When I introduce myself at networking events as a content strategist and copywriter, people usually ask me about the writing that I do but not the strategy. A few days ago, I was surprised to meet a fellow content strategist who asked me the question I'd been waiting for: what is content strategy?
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, content is information made available by a website or other electronic medium. For instance, this blog post is considered content. Strategy, meanwhile, is the art of planning and directing. Keeping these definitions in mind, I've concluded that content strategy includes the following:
- planning the information to be presented (the content itself, i.e. the words that make up the paragraphs of a website, blog post, etc.)
- planning the execution of content (the context/schedule, i.e. Monday Emailing, Tuesday Tweet, Wednesday Blog, Thursday LinkedIn, Friday Facebook)
- directing the presentation of content (the design, i.e. the amount of white space, the use of headings, format)
Wikipedia's definition mirrors the above: "Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content--written or other media." The entry cites other useful definitions taken from the mouths of established content strategists.
When I first started this biz, I expected freelance writing to mostly involve typing away on my laptop, reading sources, interviewing clients, and typing some more. I soon realized, however, that writing isn't enough. I could write a marvelous blog post, hand it over to my client, and it might never see the light of day. If you want people to read your writing, you need to handle it strategically--you need to plan how it will appear on a screen and when it will appear on a screen. You need to make sure you're covering SEO and basic human elements, like humor and voice. Obviously, the most important thing is to make sure the quality of the content is mind-blowingly good, but content without strategy is no better than a letter lost to the bottom of your junk drawer.
Next time I introduce myself at a networking event as a content strategist, this is what I will say: "There may be plenty of people who know how to write a decent sentence, but there aren't many people who know how to create stuff that actually gets noticed."