I call myself a content strategist these days. What is a content strategist?
I coordinate a full spectrum of digital marketing campaigns for small-to-medium businesses. Basically, I join up all the different marketing channels that a small business can use into a coherent strategy.
It’s a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ position. I need to know about the different campaign channels (Social Media, Email, Paid, SEO, etc.) that could fit within the scope and budget of my clients. I also need to know how these different campaigns can fit together so they produce results that are greater than the sum of their parts.
i.e. It’s useless to run a social media campaign without any consideration of how it fits in with the website content that a client has scheduled to produce over the next 3 months. (I’ve seen this happen).
Put simply, I help clients ‘be more strategic’ in their digital marketing. Too often there’s a business website ignored since 2013 while Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram) gets all the attention. When this happens the overall marketing campaign has no direction, no momentum, and no real function.
‘Likes’ don’t grow businesses.
This is where a content strategist comes in. I provide direction and coherence to a client’s digital marketing efforts, while making sure everything gets measured so that performance can be judged.
Broadly, I work in four main areas:
This is the starting point for any project I take on. I need to understand my client, their customers, and the industry that they operate in.
I research the audience my client is targeting and create detailed ‘buyer personas’. Clients need to know exactly who this audience is and exactly what type of content they need in order to make a purchasing decision.
A key part of this initial campaign preparation is keyword research. This is to discover exactly what language ‘normal’ people use to find information online that relates to my client’s product/service.
Often, the way that my client talks about their product/service is entirely different to how their customers describe the exact same thing. It’s my job to learn my client’s jargon and then translate it into plain English. I can then make sure that enough people are searching for these terms to justify the cost of creating content around them.
Once I’ve worked out who a client’s ideal customers are and the language that those customers use to search for my client’s product, the next step is to plan the content that will attract users onto my client’s website. This is the Content Planning stage that will result in an Editorial Calendar.
The principle is to define the customer journey (how people find, choose, then buy something) for my client’s product/service and to then create content that helps people make an informed choice about their purchase decision.
In the Information Age there’s no reason for any doubt or confusion when buying a product or service. It’s my job to make sure all this information is available on my client’s website so that any customer can be certain of exactly what’s on offer, how it works, and what they’ll get if they work with my client.
Part of creating a sustainable strategy is to ensure campaign consistency. If you’re trying to build a relationship with potential customers through honest and informative content, then you need to create this useful information regularly. It shows you care.
This means I need to create the details of how this content will be produced with my clients. Who does the actual writing? Who edits it? What’s the workflow? Nothing can be left to chance or things won’t get done.
Every client is different. Some of my clients want a lot of control over what’s published on their website. This means a lot of back-and-forth, so there needs to be a clear time-bound process to make sure content goes out as scheduled. Other clients are happy to approve topics once every 3 months and leave me to get it written and published. Whatever the agreed process, everyone involved needs to be certain of how topic ideas are to become published content.
I collect and analyse both qualitative and quantitative data generated from the campaigns I run for my clients. The basic question is: what’s working and what’s not? Assumptions that are made in the initial Content Plan can now be validated or disproved. The overall goal of a client’s website is to build trust and help customers at each stage of their purchasing journey; analytics helps to answer whether the plan is meeting these goals.
Tracking visitor statistics through Google Analytics can reveal a lot about how users find and navigate around a client’s website. But other tools also allow you to see how users interact with specific pieces of content: do your menus work well? Are some articles better formatted than others? Heatmaps and pointer tracking can help clients make substantial design improvements that make their website easier to use.
As a content strategist I wear a few hats: I’m a researcher, a planner, a writer, and an analyst. I have to understand my client’s business, the needs of their customers, and the ever-evolving tools that facilitate the marketing campaigns to reach them. I then need to devise and track the metrics that show whether these campaigns are effective.
It’s a lot to keep up with (and doesn’t include actually running my business!), but I’m having a lot of fun working as a content strategist.
You can find some more info on my business website at WillingWords.