Content Strategy: How to Not Take For Granted Things We Do Well

Content strategy and content management are favorite parts of my job. In the old world (the 1990s, not Europe), we called this editing and writing. But as society evolves and technology moves us in different directions, we learn to adapt, and so this thing I do is now called content strategy and content management.

With old-school journalism a dying art (and let’s face it, there are few old-school journalists left these days, but a whole lot of editorial writers) it’s important for those of us who came up in the old world — learning inverted pyramids and spelling the top paragraph “lede” — to find new avenues to employ our skills.

So why is content strategy and content management exciting to me? Could it be that it’s just so innate to my brain function and comfort level that I never doubt whether I can deliver? Maybe it’s because I started working online delivering news and analysis long before it was a job that needed to be done in every company that wants to generate business and communicate with their audience via the Internet.

Maybe, but I think it’s more than that. It’s the satisfaction I get from applying existing talents to a new set of demands. In other words, I no longer take for granted things that I do well.

Example: The other day, I was meeting with a client’s staff. Now, I should note here that I could not do that client’s job. That client runs a business in which most of his staff had to go to school for a very, very long time to learn how to do what they do.

But when I asked a couple staff members to supply me the URL to an internal business site, they didn’t know what I was talking about. I had to explain what a URL is. Then, I asked them to use their business email addresses rather than their personal ones to communicate with their customers, and they didn’t know how to access their business addresses.

Now, I’m no network engineer, but I felt like a scientist explaining how to do it. And this is not in any way meant to embarrass or critique these staffers. This is to point out that people are good at what they do, but they’re not good at everything, and what may seem obvious to a trained professional in one field is completely foreign to a trained professional in another field.

Recently, I was talking to my friend and the person who does web hosting for my site (shameless plug for Webez.net), and I was annoyed that my own company’s email was not firing properly. It turned out I was using the wrong access path for the mail client, a simple guessing game that I got wrong on the first try.

At the time, I asked my web host why the email systems need to call it an IMAP or an SMTP or a POP3, rather than just asking people like me — in plain English — to give them the incoming and outgoing access paths.

He joked that it’s a good way for the people who created these systems to stay in business.

And this brings me to why I no longer take for granted my skills, and am no longer feel conflicted about not having gone back to school to formally learn website coding (everything I know about coding, and that’s not much in the big scheme of things, I learned from online study and coworkers on the job).

It dawned on me that it’s okay to not know every skill tangentially related to my field.

I have a specific set of skills, and I am thankful to the marketing powers that be who decided to rename those skills that I’ve long done as “content strategy” and “content management.” If these marketing gurus hadn’t learned ways to reinvent themselves and reinvent me (and after all, isn’t that what marketing is at its core?), the favorite part of my work would be a lost art, and not an applicable skill currently in high demand.

Marketing, and specifically content strategy, is not straight-up advertising slogans. It’s value delivery in language that everybody speaks but not everybody writes.

I know this because the other day I went to post an announcement about a very prestigious award that a friend of mine won at a recent conference, and I had to rewrite the announcement before I posted it in my social spaces to be worthy of my friend’s accomplishment.

I also just helped rewrite a thank-you note for a friend who is trying to get a job at a new company and wanted to emphasize his value to the company rather than just saying he’s got the skills for the position.

So, you see, content comes in all shapes and sizes, and knowing how to generate it, build it, schedule it, and deliver it to attain specific results is not something everyone can do. And that makes me happy because it’s something I know I can do and like to do, which means I can continue to work and offer a service that is needed — just as long as I stay up to date on what to call it, and never take those skills for granted.

I hope you also love what you do, and find new ways to perform the skills you have learned, and if you need someone to help you explain it or sell it, that’s where I come in. It’s very gratifying.