For many marketing teams, this is a new position, and with any new position there is often confusion in regards to job responsibilities, roles, deliverables, etc. Given this confusion, I thought it appropriate to add some clarity to the role, laying out the five key areas of focus for today’s content strategist.
Think like a publisher. First and foremost, content strategists put the customer at the center of everything they do. They think more like a publisher than a marketer, who too often focuses on short-lived campaigns. The publisher perspective is important, as it lends itself to a more egalitarian balance between a consumer and marketer’s goals and needs.
Understand the consumer journey from all sides. Content strategists are expert at understanding the consumer’s journey and the informational needs that consumers have at each phase of their journey. They know which channels and devices their target audience prefers to get this information from. And they understand how to measure content performance, as it relates to engagement, at each point in the journey.
Deliver engagement briefs. Traditional communication strategists author creative briefs for the creative team to start the ideation process. Content strategists, however, deliver an engagement brief, an important distinction. Consumer engagement is the ultimate goal of any piece of content. Content consumption habits and preferences are highly varied among generations, life stages and cultural backgrounds. An effective Content Strategist must continually update their understanding of their target audience, especially in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape.
Balance long- and short-term planning. Content Strategists must balance both long and short-term planning. They work on long-term strategy by creating content roadmaps and content architectures, which act as a filter for all content creation to ensure that it aligns with a brand's core values and achieves business objectives. They also help to shape content for short-term campaigns, including seasonal promotions and product launches. In short, they are a “Sherpa” of sorts for all things relating to content strategy, planning and ideation.
Never lose sight of the content ecosystem as a whole. Finally, a content strategist understands how to build an effective content ecosystem. Yes, they create content for specific campaigns and always-on channels, but they never lose sight of the ecosystem as a whole. They have a meta-view of content within multiple channels, such as social, owned websites, paid media, mobile applications, syndicated content, etc. They know how to look beyond the silo-ed organizational structure that is inherent to most marketing organizations.
In short, content strategists know how to look at this from the consumer’s perspective. And it is this perspective that allows them to create a content ecosystem by design and not by default. A great content strategist sets the foundation, organizes the chaos and coordinates efforts for maximum results.