Do you have what it takes to be a great content strategist?

Do you have what it takes to be a great content strategist?

7 minute read

Do you have what it takes to be a great content strategist?

7 minute read

Do you have what it takes to be a great content strategist?

Nia Gyant

GatherContent Contributor, Writer

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Considering the high return on investment (ROI) it delivers, 70% of marketers invest in content marketing.

Marketing without a well-thought-out strategy, however, delivers poor results. As more businesses realize this, they hire content strategists. No wonder that role is among the hottest jobs right now, paid $63,801 per year on average.

But what does a strategist do? And what skills do you need to land the role?

Let’s answer those questions in this guide. We’ll also share tips from five experts to help you succeed at content strategy.

What does a content strategist do?

A content strategist plans, manages, and executes a brand’s content strategy across various marketing channels.

Their primary role? Developing strategies to meet various business objectives. These often include driving brand awareness, lead generation, and conversions using content.

Even so, there’s a lot that comes in between developing and executing a winning content strategy.

Content strategist roles and responsibilities

Some responsibilities of a content strategist include:

  • Conducting audience research and studying available data to understand what new content to produce and why
  • Planning content ideas that tie in to business goals and target audience needs
  • Maintaining content production consistency by developing content value propositions, style guides, accessibility guidelines, and related templates
  • Creating and maintaining a content workflow and editorial calendar for streamlined content production
  • Distributing content and gathering feedback through various channels such as social media
  • Reporting on content data metrics showing its performance
  • Repurposing and refreshing content to offer maximum value to your audience and gain the best ROI from each piece

Beyond this, content strategist job descriptions vary depending on each organization’s needs. Some, for example, include content marketing management, while others involve interpreting analytics data.

Another factor that plays a role is how well a business has already implemented content marketing to meet its goals.

For example, some have an established brand voice, workflow, and content governance. Others may be starting out and need a strategist to build their editorial voice and processes.

💡 See also: Get the free Content Strategy Roadmap, which will walk you through the steps of developing an effective content strategy.

9 key skills a content strategist needs

Content strategists focus on content planning, production, analysis, distribution, and management. Therefore, the following skills are needed to succeed:

1. Storytelling

Storytelling is key to convey the best project approach to content teams (e.g. writers, editors, and UX designers). It's also crucial for telling brand stories effectively.

2. Empathy

Creating digital content isn’t limited to production. It also involves figuring out which content formats to create and for which channels.

In addition, there's developing buyer personas, style guides, and actual content strategies. All demand a deep understanding of the target audience and their pain points.

It takes empathy to recognize what the audience needs, which content can help, and what will resonate with them.

Need to Know: With the right content operations platform, you can easily document content processes and guidelines. See how GatherContent helps overcome the common (and completely avoidable) challenges.

GatherContent's embedded instructions make implementing notes on brand voice, style, and consistency simple.

GatherContent Style Guidelines
GatherContent style guides improve content quality and consistency.

Add checklists to content templates for consistency, reducing back and forth between team members. For example, here’s a submission checklist for a blog post template:

GatherContent Checklists
Add checklists to GatherContent templates to improve content quality and consistency.

3. Writing

You should have good long-form copy writing skills as a strategist. This will help you produce top-quality content.

4. SEO

You need a strong grip on keyword research, search intent, and on-page optimization. This knowledge is crucial for distributing content via search engines.

5. Social media

Ideally, you shouldn't just promote content on social media. You should also listen to your target audience to better understand their pain points.

6. Editorial skills

This skill is essential to create and document a brand’s editorial style and manage content production on a schedule.

Need to Know: GatherContent makes creating content workflows and editorial calendars a piece of cake. You can create workflows by dividing the stages each content piece goes through. Example: first draft > in review > final edits > ready to be published > published.

Deadlines in GatherContent
Set clear deadlines for each stage of your content creation process.

After assigning tasks, pick a status for each assignment from the workflow. GatherContent uses these status updates to show what’s in the pipeline and at which stage it is in the workflow.

Content Statuses in GatherContent
See where every piece of content is within your workflow via your GatherContent dashboard.

You can also utilize a calendar overview of tasks.

GatherContent Content Calendar
Visualize your team’s editorial schedule and keep content creation on track thanks to the GatherContent content calendar.

7. Data analysis skills

Interpreting data is critical as a strategist. It informs the "why" behind a content strategy.

8. Technical skills

While strategists don’t need to be IT experts, knowing the full potential and limitations of the tools your organization uses helps. It’s here that your technical skills come in handy.

Need to Know: Handle content production for different marketing channels all from the GatherContent platform. For example, create a case study content template to help your team stick to your brand style and voice.
Customizable GatherContent Templates
Customizable templates make it easy for content creators to provide any type of content in the correct format and style.

9. Communication and coaching

Articulating your thoughts on content goals, audience needs, feedback on content production, and strategy are must-have skills.

Plus, strategists are responsible for working with others on content creation and more. Educating their teams and stakeholders on the "why" behind a strategy is crucial.

How to become a content strategist

Knowing the responsibilities associated with and skills needed for this role is one thing. Knowing where to start on your career path is another. We’ll get to career progression in a second, but first, let’s expand on what skills are good to develop.

One of the top skills content strategists and leaders recommend is working on a personal project. For example, grow a blog, YouTube channel, or social media account from strategy development data analysis. A project like this makes it possible to practice writing, search engine optimization, distribution, and so on.

Additionally, study the industry you want to work in. General content strategy know-how will, of course, be helpful. But you should also have a good grasp on how others in your industry approach strategy. As a result, you’ll be able to take cues from what they are doing—and gain a competitive advantage by doing what they aren’t.

And it won’t hurt to become familiar with spreadsheets, SEO tools like Ahrefs, analytics software, and other tools that will be part of your workflow.

Typical career progression and salary

Many strategists have a bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications—not to mention four to five years of experience in the digital marketing industry. Content writing and copywriting roles are often direct links to the content strategist role. And some copy editors and junior editors also transition into content strategy.

According to PayScale, base salaries range from $44K for entry-level strategists to $102K for strategists with 20+ years of experience. But the average content strategist salary is $63K to $64K (not including bonuses, profit sharing, and commission).

If you’ve already got a few years of digital marketing experience, you could command a decent salary right out of the gate as a strategist!

Expert content strategists share tips to succeed

Now that you know what content strategists do and the skills you need for the role, let’s walk you through five expert tips to help you succeed.

1. Create data-backed content

Content Marketing Specialist at DashThis, Marie Lamonde recommends:

"Create your content not based on what you think may work [or] what you think your audience wants but based on what the data says."
Marie Lamonde
Content Marketing Specialist, DashThis

Put another way, put your data analysis to work.

Here’s an example that Lamonde shares:

“In the case of a blog, make sure to do keyword research first, and create articles that answer your audience’s queries.

Check your analytics and see which blogs performed the best, and try to re-create that. Having a plan based on data is the very first and most important step you can take.”

2. Think like your target audience

Data is important when creating a content strategy. Yet, sometimes it’s essential for strategists to lead with empathy.

In those instances, Freelance B2B Content Strategist, Noelina Rissman, suggests putting yourself in your ideal audience’s shoes. Rissman points out:

"When you’re strategizing content, there comes a point when you need to step away from the SEO tools. Step away from the keyword research. Step away from it all."
Noelina Rissman
Freelance B2B Content Strategist

It’s at that point that you need to think like your target audience.

“Think: ‘If I were this person, what would I want to know about topic X?’” advises Rissman. “Truth is, sometimes the best pieces come from those that aren’t backed by numbers but empathy.”

Not to mention, it’s always a good idea to interview your customers. This will help you develop an understanding of their struggles, the language they use, and more. It will help you think more like them.

3. Always measure the impact of the content you create

Another important tip for planning a useful content marketing strategy: track your key performance indicators (KPIs) from the get-go.

This one’s a hat tip to Content Marketer and Strategist, Meryl D’Sa-Wilson who writes:

"A vital thing to keep in mind from the start, if possible, is how to measure the impact of the content you create."
Meryl D’Sa-Wilson
Content Marketer and Strategist

To this end, D’Sa-Wilson recommends asking yourself the following questions:

  • “What content metrics/KPIs to track and how to track them?
  • What content reporting will look like?
  • How to align content goals with business goals?”

4. Update content to keep it fresh

“Content isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it asset,” observes Inter’s Content Marketing Strategist, Chris Zacher.

“Every six months or so, go back to your content management system and refresh your content with new statistics and up-to-date information,” Zacher suggests.

“Definitely go in at the beginning of every year and update the dates, too,” adds Zacher. “For instance, if you have an article titled ‘Our Best Content Marketing Tips for 2021’, you should change that for 2022 by January of '22.”

The reason? Google prefers fresh content. Therefore, content updates and refreshes improve your rankings.

Zacher also notes, “Fresh (and refreshed) content almost always outperforms the outdated stuff. Even if your content feels evergreen, updating it regularly with new links and stats will keep those pages performing at the highest level.”

5. Pay attention to building links

“One of my top tips, especially for small content teams, is to create a passive link-building strategy,” says Sarah Archer, Head of Content Strategy at Kona.

"Create resources writers will naturally link to in their articles with long-form guides that provide them what they’re looking for."
Sarah Archer
Head of Content Strategy, Kona

For instance, you could create resources containing statistics, original research, and trends that writers can use in long-form content.

Need to Know: Create a central repository in GatherContent of all published content you can link to.
GatherContent Project Management
Create, manage, and collaborate on projects with your team in one place—GatherContent.

Also, content sharing original research and statistics on a topic tend to pick up a lot of backlinks, which helps improve SEO.

Ready to get started? Get a free trial of GatherContent to start planning out your content strategy and content processes in a central hub.

Considering the high return on investment (ROI) it delivers, 70% of marketers invest in content marketing.

Marketing without a well-thought-out strategy, however, delivers poor results. As more businesses realize this, they hire content strategists. No wonder that role is among the hottest jobs right now, paid $63,801 per year on average.

But what does a strategist do? And what skills do you need to land the role?

Let’s answer those questions in this guide. We’ll also share tips from five experts to help you succeed at content strategy.

What does a content strategist do?

A content strategist plans, manages, and executes a brand’s content strategy across various marketing channels.

Their primary role? Developing strategies to meet various business objectives. These often include driving brand awareness, lead generation, and conversions using content.

Even so, there’s a lot that comes in between developing and executing a winning content strategy.

Content strategist roles and responsibilities

Some responsibilities of a content strategist include:

  • Conducting audience research and studying available data to understand what new content to produce and why
  • Planning content ideas that tie in to business goals and target audience needs
  • Maintaining content production consistency by developing content value propositions, style guides, accessibility guidelines, and related templates
  • Creating and maintaining a content workflow and editorial calendar for streamlined content production
  • Distributing content and gathering feedback through various channels such as social media
  • Reporting on content data metrics showing its performance
  • Repurposing and refreshing content to offer maximum value to your audience and gain the best ROI from each piece

Beyond this, content strategist job descriptions vary depending on each organization’s needs. Some, for example, include content marketing management, while others involve interpreting analytics data.

Another factor that plays a role is how well a business has already implemented content marketing to meet its goals.

For example, some have an established brand voice, workflow, and content governance. Others may be starting out and need a strategist to build their editorial voice and processes.

💡 See also: Get the free Content Strategy Roadmap, which will walk you through the steps of developing an effective content strategy.

9 key skills a content strategist needs

Content strategists focus on content planning, production, analysis, distribution, and management. Therefore, the following skills are needed to succeed:

1. Storytelling

Storytelling is key to convey the best project approach to content teams (e.g. writers, editors, and UX designers). It's also crucial for telling brand stories effectively.

2. Empathy

Creating digital content isn’t limited to production. It also involves figuring out which content formats to create and for which channels.

In addition, there's developing buyer personas, style guides, and actual content strategies. All demand a deep understanding of the target audience and their pain points.

It takes empathy to recognize what the audience needs, which content can help, and what will resonate with them.

Need to Know: With the right content operations platform, you can easily document content processes and guidelines. See how GatherContent helps overcome the common (and completely avoidable) challenges.

GatherContent's embedded instructions make implementing notes on brand voice, style, and consistency simple.

GatherContent Style Guidelines
GatherContent style guides improve content quality and consistency.

Add checklists to content templates for consistency, reducing back and forth between team members. For example, here’s a submission checklist for a blog post template:

GatherContent Checklists
Add checklists to GatherContent templates to improve content quality and consistency.

3. Writing

You should have good long-form copy writing skills as a strategist. This will help you produce top-quality content.

4. SEO

You need a strong grip on keyword research, search intent, and on-page optimization. This knowledge is crucial for distributing content via search engines.

5. Social media

Ideally, you shouldn't just promote content on social media. You should also listen to your target audience to better understand their pain points.

6. Editorial skills

This skill is essential to create and document a brand’s editorial style and manage content production on a schedule.

Need to Know: GatherContent makes creating content workflows and editorial calendars a piece of cake. You can create workflows by dividing the stages each content piece goes through. Example: first draft > in review > final edits > ready to be published > published.

Deadlines in GatherContent
Set clear deadlines for each stage of your content creation process.

After assigning tasks, pick a status for each assignment from the workflow. GatherContent uses these status updates to show what’s in the pipeline and at which stage it is in the workflow.

Content Statuses in GatherContent
See where every piece of content is within your workflow via your GatherContent dashboard.

You can also utilize a calendar overview of tasks.

GatherContent Content Calendar
Visualize your team’s editorial schedule and keep content creation on track thanks to the GatherContent content calendar.

7. Data analysis skills

Interpreting data is critical as a strategist. It informs the "why" behind a content strategy.

8. Technical skills

While strategists don’t need to be IT experts, knowing the full potential and limitations of the tools your organization uses helps. It’s here that your technical skills come in handy.

Need to Know: Handle content production for different marketing channels all from the GatherContent platform. For example, create a case study content template to help your team stick to your brand style and voice.
Customizable GatherContent Templates
Customizable templates make it easy for content creators to provide any type of content in the correct format and style.

9. Communication and coaching

Articulating your thoughts on content goals, audience needs, feedback on content production, and strategy are must-have skills.

Plus, strategists are responsible for working with others on content creation and more. Educating their teams and stakeholders on the "why" behind a strategy is crucial.

How to become a content strategist

Knowing the responsibilities associated with and skills needed for this role is one thing. Knowing where to start on your career path is another. We’ll get to career progression in a second, but first, let’s expand on what skills are good to develop.

One of the top skills content strategists and leaders recommend is working on a personal project. For example, grow a blog, YouTube channel, or social media account from strategy development data analysis. A project like this makes it possible to practice writing, search engine optimization, distribution, and so on.

Additionally, study the industry you want to work in. General content strategy know-how will, of course, be helpful. But you should also have a good grasp on how others in your industry approach strategy. As a result, you’ll be able to take cues from what they are doing—and gain a competitive advantage by doing what they aren’t.

And it won’t hurt to become familiar with spreadsheets, SEO tools like Ahrefs, analytics software, and other tools that will be part of your workflow.

Typical career progression and salary

Many strategists have a bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications—not to mention four to five years of experience in the digital marketing industry. Content writing and copywriting roles are often direct links to the content strategist role. And some copy editors and junior editors also transition into content strategy.

According to PayScale, base salaries range from $44K for entry-level strategists to $102K for strategists with 20+ years of experience. But the average content strategist salary is $63K to $64K (not including bonuses, profit sharing, and commission).

If you’ve already got a few years of digital marketing experience, you could command a decent salary right out of the gate as a strategist!

Expert content strategists share tips to succeed

Now that you know what content strategists do and the skills you need for the role, let’s walk you through five expert tips to help you succeed.

1. Create data-backed content

Content Marketing Specialist at DashThis, Marie Lamonde recommends:

"Create your content not based on what you think may work [or] what you think your audience wants but based on what the data says."
Marie Lamonde
Content Marketing Specialist, DashThis

Put another way, put your data analysis to work.

Here’s an example that Lamonde shares:

“In the case of a blog, make sure to do keyword research first, and create articles that answer your audience’s queries.

Check your analytics and see which blogs performed the best, and try to re-create that. Having a plan based on data is the very first and most important step you can take.”

2. Think like your target audience

Data is important when creating a content strategy. Yet, sometimes it’s essential for strategists to lead with empathy.

In those instances, Freelance B2B Content Strategist, Noelina Rissman, suggests putting yourself in your ideal audience’s shoes. Rissman points out:

"When you’re strategizing content, there comes a point when you need to step away from the SEO tools. Step away from the keyword research. Step away from it all."
Noelina Rissman
Freelance B2B Content Strategist

It’s at that point that you need to think like your target audience.

“Think: ‘If I were this person, what would I want to know about topic X?’” advises Rissman. “Truth is, sometimes the best pieces come from those that aren’t backed by numbers but empathy.”

Not to mention, it’s always a good idea to interview your customers. This will help you develop an understanding of their struggles, the language they use, and more. It will help you think more like them.

3. Always measure the impact of the content you create

Another important tip for planning a useful content marketing strategy: track your key performance indicators (KPIs) from the get-go.

This one’s a hat tip to Content Marketer and Strategist, Meryl D’Sa-Wilson who writes:

"A vital thing to keep in mind from the start, if possible, is how to measure the impact of the content you create."
Meryl D’Sa-Wilson
Content Marketer and Strategist

To this end, D’Sa-Wilson recommends asking yourself the following questions:

  • “What content metrics/KPIs to track and how to track them?
  • What content reporting will look like?
  • How to align content goals with business goals?”

4. Update content to keep it fresh

“Content isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it asset,” observes Inter’s Content Marketing Strategist, Chris Zacher.

“Every six months or so, go back to your content management system and refresh your content with new statistics and up-to-date information,” Zacher suggests.

“Definitely go in at the beginning of every year and update the dates, too,” adds Zacher. “For instance, if you have an article titled ‘Our Best Content Marketing Tips for 2021’, you should change that for 2022 by January of '22.”

The reason? Google prefers fresh content. Therefore, content updates and refreshes improve your rankings.

Zacher also notes, “Fresh (and refreshed) content almost always outperforms the outdated stuff. Even if your content feels evergreen, updating it regularly with new links and stats will keep those pages performing at the highest level.”

5. Pay attention to building links

“One of my top tips, especially for small content teams, is to create a passive link-building strategy,” says Sarah Archer, Head of Content Strategy at Kona.

"Create resources writers will naturally link to in their articles with long-form guides that provide them what they’re looking for."
Sarah Archer
Head of Content Strategy, Kona

For instance, you could create resources containing statistics, original research, and trends that writers can use in long-form content.

Need to Know: Create a central repository in GatherContent of all published content you can link to.
GatherContent Project Management
Create, manage, and collaborate on projects with your team in one place—GatherContent.

Also, content sharing original research and statistics on a topic tend to pick up a lot of backlinks, which helps improve SEO.

Ready to get started? Get a free trial of GatherContent to start planning out your content strategy and content processes in a central hub.

Ready to get started?
Start your free trial now
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