Content strategy:
blending art, science,
personalization, and technology

What is content strategy?

Content strategy is the vision, creation, and management of content with a purpose. It’s thinking about — and often questioning — the necessity, format, and discoverability of content for the intended audience.

Interviews with
content strategists

The video embedded throughout this page are clips from interviews with 12 content experts conducted by the Writer team. We asked them to share their views on how the role is changing, their priorities, their challenges, and what they love about the work.

Words are the design tool of a content strategist. They’re used to define and reshape peoples’ experiences with an organization, product, or resource. When we talk about content strategy, we only talk about “content with a purpose” because writing should serve a specific goal. That can be helping people understand how to use a product, or providing resources to support a community, or marketing a new service, or just entertaining an audience.

   
Words are the design tool of a content strategist.Click To Tweet

Content intelligence & strategy specializations

“Vision, creation, and management of ALL content?!” Yes, content strategy is an expansive field. Content plays a vital role in an organization’s success, so a single guiding strategy ensures that all the pieces fit together cohesively. It creates a unified brand identity and works to provide users/customers/audiences/people with the right information at the right time.

Because of how much work there is to be done, specialities have emerged. Do you like to write? Dissect and organize? Think big-picture or in-the-weeds? Collaborate with designers or writers? Work in a specific field? As a content strategist, these preferences can change the team you sit within, your title, and your specific set of responsibilities.

Our 2019 State of Content Strategy Report showed that 30% of content strategy roles sit within marketing teams, 23% within a content strategy “hub”, and 19% within design teams.

Pie chart: What teams do content strategists work on?

 

 

For job titles, we see regular community discussions dissecting the differences between content strategist, product content strategist, UX content strategist, content designer, UX writer, and a few other variations. Generally, people are comfortable viewing content strategy as a mega-discipline that encompasses the content design and UX writing.

content-strategy-disciplines

Ultimately, all of these roles are for people who like to think strategically about the role and value of content, but they each imply unique specialties and team structures. As content strategy roles continue to evolve, Kristina Halvorson advises, “What’s important is helping people understand that content decisions never happen in a vacuum.


Common misperceptions

Myth #1. “It’s the same as content marketing strategy.”

Marketing is just one area that falls under the large umbrella. Content strategists consider how every piece of content across an organization works together — that includes support content for user training, help centers, UX copy, internal wikis, chatbots, websites, marketing content, and then some.

content-strategy-types

 

Myth #2. “It’s the same as copywriting.”

If you want to make a content strategist grumble, this is the perfect line. (Take that as a warning, not a challenge.) If copywriting is an art, content strategy is the museum. The museum is full of beautiful paintings, but its success is also defined by the building, the planning and layout, the lighting, the maintenance, the hard decisions to let pieces go.

 

“Content strategy is to copywriting as information architecture is to design.” –Rachel Lovinger (@rlovinger)

Myth #3. “It’s not for my industry.”

Content strategists are flourishing in every industry where content is created (and, to be clear, that’s all of them). In a recent survey of content strategists, the most common industries were technology (27%), education (19%), agencies (16%), and government (7%).

Pie chart: What industries do content strategists work in?

Myth #4. “It’s one-and-done job. Content consistency isn’t that important.”

Content strategists sets up repeatable processes and find tools in order to scale themselves, work consistently, and improve how they work. Content needs to be regularly evaluated and updated to ensure it still serves its purpose, and deleted once it’s no longer useful.


How to build a strong content strategy

We’ve published several content strategy reports that share deeper insights into content strategy practice and theory:

Challenges in Product Content Optimization report

Plus, there are 300+ learning opportunities and technologies to explore in this list, all recommended by content strategists.

And if you’re just getting started with content strategy, below are some definitions, explanations, articles, and videos to help you dive in. Fortunately, the language of content strategists isn’t a hard one — after all, jargon is frowned upon in the field.

Building a team:

Setting up the right processes, workflows, expectations, technologies, and on-going training program to keep everyone aligned ensures your content strategy will succeed.

 

Content governance:

Setting up guidelines that determine how content gets created, published, updated, and archived, alongside who should be involved at every stage. provides overview of all the hats a strategist can wear throughout the content lifecycle.

→   Read: Your Basic Content Governance Survival Gear by Ashley Coolman from Writer (on our blog)

→   Read: New Thinking: Brain Traffic’s Content Strategy Quad by Kristina Halvorson from Brain Traffic (on their blog)

Content audits:

Auditing, especially the first audit, is a time-intensive process to help you find all — and that means all — the content that exists by an organization, so you can determine how it works together to meet organizational goals.

→   Read: How to Conduct a Content Audit by Donna Spencer from Maadmob (on the UX Mastery blog)

→   Read: How to Embrace (and Gently Encourage) the Content Audit by Kristina Halvorson from BrainTraffic (on their blog)

→   Template: Website Content Audit with Airtable by Holly Munson from Think Company (on Airtable Universe)

Gap analysis:

After an audit or review, gap analysis is the process of deciding what useful information is missing, and therefore what should be created next.

→   Read: A Comprehensive Guide to Content Gap Analysis by Mike Wagaba from Humanlytics (on Medium)

→   Read: Mind the Gap by Strategic Content (on their blog)

Content consistency & information architecture:

The work it takes to determine how content should be organized and displayed. The goal is to structure information in a way that is intuitive for the audience and sustainable for the content owners.

→   Read: IA lenses: Helpful Perspectives for Content Strategists  by Dan Brown from EightShapes (talk from Confab 2019)​

Collaboration and workflows:

Content, design, and development roles work closely together in digital teams. Setting up those strategic workflows and relationships in advance helps projects flow smoothly and get better results. Silos between design, content, and development always creates problems.

→   Read: Giving UX Writing a Seat at the Design Table by Ashley Coolman from Writer (on the Abstract blog)

 

Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” –Jeffrey Zeldman (@Zeldman)

Measuring ROI & success:

Content strategy work is often measured by output of new purpose-driven content, updating or removal of existing content, improvements to structure and processes, and impact on selected business goals.

→  Read: Two Things Every Content Strategy Needs by Kristina Halvorson from BrainTraffic (on their blog)

 

Writing best practices

Looking to improve the writing skills of specific teammates or perhaps host a company-wide writing workshop? Share this page of writing resources and best practices.

Plain language:

New laws and regulations, including the U.S. Plain Writing Act of 2010, instruct organizations to write in a way that can be understood by their audience. This particularly impacts jargon-heavy sectors and work, such as finance, healthcare, government, and the privacy statements or terms and conditions for technology companies. Many content strategists work to apply these guidelines to all the content they touch.

→  Read: Checklist for Plain Language by PlainLanguage.Gov (on their site)

→  Read: Plain Language Is for Everyone, Even Experts by Hoa Loranger from NN/g (on their site)

→   Watch: Less is More: How to Use Plain Language for Better CX by Deborah Bosley from The Plain Language Group (recorded webinar on the Writer site)

 

Consistent voice, tone, style:

In organizations where there are multiple writers, creating thoughtful, thorough writing guidelines (a content styleguide) helps give content a measure of consistency across the organization.

→   Read: How to Start Creating Your Brand Styleguide by Ashley Coolman from Writer (on our blog)

→   Read: How to Define Your Voice by Eugenia Verbina from SEMRush (on their blog)

→   Read: How to Use Voice and Tone in UX Writing by Rhiannon Jones from Deliveroo (on Medium)

  

UX writing tenets:

UX writers — i.e. those creating copy for digital interfaces — believe in a user-centric approach to content. This means providing what the user needs, nothing more and nothing less. It means providing useful, clear, and concise UX copy.

→   Read: UX Writing for Product Success by Ashley Coolman from Writer (on our blog)

→  Read: 16 Rules of Effective UX Writing by Nick Babich from UX Planet (on Medium)

Conversational design:

Writing in a conversational tone, in order to connect with readers at a more human level. Chatbot writers have a large stake in this work, as they are literally crafting conversations.

→   Watch: Conversational Design by Erika Hall from Mule (talk from Confab 2019)

Inclusive content:

Content should do no harm. This means putting in the work to improve equity, inclusivity, and accessibility. Fighting biases that exclude minority and underrepresented populations in your organization and content. At Confab 2019, Marchaé Grair shared a powerful quote: “Nothing about us without us.” It’s a reminder to bring diverse voices into your work, instead of attempting to write about or for marginalized groups from an outside point of view.

→  Watch: Centering the Margins in Digital Spaces by Marchaé Grair from UUA (talk from Confab 2019)

→  Watch: Fight Bias with Content Strategy by David Thomas from Think Company (talk from Confab 2019)

Accessible content:

When working in digital spaces, design with accessibility in mind. And it shouldn’t be about “meeting regulations”; rather, it should be about doing your best to help differently abled people. There are many online resources to assist your team, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

→  Watch: Accessibility is Usability by Sarah Richards from Content Design London (talk from Confab 2019)

 

Content critiques:

Keep content accountable. Before anything is written ask important guiding questions. Who is it for? Why do they need this? Is there a better way to present the information to them? How should they access this information? When something is drafted or complete, ask if you accomplished all the goals you set out to achieve, and then check it against your writing styleguide and best practices.
 


Advice for current and aspiring content strategists

Content strategy is a quickly growing discipline and there are tons of smart, excited content strategists out there sharing their wisdom on Twitter, Medium, and other blogs. But there’s always more room for more people who are passionate about the purpose and possibilities of content.

Here’s some advice on how to become a great content strategist. Plus, a quick plea for those already in the field.

→  Read: 11 Pieces of Advice to Guide Your Content Strategy from #ContentStrategy Twitter (posted on our blog)

 
 

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