We all started somewhere. Lately I’ve been thinking about how folks get started doing Content Strategy.
This blog is full of my thoughts on the topic. But what do other Content Strategists say?
To find out, I asked a few of my Content Strategist friends. Here’s what 6 of them had to say.
Strategize your strategy
“This is going to sound meta, but much of the success or failure of what we do as content strategists hinges our ability to apply good content strategy practices to ourselves, our work, and the artifacts we create. What we do can be confusing and complicated, so use your content strategy chops. Define your audience and their needs. Be clear about purpose, what’s important, what the expectations and next steps are, and how each piece of the work fits into the bigger picture. Call it Strategy for your Content Strategy.”
Seek clarity, and collaborate
“So, you’re interested in the vocation of content strategy. Where to begin? First, get comfortable with a certain level of ambiguity—see it as an opportunity. Your clients will likely be swimming in ambiguity when they come to you in hopes that you can provide them with a sense of clarity. That clarity comes from the application of data analysis, editorial rigor, and research from many different areas. (Get comfy with those things, too.) With practice, considered question-asking, and empathy you’ll soon develop your own content strategy sense that draws on your strengths. Finally, remain aware that others in this industry may know more than you, and that’s perfectly fine. Ask them questions, collaborate with them, and share the success that’s soon to follow.”
Grow in a variety of disciplines
“Mastering the craft of content strategy is necessary work for any content strategist, but don’t forget to build out your T-shaped skills. How? Spend time shadowing a developer, pair with a designer on a regular basis, or ask a UX researcher to mentor you. Gaining an understanding of these disciplines will strengthen your relationships with team members and ultimately help you make better content decisions. I’ve found that my growth has accelerated most in times when I’ve stepped just outside of my comfort zone and embraced other disciplines.”
Know your “why”
“An increasing number of organizations are investing in content as a strategic asset which, as you may know, is leading to even more interest in Content Strategy. If you are considering entering the field, then you may be experiencing a mix of excitement and absolute fear. I’ve been there and understand. Words are hard and change can be scary.
“But this change is worth it if you want to be able to create impact for your audience and your organization. Content Strategy, with an emphasis on Strategy, can influence everything from your organizational vision and your internal culture to how your customers experience your products, services, and brand. Sometimes that influence comes from painstaking care for every word and sometimes it comes by influencing and shaping the big picture. In both instances, Content Strategy is a role that can have a dramatic impact at every level of every organization.
“If you do make the transition, you’re in for an exciting and rewarding journey. During that journey don’t forget to think about strategy and what strategy really means. Specifically, know and understand the “why” of every piece of content and every experience you help craft or influence.
“Know how your ‘why’ ladders to your company vision, your voice, your brand and to the customer experience. Validate your ‘why’ by talking to real, actual customers. Let their feedback shape your strategy. Also, content is more than just the words on the page so think broadly about the right content types for the right outcomes.
“Finally, as those feelings of absolute fear fade away, don’t forget to share and help others. Giving back helps us all move forward.”
Read, talk, attend, learn, and read some more
“1. Spend some time every day reading about content strategy. There is a practically endless stream of great thinking out there, and we content strategists are prolific writers and sharers! Here are some good sources:
“2. Join a community! There are great online communities, as well as in-person meetup groups in so many locations around the world — I’ve gathered all that I know about:
“3. Attend a conference! (If you can’t afford to pay, many of them will let you volunteer in exchange for free admission.) — See the list on Jonathon Colman’s “Epic List” page.
“4. Read my “10 lessons” blog post: http://www.contentcompany.biz/2013/04/24/10-content-strategy-lessons-i-have-learned/.
“5. Make your learning more formal — my content strategy school will be up and running soon! http://www.content-strategy-school.com.”
(In the meantime, there’s also a free email course you can check out! — Melanie)
Blaze your own path
“Content is a continued evolving field, and as such, content strategists must be able to adapt with it. Look for opportunities outside of the normal box to create a much more diverse and intrinsic content ecosystem. There is no longer a straight path for content strategists, so figure out what works best for you and what you are trying to achieve.”
— Maxine Ramirez, Sr. Content Strategist, Razorfish
Don’t be afraid to share
“Don’t be afraid to think out loud as you’re learning.
“When I first started doing product-focused content strategy, there weren’t a lot of resources to teach me what to do. I read everything I could about related disciplines and as I was finding my way, I shared what I was learning, talked openly about pain points, and asked for feedback. Sometimes I shut up and listened.
“You become a content strategist by doing the work, even when you don’t have a blueprint that tells you exactly what’s next. It can be messy and filled with ambiguity and it’s OK if you don’t have all the answers (most of us don’t!).
“Every important opportunity in my professional career has come about because I’ve been brave enough to share, even (maybe especially) when I wasn’t positive that I had all the right answers. The goal of sharing should always be generosity and transparency, never broadcasting or self-aggrandizement. Trust me, people can tell the difference.”
Be brave — try new things and have fun!
“Participate in as many projects as you can and try different types of projects. For example, get involved with a website design or user testing. You’ll grow your skills and gain valuable knowledge about other practices such as user experience design.”
Chase your passion
“Ok! For truly new content strategy folks, I’d say this: For self-described ‘word-nerds’ like us, it can be easy to get hung up trying to nail down the definition of content strategy (and all its related components) before you begin. I’ve found this to be unhelpful and sometime can derail a promising content career. Instead, try to define your own skills that seem to align with the field and find a practicing CS mentor to talk to about how to test your hypothesis. Does interviewing stakeholders make your heart sing? Find someone who rocks persona development or maybe UX microcopy and explore. Have a passion for the intersection of technology and CS? Talk to some of the leaders in the intelligent content space about modular content reuse. You don’t have to know the full scope of your content career on day one. Let it evolve around the activities that bring you energy and keep you engaged, and you’ll be on your way to a fulfilling career in content strategy.”
That’s some great advice!
If you’re a Content Strategist, do you have something to add? Leave your advice in the comments.