How to Become a Content Strategist [Collaborative Post]
I received the following question from a reader. If you would like to respond, please add your response in the comments below.
I'm a college senior graduating this May with my degree in Technical Communication. Do you have any tips for an aspiring content strategist? What skills or knowledge set would I need to have to pursue a career in content strategy? I know that as technical communicators, we already possess a lot of the soft skills for it (e.g. a knack for understanding what the audience needs). But would it be helpful to have, say, web developing and programming skills?
Since I haven't made a transition from tech comm to content strategy, I can hardly outline the path. But I can still tell you my thoughts. If you want to be a content strategist, you need to do what content strategists do. In Erin Kissane's book on The Elements of Content Strategy, she lists many of the deliverables that content strategists produce: “accessibility guidelines, benchmarks, channel strategy, CMS requirements, communication plans, community and social strategy, community moderation policies, competitive analyses, content production workshops, content sourcing plans, content style guides, content templates, editorial calendars, example content, feature descriptions, gap analyses, metadata recommendations, project proposals, publishing workflow, qualitative content audit and findings, quantitative content audit and findings, resource review (people, tools, time), search-engine optimization reviews, success metrics, taxonomies, traffic analysis, usability tests, user personas, user research findings, user research plans, user scenarios, visual presentation recommendations, wireframes, workflow recommendations” (41-42).
If you want to do content strategy, simply do content strategy. It's that simple. You probably won't be able to land a full-fledged content strategy job right out of college. You may slowly transition into it from technical communication, editing, information science, marketing, or web design. But if you begin to incorporate the content strategist's deliverables into your work, eventually that road will start to unfold and your momentum will increase toward that direction. Eventually, when you've gathered enough experience and background doing content strategy, you'll be able to land a job with the official content strategist title. But you don't have to wait until you have that title to do content strategy.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.