Tag Archives: career

Content strategy road map


Getting from here to there

So I was reading educational advice over at Brain Traffic from content strategists responding to a query from a student wanting to work in content strategy. And my comment kept getting longer and longer until it dawned on me I needed to just write a blog post and link to it.

My philosophy is that content strategy is a transdisciplinary field (see the variety of people practicing it who used to be marketers or information architects, journalists or library scientists). As a novice to content strategy who already has a degree and experience in writing, my personal development plan has a stronger bent toward practice than formal schooling. More working on sites than talking pontificating about the Web (fun as that is). Here’s my current approach to learning more about and practicing content strategy:

  1. I’m cobbling together my own training regimen, including reading relevant SlideShares, blogs and articles/books on content strategy, UX and IA, and completing CSS/Photoshop tutorials through Lynda.com. End result: I balance out my overdeveloped writing background with more software/Web savvy, i.e. the technical nuts and bolts)
  2. Since I happen to work for an insitution of higher ed, I am taking classes in the only program grad-level program I find relevant (a post-bacc certificate in multimedia writing and technical communication). I get to take classes online in visual communication and technical comms, respectively. Watch this space for my portfolio, which I actually get class credit to do! In the future I will consider more comprehensive programs, like those listed by Karen McGrane, of Bond Art Science. End result: Some reflective discussions, papers and eventual piece of paper.
  3. I’m carving out content strategy-type chunks for web site redesign and creation at work and getting involved in more aspects than I normally would. Job description is mostly editing at end of process. In practice there’s other gaps that can be massaged to attack content more thoroughly and strategically: doing content inventory with clients, navigation development, usability testing. End result: more hands-on learning in a collaborative workplace with actors from different disciplines.
  4. I’m getting a sense of the types of job descriptions and sectors where content strategists work by reading through their About Me pages, LinkedIn bios and current company’s sites. When people have enumerated their positions, responsibilities and accomplishments, I view them as potential road maps. Like, “here’s a template I can work off of; let me see what opportunities I can find to get me from here to there.” Rahel Bailie lists her last few positions, none of which were called “content strategist.”

I’ve taken the advice to joing the Google group and the mailing list mentioned by Jeffrey MacIntyre and Kristina Halvorson. And I guess I can add blogging to this list. It’s a way to hash out ideas and connect with other like-minded people

So what are people’s thoughts on formal education versus on-the-job training as it applies to content strategy? Comment here if you like or back at the original post.

Finding my content calling

windmillI had a total epiphany about my career this past week. I should be doing content strategy. Strike that, I, Julie Espinosa, Web editor and writer AM doing content strategy but I didn’t know it until now. (What is content strategy? Many articles proffer different definitions. See just two below.)

My revelation came about primarily because of two articles at A List Apart*:

  • Content-tious Strategy by Jeffrey MacIntyre, which defines content strategy as essentially, “combining the skills of writers, editors and publishers to think in a holistic way about what users should see when they visit a site[.]”
  • The Discipline of Content Strategy by Kristina Halvorson, which breaks content strategy down into editorial strategy, web writing, metadata strategy, SEO, content management strategy and content channel distribution strategy.

Of course, while I fancy myself a content strategist, I am quick to add “aspiring” to it and admit how much I need to educate myself about this burgeoning field. I have a lot to learn, but I’m excited.

So far, my research into content strategy as a discipline has been very fruitful. I found out through Kristina Halvorson’s twitter about a Content Strategy Consortium (part of Information Architecture Summit 2009 in Memphis) and followed the notes attendees live-tweeted.

This has led me to twenty-odd content strategists who are active on twitter, blogs and who generously share their presentations. To give you a just a small taste of people I want to get to know and learn from, there’s Colleen Jones, Elena Melendy, Kristina Halvorson, Liz Danzico and Margot Bloomstein (all of whom attended the summit, if I’m not mistaken). (And if this was gratuitous link-dropping, forgive this neophyte and throw some other advice my way.)

Overall, I feel just a little less angsty and a little more excited about my fledgling career, because I can see maybe this is a field where I can apply my Web savvy and communication skills meaningfully. I hope I can connect with some of the helpful people out there (not least my own great colleagues) as I am figuring out my place in the world wide web of words.

* Even though A List Apart is on my Google Reader, I had somehow missed the issue. I ended up stumbling upon these articles purely through a happenstance combination of blog-reading, twitter and local connections; to make a long story short, I found Kim Stearns of Forty Agency‘s blog, where she’d posted MacIntyre’s article. Thank you Kim!