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Three steps to being a professional content strategist – Day 3

by , Content Strategist, GatherContent

This video is the third in our Content Strategy Advent Calendar series. Here, Carrie Hane talks to us about just doing content strategy, with three steps for anyone to be a professional content strategist.

Video transcript

Hi, I’m Carrie Hane. Today I’m going to be your content strategy coach. Follow this three-step training program, and you too can become a professional content strategist.

Step 1, never use the words content strategy when talking to regular people. This can scare of threaten them. Instead, you want to take lessons from the content strategy playbook itself and use the words your audience uses. Remember, one of the main goals of content strategy is to get your message across. So get to know your audience and their needs and goals and challenges. Meet them where they are. Speak their language. If they don’t want to call a content inventory a content inventory, fine. Call it the magic sheet of knowledge.

Let me demonstrate. Here’s what not to do.

Alright, we’re going to do some content strategy on this project to make it successful. We’ll start with a content audit, then we’ll do some page tables, and then we’ll do a content model, and then a voice and tone workshop, and that’s after we do a message architecture.

We don’t have time for that. Let’s just rewrite these pages and put them up on a website. This sounds like too much work. Can’t we just use some video I shot on my iPhone.

Instead, try this way.

I’m going to help you guys make more money. First, tell me more about your audience and what they usually …

See how when you just start doing content strategy, people go along and you make progress. It’s like healthy food that tastes good.

Step 2, don’t wait for permission to do content strategy. No one is going to ask you to do content strategy so don’t sit around waiting and don’t ask if it’s ok that you do some content strategy. Remember, this is Nike style content strategy. Just do it. Here’s how not to get started doing content strategy.

I wish my boss would understand how important content strategy is to my work. He just tells me to setup all these social media accounts, even when we don’t have enough content to post on them. Just do it.

Let’s setup an Instagram account. Everyone is on Instagram now.

Yeah, Instagram is quite popular. Who’s your target audience?

Middle-school students. My son is in 8th grade and he is always on his phone, like always. All his friends have Instagram accounts. But the elementary school students mostly don’t have phones or are too young for social media accounts. I want a YouTube channel.

Ok, it sounds like even though you both want to let more people know about your product and you know who your target audience is, they’re not really the same.

Content strategy is often about asking questions to get people to think about what they’ve said. Remember, they are experts in something else. You can help them figure out how to get their knowledge to the right people at the right time and you don’t need permission to ask questions.

Strategic nagging is the patient but persistent repetition of a message. You can’t just say something once and expect everyone to change how they do things, or even how they think about things. You have to tell them in different ways, many times. It can get tiring, but eventually it will sink in and what a great feeling that is. Here’s the usual way we introduce a new idea.

I told her last week she needs to get approval from her editor before things get published. Why won’t she listen to me?

Sound familiar? Have patience and be ready to find new ways of saying the same thing many times.

Hey, here are the forms you need to fill out to request a new website. Please give them to me a month before you need the new site live.

Ok, no problem.

Alright, thanks.

Did you get my form? I need the site up next week.

No I didn’t get it. When did you submit it?

This morning.

Ok, well we need a month to get everything ready, but let me check with my team and see what we can do. Are you able to dedicate a day to get the content entered?

Yeah, whatever I need to do to get it up.

Ok, well that will really help. So if you can enter the content on Wednesday, we can have the site ready by Friday.

Oh man, I’ve got another deadline on Wednesday.

Well that’s the best we can do on such short notice.

Oh hey, I saw you submitted a form for the new website. Thanks for getting that in so far ahead of when we needed it. The project manager is going to be in touch with you this afternoon to setup a kickoff meeting.

Sweet, yeah. I didn’t want to be slammed like last time.

I need a new website for my event. How do I do that?

Let me tell you. You’ve got to submit a form a month ahead of time …

Did you get everything the first time you tried? People are busy. They forget. They don’t always listen and they don’t always understand why things are the way they are. It can be hard, but if you are patient and you give them tips and help along the way, they not only learn how to help you help them, they can become your greatest allies and champions.

So there you have it. Three steps to being a professional content strategist.

About Carrie

carrie-hane-horiztonal-large

Carrie Hane is an independent consultant who helps organisations increase income and decrease costs by rethinking how they create, manage, and connect their content. Through coaching and consulting, she helps them get the right information to the right people at the right time while improving processes.

For more than 15 years, as both as a consultant and in-house employee, Carrie has been untangling information to make it ready for whatever the future holds. Since 2011, she has been a regular presenter at content strategy and user experience conferences, as well as a contributing author for UX and content strategy publications. For tips on getting things done through strategic nagging follow her on Twitter or at tanzenconsulting.com.

About the Author

Content Strategist, GatherContent

Rob is Content Strategist at GatherContent. He is a journalism graduate and has previously worked as Studio Manager and Head of Content for a design agency and as an Audience Research Executive for the BBC. He’s a published author and regular contributor to industry publications including Net Magazine, Smashing Magazine, 24 Ways, WebTuts+, UX Matters , UX Booth and Content Marketing Institute. On occasion Rob speaks about content strategy at leading industry events.

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