There’s been conversation recently, especially on the Google group for Content Strategy about what it takes to be a content strategist. What’s the background? What’s the education? What’s the experience? And how do I get to be one?
I don’t think I risk too much by suggesting that no one claiming the title of content strategist started out life as a content strategist. It’s a journey of self-discovery: “Oh, so that’s what I do!”
In my opinion, the path to becoming a content strategist begins with love—the love of content.
Content strategists love content. We love both its form and its substance. We love crafting and refining it. We love running our hands around its shapes and tasting its rich and subtle flavors. We love delving into meanings and relationships. We love finding new ways to say things—and finding new things to say.
Lots of content strategists have come out of the writing disciplines—English, journalism, and such. But the skills we use are so broad, so integrated, that one could begin practically anywhere, as long as one spent a lot of time working with content. Content strategy is more than writing, much more than text, although text understandably has a lot to do with it.
How did I become…?
My background is in languages and music, but my vocation as a content guy was evident from the beginning. Always verbal, I was conversant with my school teachers and exercised a larger vocabulary than my peers. I just loved words.
I started editing my mom’s government grant applications as a teenager, finding clear ways to say things, reorganizing sections, and doing general redaction. I managed to get through my MBA program because although I wasn’t a number cruncher like my teammates, I wrote our research papers. My first job at Xerox was primarily to write research summaries but later grew into writing strategy presentations and doing business process modeling.
I have spent countless hours across my career reformatting documents for structure and consistency, not always because it was explicitly my job, but because it just wanted doing.
While I would never identify myself as a professional writer, writing has always been among my fundamental strengths, and has often been the gateway to new opportunities.
What about you?
So if you think you might also be a content strategist, take a look around you: Do you surround yourself with content? Do you love tinkering with how people say things? Do you pull ideas together into frameworks to make more meaning? Do you end up rewriting stuff for your colleagues, even when you don’t have to? Do you volunteer to do the writing part of the project because you know it will just go better that way?
If yes, then you’re already on the path. From here, it’s just a matter of paying attention to the content and offering your powers of organization, simplification, and clarification to those around you. They’ll be grateful because they hate it, almost as much as you love it. Becoming a content strategist begins with the love of content, and that love carries you along the paths where you learn the strategy part.