What is a content strategist?

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011

I'm hungry again. So I've been reading up about the burgeoning field of content strategy, and while it seems related to what I was talking about before about being an editor and journalism, etc., it has, in the last couple hours, piqued my interest almost as much as new media journalism has in the last weeks. What I seem to be doing right now is documenting an evolving exploration, and will continue to do so. So, disclaimer, I just found out about this field so everything I say below is not necessarily out of authority, but rather cautious presuming. I've bookmarked over 30 sites to read and 3 Safari Tech eBooks on the topic, and since I am working on an editorial strategy for my dayjob, I may as well get cracking on what the latest is on the field. So far in my readings, I've surmised that people are starting to realize what a content dump the web is, with its current practice of overwhelming the online user with "evergreen" how-tos and guides, and clambering to be the "up-to-the-minute" source for breaking news (which means publishing the same news or some variant or slant on that news which everyone else is publishing within minutes or days of its breaking), and the masses of low quality content that affords a :03 long average page visit and a 99.5% bounce rate (the kids that are doing what the cool kids are doing). In addition, Social Media has caused advertisers to share the fate of Tantalus, with so many potential consumers within their reach but at the same time, just out of reach, as everyone and their mother tries to figure out how to be heard on Twitter and Facebook, spout Like buttons, and connect their ads and sites to user accounts and user searches in invariably creepy ways. Yes advertisers, it's creepy. So, a small but growing number of people are now trying to get a handle on how to produce content that people care about, to punch through the noise, and to focus on content. To me, it makes sense for companies who have something to broadcast, anything from a news angle to a product launch to a brand. May not make as much sense for the CPA who has more clients than she needs, so we're not talking all companies here. So for these companies who have content to share, many of them are just now prioritizing their current content processes, which simulate rusty, antiquated, rusty old machines churning out copy into the Internet abyss and returning mediocre statistics-- because content creation was always a last-minute endeavor, a small piece of the huge marketing plan pie. And I'm guessing that's where content strategists come in. Game changers, if you will. This is what I'm reading anyway. Is content important for all companies? Probably. Do they know that yet? I have no idea. But I like the idea, because I like the idea of a web with engaging and useful content that gives readers exactly what they came to find. And I don't mind marketers creating, with their content, win-win situations in which those readers behave the way their content strategy predicts, making for a successful strategy. It's kind of a cool ecosystem, where we get rid of the people pumping out trash because it's on-trend, and I have to wade through search result after search result of "What is a content strategist? ... do YOU have the answer to this question?" In an ideal world, to give the job description a bit of an altruistic quality, I would love a content strategist's job to be to find ways to declutter the web and transform it into a place where we get information that has been prepared in a kitchen, and to make it feel less like a bin of food scraps where you can't really trust what you're eating. But realistically, a content strategist's job seems to be to listen to a client or to their own company's business goals, and reform or create current content generation to become just as big a part of the marketing strategy as advertising or messaging. That's all I got so far.