Working in the digital space means breaking new ground, endless opportunities for innovation and a heck of a lot of trying to explain what it is, exactly, you do for a living.
When you tell people you’re a Content Strategist, they look at you blankly. You then try to explain exactly what it is you do by waving your hands around and saying things like “Strategy!”, “Planning!”, “Workflow!”, “Governance”, “Content delivery” and “Style guides!”. They continue to look at you blankly.
So you turn to the trusty Internets for help. A search on Content Strategy results in an abundance of blog posts and infographfics content down into quadrants. Following Content Strategists on Twitter can result in the same type of information. (However, the best tweet ever called Content Strategy “IA for Girls”.)
Successful stories become so in the same way traditional “bestsellers” do (if you’ll indulge my metaphor).Both are constructed and edited, then distributed through the channels most likely to help them find the appropriate audience.
The Content Strategy group on LinkedIn is a fantastic resource for clarification, examples and musings on various elements within an overarching Content Strategy AND the whole notion of Content Strategy in the real world.
“I challenge any CS group member to offer a working definition of content strategy that's light on industry-speak and easily digestible for the average marketer in 100 words or less. Straight up,” postsone group member. In response comes a series of opinions, both irate and supportive.
This is one of many similar conversations going on about Content Strategy in conferences, blogs and casual conversation.
My question is, if the “real” world isn’t getting what you’re saying, maybe it’s time to change the conversation?
Instead of breaking Content Strategy into ominous, abstract components, perhaps we could do something friendlier? Maybe the answer is ... a real world concept put forward clearly and plainly (you know, in the way good content people are supposed to).
The Content Strategy bible has, so far, broken the process into the following phases:
There. Now do you understand exactly what it is I do? No and neither does my mom, which is probably the reason my grandfather has been telling people I’m a “financier” and why I’ve been asked to fix the family printer more than once.
Here’s a visual I think might clearly communicate what it is, exactly, I do:
“Ahhhhhh! Too simplistic! This needs 90 per cent more documentation and spreadsheets!” scream some.
Let me defend my position please.
Point 1. I do not believe simplifying a process and cleaning up the verbiage around it cheapens what you do or makes your job sound less important. Being verbose and successful aren’t necessarily the same thing.
Point 2. What content does – on any platform; for any audience – is tell a story. It tells an actual story for editorial publications, a company’s and a client’s story on a consumer site, a product story on a retail platform and on and on and on. The stories are told through images, video, text, design and User Generated Content.
Point 3. Successful stories become so in the same way traditional “bestsellers” do (if you’ll indulge my metaphor).Both are constructed and edited, then distributed through the channels most likely to help them find the appropriate audience. Their formats, typefaces and graphics are tweaked to meet the medium they land on. They’re catalogued, tagged and optimized correctly, so readers can find them. They live on in a second, third and fourth edition. They’re cared for, curated, promoted and updated. Then, when their relevancy ends, they’re out of print and out of circulation.
Point 4: One criticism of Content Strategy as a term or service offering, is it’s very broad and can reference everything from taxonomy to copywriting. A client or boss can tell you to “do a Content Strategy” and not have a sense of what they’re really expecting as a deliverable. Putting what we do in specific terms others can understand and relate to could clear up confusion.
So what’s my point? Think simple. Think of the role as an organizer, creator and overseer of content in its various formats and phases along its life cycle. If content is a multi-faceted story, it needs a good producer. Eureka! My suggestion is: Digital Content Producer. Now, I’m sadly sure this title is probably not going to catch on and right now I can feel the Content Strategy mafia sharpening their knives as they prepare to tweet outraged slams on my idea. However, this is the term I think some of us can use to explain what it is we do, to those used to traditional media.
Within this role, of course, are a variety of specialties and no single Digital Content Producer is capable of being a taxonomist, killer copywriter, governance specialist, workflow analyst, teacher, technical guru and more. The trick, really, is to identify what’s required in a given project and map a Digital Content Producer’s skill set to it. Clearly define the problems that need solving and the expertise needed to solve them.
Or ... maybe you can make a few more charts and infographics and wave your hands around a lot (although that method is STILL not working on my mom). Excuse me while I try to go fix her printer.