In November 2016, Philly Content Strategy (https://www.meetup.com/Philly-Content-Strategy) hosted Kristina Halvorson, the CEO of Brain Traffic (http://braintraffic.com/), for a comprehensive Q&A session at Indy Hall (http://www.indyhall.org). The following answers have been edited for clarity.
What are the challenges of content strategy today?
The joys of content strategy include being able to steep yourself in and dive into a culture/industry, and there are some core challenges that need to be addressed.
The larger business vision contains business goals. Since all business goals cannot be supported, they must be narrowed down and articulated by leadership. The website that you help build needs to help support these business goals. To begin answering the question “what is the goal”, exercises around the user can help force people to get outside their heads. For example, use this exercise: “I am a [ blank ] who wants to [ blank ] so that I can [ blank ].”
You have to prioritize your key audiences. There are always different opinions about what is important as priorities change based on the day. Differences in priorities can lead to people not wanting to commit to say “no”.
Making data-driven decisions:
Lack of user research is the killer of digital projects. If there are no actual data points to back something up, it was an assumption and the risk is that you are talking to yourself.
Finally, effective governance requires the client to commit to themselves. They have to be honest about what new content they can write over time. Can they really update a blog every 2 weeks? That is real commitment.
How can you plan a career in content strategy?
Content strategy does a good job of bolstering related web disciplines. In general, look at the skill of being able to synthesize and strategize elements towards meaningful goals. Areas for career growth may include editorial planning, product design, UX design, content engineering (structure and modeling), and business. Editorial planning (strategy, design, and voice/tone) is an area where you can really immerse yourself. Do a lot of exploring in these areas.
What is your advice for a freelancer looking for work in content strategy?
At Brain Traffic, we have a full-time writer on staff. With anywhere from 3 to 18 concurrent client projects, we have a network of writers that we rely on. My advice is to reach out to the agencies who deal with web content. For example, web sites in the areas of financial services, healthcare, and publishing. At the generic article level, there are too many content marketing agencies. You want to get in with an agency that deals with targeted, specific, and non-crap content for these types of web sites. Moz’s recommended list of SEO agencies might be a good place to start. Finally, the sexiest clients are sometimes the worst clients.
“Content Strategy for the Web” by Melissa Rach (http://contentstrategy.com/)
Making data-driven decisions
“Just Enough Research” by Erika Hall (https://abookapart.com/products/just-enough-research)
“Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design” by Lisa Weichman (https://www.amazon.com/Managing-Chaos-Digital-Governance-Design/dp/1933820888)
Sara Wachter-Boettcher (http://www.sarawb.com/)