(My buddies over at Contently included an essay of mine in the latest version of their Content Strategist magazine. I’ve been doing a lot of content strategy work for different clients … and I’m watching the term turn into a catch-all for anything from editorial to marketing to body copy to UX. Here’s a stab at sorting out the mess.)
“Nowadays, ’content strategist’ is another phrase for ‘unemployed editor,’ “ my colleague laughed.
Ouch! There’s a sting of truth in those words. Granted, the title is better defined in some sectors — such as digital agencies, where it’s closely aligned with user experience. In other spheres, it’s quickly been devalued as a catch-all phrase for any activity that generates blocks of words.
That’s especially true for companies outside traditional publishing, where words haven’t been a source of revenue. These enterprises are accustomed to content marketing, and they’ve heard that content strategy is important. Nevertheless, they may not see a role for customer communications beyond “brand enhancement” or “thought leadership.”
The result? Many job descriptions for “content strategists” that aren’t strategic at all, and lots of corporate microsites half-full of articles that live in isolation from the actual business of the company.
Think about it: A manufacturer of cleaning products launches a WordPress blog and hires someone to populate it with articles about housekeeping. Is this strategic content, or is it simply commoditized copy that is (a) disconnected from the business of driving glass-cleaner sales and (b) just another small voice in a Web already teeming with household tips?
There’s a better way for companies to approach content — one that’s truly strategic. To me, the key to genuine content strategy is integrity, both in aligning with the company’s brand and its business goals.