Content Strategy: Your Team's Digital Tailor

Why you need a content strategist on your team


Oftentimes, when asked what I do for work, I am met with a blank look when I answer 'content strategist'. I explain that I’m responsible for setting voice and tone as well as filling gaps or eradicating duplication in lexicon, content, and user assistance. This, too, is often met with a somewhat more quizzical than blank look. 

So this is when I bring out the tailor metaphor: I tell them I work with a team of talented specialists that don’t necessarily see or are easily able to communicate the micro-interactions between their parts of the overall experience to each other and/or other stakeholders. I help to smooth those hand-offs and when needed, reframe the conversation, generally either for ideating or buy-in.

I think of this role as being the tailor of the team, taking the measurements (research, feedback, requirements), then making the pattern for the suit (evaluating touch and pain points, as well as gaps or dupes in content to build an overall structure, voice, and tone), and finally stitching the pieces of fabric together and adding details like buttons and tassels at the end (checking in with interaction and visual design as well as product and dev to be sure all of the parts are on strategy and will 'fit' together, making sure visual design has the final say).

The content strategist, if brought onto the team early enough, will be able to maintain a bird’s eye view of the moving parts in a way that a producer or product owner cannot — are we all still on strategy? And by that, I mean 'Are we all still mapping back to business objectives while making it simple for the user to achieve their goal?', at least in broad strokes.

The tailor, er, content strategist can be an even more valuable team contributor if encouraged to cross-train a bit in visual and interaction design. All too often, content strategists need to convince or get buy-in from a wide variety of stakeholders. These folks are not software developers or designers - they are product owners and execs and they need to be sold on your idea just as any good 'pitch guy' would do for an ad agency. If the content strategist can put together their own pitch for the wider team without involving a designer or writer, then they're one foot ahead of the game. People like to be sold on a human story and that means words and pictures, not just words alone. 

As a content strategist, it's not vital that you can do everyone else's job, but it is necessary that you understand how their jobs functionally fit together (though no one will tell you that's a pre-requisite for this job). Whether you intend or plan to serve as tailor in the way I have outlined above, you will find yourself in this role, as every team needs a person filling this role and if that can be you, then you have a chance to not only add even more value to your team, but to really shine for your higher-ups.


Original artwork c. 2016, Stacey Seronick

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