video, still imagery galleries, editorial commentary all the way to novel authorship. And there’s another important subset here gaining steam – content curation. Assembling a cohesive pool of content focused on a given area, culled from disparate sources all over the web and beyond. It takes an insightful touch, depth of audience knowledge, and wise packaging to pull this off in a meaningful way.
2. Content branding and marketing – the Strategy part of the equation (the “Why”). The focus is on moving, capturing, or convincing an audience, using research, the best channels, and an optimal release cycle of the campaign – all to maximize response that will fulfill campaign goals. This is where you must research well before you create, optimize what you’ve created, track metrics diligently, and then interpret the data to inform continual adjustments; this provides a moving baseline to begin the next content marketing cycle.
3. Content management – wrangling all the moving pieces of the content pie, and documenting for easy reference by all parties, from creative to development to client (most resembling the "How"). This keeps creative and business expectations all on the same page, schedule, and budget. It often involves a type of translation: from creative branding to asset management, from SEO specialist to coder, etc., to ensure streamlined handoffs of material and avoidance of bottlenecks due to confusion. NOTE: This is distinct from CMS (Content Management System) publishing setup and deployment – but that also overlaps with Content Strategy. The CMS is a technical consideration and business decision that affects how content is handled for uploads, approval cycles, and archiving.
4. Ok, a hidden fourth role: Educating an organization about the value of quality content and Content Strategy, and how it plays well with UX and Design. Stay tuned…