What Skills Do I Need to Be a Content Strategist?

Content strategy is one of the most difficult ideas for brands today to understand and execute successfully. According to MarketingProfs, only 35% B2C marketers say their content marketing strategy is “extremely” or “very” effective. Brands that choose to invest in content strategists have an advantage: someone to lead the process. In this blog, you’ll learn what skills you need to be a great content strategist.

What Do Content Strategists Do?

First, let’s outline what content strategists actually do so there’s no confusion.Note that though the content strategist role varies across every organization, some duties remain consistent across every role. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Creating specifications and appropriate content for the brand’s designated audience
  • Strategizing and improving content delivery and promotion
  • Championing content marketing strategy across the company
  • Setting guidelines for the tone, style and voice of all brand content
  • Setting editorial strategy so content is consistent and compelling across all delivery streams
  • Measuring and analyzing what’s working and what isn’t with regard to the brand’s content marketing efforts

The skills you’ll want to present potential employers vary by the type of content strategist for which the company is searching. Here are some of the deliverables required from each major type of content strategist:

  • Website relaunch: content audit, comparative audit, content matrix, editorial guidelines
  • Content strategist for an online magazine: editorial calendars, voice and tone guidelines and examples, content briefs
  • CMS redesign: taxonomy and metadata recommendations, site maps, content models, workflow recommendations
  • Content strategist: social-media focus: social editorial calendars, examples of social content, social analytics
  • Content strategist: SEO and analytics focus: SEO recommendations and previous wins, analytics audit

To become a content strategist, you’ll need at least five years of experience as a digital content manager, web writer or content editor. In addition, a bachelor’s degree is required. Common majors include English, journalism, communications, marketing creative writing, technical writing and information management. Content strategists usually work during normal business hours, although freelance strategists may have more flexibility.

The typical amount of experience for content strategists is shown in this graphic from PayScale.

Pay for content strategists, like most jobs, is based on experience. An entry-level strategist with fewer than five years of experience can expect to earn about $52,000 a year, according to PayScale, while a content strategist with mid-career experience (5 to 10 years) can expect to earn an average total compensation of $73,000. An experienced strategist with 10 to 20 years of experience will earn $94,000 or more, compared to an average total compensation of $121,000 for individuals with over 20 years of experience.

What Skills Do You Need on a Daily Basis?

The following skillsets are beneficial for content strategists to use on a daily basis. Which ones do you have? And which ones are you missing?

1. Solid Copywriting Skills

If you can’t write great content, it doesn’t matter how well you plan it or distribute it. The writing process is the most important part of content marketing. Know who creates your content (whether internal or external) and how well they understand your business. You need to have solid copywriting skills to know how to direct, plan, design and edit this content. Even if you’re not writing on a daily basis yourself, you’ll have to jump in and write something at some point, and you need to know what does and doesn’t get results.

The ability to see the big picture and build a storyline across a website or campaign is also key for a content strategist. For websites, reaching this goal often starts with laying out the existing content architecture to identify where content is located and how it functions. For campaigns, research the mindset of your users and perform testing. Consider how this feedback can be used to refine messaging.

2. Content Presentation Skills

Once your content is written and approved, you must determine how it will be packaged for prospects and customers to consume. Each type of content (social, video, eBooks, guides, etc.) has a specific purpose for your audience, and it’s up to you to decide what that is based on analytics, research and experience. You should have content that’s both long-form and short-form, with interesting headlines and stand-out images, no matter the format.

3. Content Delivery Skills

Once your content is ready for production, you need the skills get it in front of your audience. You should work with other digital marketing experts on your marketing team to determine the best distribution channels. A simple blog post can get great traction if you research the topic and discover the ideal way for it to reach your audience.

4. Campaign Experience

It’s difficult to strategize a campaign if you don’t have several years of executing them. Content strategists need experience planning, delivering and executing marketing campaigns, as well as analyzing metrics and developing creative strategy to earn a position.

5. Content Monetization Skills

Unless you work at a media company, content probably isn’t the way you directly earn revenue. Instead, its goal is to get people to buy your product/service. As a content strategist, you must plan how your content can be monetized and communicate this to your executive team.

6. Multitasking and Organizational Skills

Life as a content strategist can be a lonely experience. Often, the brand’s content marketing success primarily depends on your efforts, and your company’s leaders will expect you to have an independent, take-charge attitude to get the job done. And while there’s certainly room for collaboration with other marketing team members, you’ll be the sole owner of your specific initiatives. In doing so, you’ll have to manage many types of projects and people on a daily basis.

Project management tools, calendars and note-taking will all be important to you. Tracking projects and organizing communication with stakeholders and other departments iskey to managing budgets, vendor contracts and editorial calendars — not to mention any improvements to the content strategy or lifecycle that must be rolled out across the entire organization. There will be many times you’ll need buy-in from the higher-ups, so be confident and ready to share your ideas.

A typical day for a content strategist includes meetings various teams across the organization to discuss ongoing and upcoming projects, outlining future content and working with a designer to visual elements. Content strategists typically work closely with social media strategists, designers, UX specialists, marketing leadership and lead generation teams to craft a cohesive message. Individuals lacking great communication and planning skills need not apply.

7. A (Metaphorical) Editor’s Pen

We’ve already stated that content strategists need editing skills, but it goes beyond simply cutting words or optimizing phrases. Editorial competency is especially important during migration projects. Large brands almost never track all the content they’re publishing. It’s the content strategist’s job to content a thorough content audit to determine what should be kept, edited, rewritten or retired based on analytics, the age of the content and current and historical performance.

8. An Analytical Mind

Apps and integrations make collecting data easy for most marketers today. But knowing what to do with that data is another story. As a content strategist, you’ll need to spot patterns and trends in your content marketing data and draw conclusions. Perhaps your blog posts perform better Facebook, while your videos work well on Instagram. Maybe your brand’s most shareable content is 1,500 words long, published in the morning, and including two Pinterest-sized images.

9. Consensus-Building Skills

As a content strategist, you will be the spokesperson of your brand’s content. Not everyone will be on board with your job or its functions. Some won’t even be on board with the importance of content marketing. You need to spread the gospel of content marketing across your organization by outlining and demonstrating its many benefits.

What Qualities are Needed for the Content Strategist Role?

Skills can be learned, but personal qualities are more difficult to cultivate. Hiring managers are searching for the following skills in a content strategist:

1. Cares About the Company’s Goals & Target Market

A good content strategist learns as much as possible about the company’s goals and target market, including long-term and short-term objectives like directing marketing campaigns to specific individuals. If you aren’t passionate about the company, content strategy probably isn’t right for you.

2. Attention to Detail

Content strategists have the unique ability to see the big picture while also paying attention to the most minute details. Content strategists need to keep projects on schedule without compromising quality. This personal trait is difficult to learn, but individuals can make a concerted effort to pay more attention.

3. Level-Headed Under Pressure

Being a content strategist isn’t a stress-free job. Managing strategic projects on tight schedules can be tough. Learning to keep your cool under pressure and still executing engaging campaigns is a personal quality worth highlighting. Flexibility is also key during difficult or unpredictable times.

Practice the personal qualities of independence, leadership, attention to detail and getting things done to succeed in a content strategist role, and grow your skillset to meet all of the suggested skills above.

Want a leg up on the competition for that content strategist position you’re eyeing? Enroll in one of our online digital marketing courses today.


Originally published at digitalmarketinginstitute.com on August 29, 2017.