'Content strategy is a symphony, not a solo'

Talking all things content strategy with Kara Chiles, editorial director at Whole Foods Market


Kara Chiles is editorial director and lead content strategist for Whole Foods Market, the leading national grocery retailer. A digital media maven with more than 15 years of experience, Kara has led content and audience development for mass-audience sites including USA Today, WebMD and AOL. 

Currently, she leads the Global Brand Content team at Whole Foods responsible for creating all culinary trends, recipe and brand storytelling for in-store and online consumers, which has won multiple awards for its corporate blog, its video, and its original content. We sat down with Kara ahead of her presentation at the Content Strategy Innovation Summit in Los Angeles this September 15-16.

How did you get started in content strategy?

I started out as a journalist and looking back at how my career progressed and the roles I took, one can see that I kept digging deeper into the workings of content. From reporting to writing to editing to planning, my interests kept taking me from the surface of headline and story into the structure and its underpinnings. I love a good story but I found myself really getting most passionate out about how to move multiple stories through a system and develop a vision of what a digital experience could share and say. If a printed article could give you something to read, digital stories could give you something to engage with – it’s adding dimensionality to something that you previously thought only had a surface.

By the time I heard 'content strategy' as a term and a field, I realized, 'Oh, that’s what you call what I’ve been doing.'

How have new technologies impacted your organization’s content strategy?

New technologies are always impacting one’s content strategy – that’s part of the prize and the chase. How they’ve directly impacted our organization currently? We’re in a very exciting place as we’re making bigger bolder steps than have been done to date. We’re also embracing a more experimental outlook – we’re trying some things because we want to see how our audience reacts. Others we’re trying because someone has a genius idea we’re all intrigued to see play out.

What metrics should organizations be looking at when judging how successful their content is?

We threw out one-size-fits-all metrics. For us, it’s about being thought-through as much as thoughtful about what our intentions are with specific content types and where we’ve targeted distribution. Some metrics will align clearly with a quantifiable metric, others are going to be based on looking at sentiment. Still, others will be derived from connecting dots from content to business through more than one data point.

How do you see content strategy changing this year?

Directly, we’re going after some specific goals so it’s definitely changing in breadth and depth, both. Those will play out in our execution of the strategy too.

More broadly, I’m seeing greater awareness that content strategy represents a spectrum of tools and approaches that can focus intently on UX and IA and run through to distribution and promotion. As it gains more visibility as a practice, it’s great to hear voices combined to support each other and the discipline. Content strategy is a symphony, not a solo.

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

I’ll be sharing a facet of our content strategy evolution – how we took our video strategy and started to bend it, shape it and strengthen it through a variety of forms and approaches. We’ve learned a lot in the last year about how video can pull many different levers to tell stories and drive the business. 

You can hear more from Kara, along with other senior, industry-leading executives at the Content Strategy Innovation Summit in Los Angeles. To register your interest, click here.


Picture: Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com

Email mark small

Read next:

'Don’t Underestimate The Value Of A Super Engaged Email List'