The Unspoken Qualities of a Content Strategist

Phil Lindsay By Phil Lindsay

Day 1 of ContentEd left me somewhere between super excited to apply new and exciting ideas and worried on how to get started because Content strategy is such a huge topic with many, many applications.


Now I realise what Tracy was getting at in her session yesterday afternoon on convincing non-content strategists about Content Strategy. She said the first step is to define content strategy for yourself first. I would suggest that there is another facet to this - there are soft skills you have to develop to become a good content strategist - qualities that are on display in abundance from the speakers at ContentEd. So what are they?


1. They take the long term view, while remaining short term flexible

Content Strategy is broader than content marketing. It's thinking about the full life cycle of each content asset - why it should be created; how it will be used in multiple instances in its life; and also how it might be 'retired '.

Many of the speakers yesterday from some of our most esteemed universities are faced with digital estates of 10,000 to 250,000 assets (text, images and video). While much of this is likely to be duplication or out of date content it gives you an idea of the enormity of the problem.

So a content strategist must think long term about what they are creating. Who knows what the channels, apps and platforms will be in 12 months, let alone 5 years. So this is where Richard Prowse’s Create Once Publish Everywhere methodolgy is key. It's how you C.O.P.E. It’s the best way to prepare for the imminent explosion of voice and mixed reality, without having to recreate everything again for these new emerging channels.

2. They focus on people first, not on spreadsheets and software

The last decade has seen an explosion of amazing software that has the potential to save us hours every month or every year. How many times have you heard that the new CMS will solve all your problems - and then when you use it, it looks like the database threw up over your screen. Clients I speak to every day don't say they've got their feet up on the desk and are able to ponder the big picture challenges, they say they're “super busy”.

So in a large organisations how do we save time when creating content? Tracy reminded us all that we need to listen more. Every organisation in every sector struggles with silos of knowledge (don’t worry you are not alone!) and yet if we could just remember to empathise with our colleagues more, we can work out more effective ways to bring our content to life without needless duplication.

You may be the flag flyer for content strategy but it will be your colleagues from across the organisation that build the mound on top of which you plant that flag. The best content strategies out there are grounded in the people across the organisation believing in the value of what they are creating.

3. They are ready to trust their audience

Day 1 ended with a very inspiring talk from the BBC’s Alex Grayling. He showed us examples of how the BBC has been learning to embrace their audience at all stages of content creation.

This really stuck with me because in traditional broadcast you get audience input up front, then you produce the tv series behind closed doors, then you do the big reveal, quietly praying everyone loves it. Alex pointed out that this model misses the massive potential of your audience - he even went as far to say your audience can often execute better than the organisation.

This is particularly relevant for our clients in the education and charity space. We spend a lot of time uncovering amazing stories but we should also be looking at ways the audience can tell those stories themselves - as they might just do a better job of it. If we can trust them.

So there you have it - the Content Strategist in a nutshell. They’re all about the long term view, while remaining flexible in the short term. They focus on people first, not just the content or software. And finally they bring their audience into the very centre of their strategies.

As it’s Friday, it would be amiss of me not to finish on a lighter note - here is a blatant infringement of BBC’s intellectual property, that Alex and his team at the BBC had the audacity to embrace, because the saw the bigger picture for the brand.

(This video contains a few swear words, so be warned):


Phil Lindsay

Phil Lindsay

Co-founder & Managing Partner

Phil is responsible for the overall operational and financial efficiency of Consider. Originally our Technical Director, Phil now looks after our amazing team, keeps a keen eye on our finances, and is helping develop the structure and tools we need to grow. You can read Phil's latest thinking on our blog.