How to become a successful content strategist with these 9 skills [plus expert tips]

How to become a successful content strategist with these 9 skills [plus expert tips]

7 minute read

How to become a successful content strategist with these 9 skills [plus expert tips]

7 minute read

How to become a successful content strategist with these 9 skills [plus expert tips]

Masooma Memon

GatherContent Contributor, Writer

Table of contents

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Considering the return on investment that content marketing delivers, an increasing number of marketers, 70% of them to be specific, are actively investing in it.

Marketing without a well-thought-out strategy, however, mostly delivers poor results. As more and more businesses realise this, they want to hire content strategists – making it among the hottest jobs right now, paid $62,424 per year.

So what does a strategist do? And what skills do you need to land the role? Let's answer that in this guide. We’ll also share tips from five experts to help you succeed at content marketing.

What does a Content Strategist do?

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

The person usually has at least 4-5 years of experience in the digital marketing industry – often also having a relevant bachelor’s degree.

Your primary role? Developing a strategy to meet various organisational goals such as driving brand awareness, lead generation, and conversion using content.

There’s a lot that comes in between developing and executing a winning content strategy, though. For instance:

  • Conducting audience research and studying available data to understand what new content to produce and why.
  • Planning content ideas that tie back to business goals and target audience needs.
  • Maintaining consistency in content production by developing a key brand message and content value proposition, creating brand voice guidelines, style guides, accessibility guidelines, and related templates.
  • Setting up and maintaining a streamlined content workflow and editorial calendar for content operation and production.
  • Distributing content on various channels including social media while also getting feedback on it.
  • Reporting that involves studying metrics showing its performance.
  • Repurposing and updating/refreshing content to get more mileage from content your team creates and ensuring all content is up to date to offer the most value to the target audience.

The job description for the role of a content strategist may vary depending on an organisation’s needs. Some, for example, look for strategists to manage content marketing while others look for strategists who focus on understanding analytics.

Another factor that plays a role here: 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 might only be starting out, therefore, needing a strategist to work on building their editorial voice and processes.

💡 See also: What is content management? Advice for managing content strategically

9 Key Skills A Content Strategist Needs

Since a content strategist focuses on content planning, production, analysis, distribution, and management, you need to have the following skills to succeed:

1. Storytelling

This skill is key for telling brand stories while working closely with the content team including writers, UX designers, and editors.

2. Empathy

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

Besides that, developing buyer personas, brand tone of voice, style guide, and the content strategy itself, demand a deep understanding of the target audience and their pain points.

This requires empathy as a fundamental skill to recognize what the audience needs, which content can help, and how it can resonate with them.

Need to Know: With the right content operation platform, you can easily document content processes and content production notes such as style guides.

GatherContent not only makes documentation easy but makes implementing notes on brand voice and style consistency simple by providing embedded instructions.

Add embedded instructions for your content team in GatherContent
Using GatherContent style guides allows you to improve content quality and consistency.

You can also 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:

Create submission checklists in GatherContent
In GatherContent you can add checklists to your template to help improve content quality and consistency.

3. Writing

Not only should you have good long-form writing skills as a strategist, but you should also have effective copywriting skills to create and help produce top-quality content.

4. SEO

Having a strong grip on keyword research, understanding visitor search intent, and on-page optimisation is crucial for distributing content via search engines.

5. Social media

Ideally, you should not only promote content on social media but also listen to your target audience to understand their pain points better.

6. Editorial skills

This skill is essential for you to create and document a brand’s editorial style and manage your 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.
Create workflows in GatherContent
Set deadlines for each stage of your content creation process to set clear expectations and keep content moving

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.

Get an overview of your content pipeline in GatherContent
In your GatherContent dashboard you can see the status of all your projects at every stage of the workflow.

You can also get a calendar overview of the same.

Create an editorial content calendar in GatherContent to product content by a set schedule
The GatherContent content calendar allows you to visualise your team's editorial schedule and keep content creation on track

7. Data analysis skills

Having the skill to interpret data is critical as a strategist to inform the ‘why’ behind the content strategy you create.

8. Technical skills

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

Need to Know: By using GatherContent, you can run content production for different marketing channels from one platform. Create content templates, for example, for writing case studies to help your team produce content that aligns with your brand style and voice.
Example of a case study content template in GatherContent that you can replicate for your content operation
Using customisable templates make it easy for people to provide any type of content in the correct format, and style.

9. Communication and coaching

Clearly articulating your thoughts on content goals, audience needs, feedback on content production, and the strategy you create is another must-have skill for strategists.

Since strategists are also responsible for working with others on content creation and more, having the skill to educate your team and stakeholders on the ‘why’ behind your strategy is also crucial.

💡 Learn more: Tips and tactics to be a successful solo content strategist.

Expert Content Strategists Share Tips To Succeed In Content Marketing

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 you:

"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."
Marie Lamonde
Content Marketing Specialist, DashThis

2. Think like your target audience

Where data is certainly important to create a valuable content strategy, sometimes it’s essential strategists 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 to develop an understanding of their struggles, the language they use, and more. In fact, doing so helps 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, adding content updates and refreshes to your content workflow helps you rank better.

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,” quips Sarah Archer, Head of Content Strategy at Kona.

"Create resources that 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 to back their narrative in long-form content pieces.

Need to Know: Create a central repository of all the published content in GatherContent to make it easy for writers, editors, and just about anyone to easily find content pieces to link and reference.
Use GatherContent as a central repository for all the content you create
Create and manage projects in GatherContent so you coordinate with your team in one place.

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 return on investment that content marketing delivers, an increasing number of marketers, 70% of them to be specific, are actively investing in it.

Marketing without a well-thought-out strategy, however, mostly delivers poor results. As more and more businesses realise this, they want to hire content strategists – making it among the hottest jobs right now, paid $62,424 per year.

So what does a strategist do? And what skills do you need to land the role? Let's answer that in this guide. We’ll also share tips from five experts to help you succeed at content marketing.

What does a Content Strategist do?

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

The person usually has at least 4-5 years of experience in the digital marketing industry – often also having a relevant bachelor’s degree.

Your primary role? Developing a strategy to meet various organisational goals such as driving brand awareness, lead generation, and conversion using content.

There’s a lot that comes in between developing and executing a winning content strategy, though. For instance:

  • Conducting audience research and studying available data to understand what new content to produce and why.
  • Planning content ideas that tie back to business goals and target audience needs.
  • Maintaining consistency in content production by developing a key brand message and content value proposition, creating brand voice guidelines, style guides, accessibility guidelines, and related templates.
  • Setting up and maintaining a streamlined content workflow and editorial calendar for content operation and production.
  • Distributing content on various channels including social media while also getting feedback on it.
  • Reporting that involves studying metrics showing its performance.
  • Repurposing and updating/refreshing content to get more mileage from content your team creates and ensuring all content is up to date to offer the most value to the target audience.

The job description for the role of a content strategist may vary depending on an organisation’s needs. Some, for example, look for strategists to manage content marketing while others look for strategists who focus on understanding analytics.

Another factor that plays a role here: 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 might only be starting out, therefore, needing a strategist to work on building their editorial voice and processes.

💡 See also: What is content management? Advice for managing content strategically

9 Key Skills A Content Strategist Needs

Since a content strategist focuses on content planning, production, analysis, distribution, and management, you need to have the following skills to succeed:

1. Storytelling

This skill is key for telling brand stories while working closely with the content team including writers, UX designers, and editors.

2. Empathy

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

Besides that, developing buyer personas, brand tone of voice, style guide, and the content strategy itself, demand a deep understanding of the target audience and their pain points.

This requires empathy as a fundamental skill to recognize what the audience needs, which content can help, and how it can resonate with them.

Need to Know: With the right content operation platform, you can easily document content processes and content production notes such as style guides.

GatherContent not only makes documentation easy but makes implementing notes on brand voice and style consistency simple by providing embedded instructions.

Add embedded instructions for your content team in GatherContent
Using GatherContent style guides allows you to improve content quality and consistency.

You can also 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:

Create submission checklists in GatherContent
In GatherContent you can add checklists to your template to help improve content quality and consistency.

3. Writing

Not only should you have good long-form writing skills as a strategist, but you should also have effective copywriting skills to create and help produce top-quality content.

4. SEO

Having a strong grip on keyword research, understanding visitor search intent, and on-page optimisation is crucial for distributing content via search engines.

5. Social media

Ideally, you should not only promote content on social media but also listen to your target audience to understand their pain points better.

6. Editorial skills

This skill is essential for you to create and document a brand’s editorial style and manage your 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.
Create workflows in GatherContent
Set deadlines for each stage of your content creation process to set clear expectations and keep content moving

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.

Get an overview of your content pipeline in GatherContent
In your GatherContent dashboard you can see the status of all your projects at every stage of the workflow.

You can also get a calendar overview of the same.

Create an editorial content calendar in GatherContent to product content by a set schedule
The GatherContent content calendar allows you to visualise your team's editorial schedule and keep content creation on track

7. Data analysis skills

Having the skill to interpret data is critical as a strategist to inform the ‘why’ behind the content strategy you create.

8. Technical skills

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

Need to Know: By using GatherContent, you can run content production for different marketing channels from one platform. Create content templates, for example, for writing case studies to help your team produce content that aligns with your brand style and voice.
Example of a case study content template in GatherContent that you can replicate for your content operation
Using customisable templates make it easy for people to provide any type of content in the correct format, and style.

9. Communication and coaching

Clearly articulating your thoughts on content goals, audience needs, feedback on content production, and the strategy you create is another must-have skill for strategists.

Since strategists are also responsible for working with others on content creation and more, having the skill to educate your team and stakeholders on the ‘why’ behind your strategy is also crucial.

💡 Learn more: Tips and tactics to be a successful solo content strategist.

Expert Content Strategists Share Tips To Succeed In Content Marketing

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 you:

"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."
Marie Lamonde
Content Marketing Specialist, DashThis

2. Think like your target audience

Where data is certainly important to create a valuable content strategy, sometimes it’s essential strategists 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 to develop an understanding of their struggles, the language they use, and more. In fact, doing so helps 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, adding content updates and refreshes to your content workflow helps you rank better.

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,” quips Sarah Archer, Head of Content Strategy at Kona.

"Create resources that 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 to back their narrative in long-form content pieces.

Need to Know: Create a central repository of all the published content in GatherContent to make it easy for writers, editors, and just about anyone to easily find content pieces to link and reference.
Use GatherContent as a central repository for all the content you create
Create and manage projects in GatherContent so you coordinate with your team in one place.

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 30-day free trial now
Start free trialBook a demo
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