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What Is a Content Strategist and Why Do You Need One?

Sometimes in order to understand how a whole system works, it’s helpful to know how individual entities within the system work. At Influence & Co., our account teams are made up of an account strategist, a content strategist, and an editor. We work together to create content for clients that is goal-oriented and engaging. Since this is the team that will be creating all content for a client, it’s useful to know how the team works together and what each individual contributes. In this post, I’ll talk about what the content strategist does.

Throughout my time as a content strategist at Influence & Co., I’ve often heard my role described like this: “She’s the expert in a client’s industry. It’s her job to keep abreast of industry changes and trending topics and to create content based on that.” For me, that definition misses the true job of a content strategist. It isn’t our job to be an expert in the industry; it’s our job to be able to communicate our clients’ expertise.

I envision the content strategist sitting between the client and the content marketing funnel. A client will unload a ton of information on us — areas of expertise, industry opinions, marketing and company goals, big-picture visions for her company — and our job is to filter all of that into a content strategy. That strategy includes content themes that are cohesive, speak to the client’s expertise, and meet her content marketing goals.

Essentially, what I strive to accomplish in my role boils down to four main goals:

Facilitate Collaboration Between the Client and the Team

The relationship between the client and the content marketing team is a delicate one. In order for the union to be successful, a client should enter it with a collaborative mindset and trust that we will keep his best interests at the forefront of what we do and the decisions we make.

Content strategists often act as a sounding board for topic ideas. Since we’re deep in content every single day, we can typically provide honest, constructive feedback on whether a client’s ideas really are as distinctive as he thinks they are. And if they’re not, we can work together to elevate them.

The conversations between the client and the team are crucial for both parties and the overall strategy. It’s important to maintain this relationship with respect, transparency, and open-mindedness. As the content strategist, I work to hear the client’s needs and also make sure he is on the same page as our team as far as what kind of strategy will best meet his goals.

Focus on the Big-Picture Vision

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of things and not focus on the future. Content marketing is absolutely not a short-term strategy; it takes time and effort to see major results. When clients start drifting away from their overall goals, it’s the job of the content strategist to pull on the reins and use our communication skills to regain that focus.

We have so many clients who come to us with specific objectives, such as getting a particular piece of content accepted by a particular publication. In reality, some of those publications don’t actually further the client’s stated goals. A common example of this is when a client with a niche audience and a goal of lead generation wants to be featured in a publication that has a general readership and doesn’t allow links within the body of an article.

In this situation, we’ll always ask “Why?” Why does she want to go to that publication? What value does she see that publication providing? Often, we’ll find that the choice of publication is more about the big name — the client wants to be able to say she’s been published there. So then the question becomes, “Is that badge worth it if it isn’t adding anything to your goals or speaking directly to your audience?” Sometimes it is worth it, and sometimes it isn’t. Being able to have those conversations is vital to keeping the big-picture vision and strategy on track.

Learn more about content marketing and whether it’s the missing piece of your marketing puzzle. Download your free The Ultimate Guide To Content Marketing.


Conduct Thorough Research

As I said before, it’s not my job to be an expert in a client’s industry. There’s an element of general research to what I do that includes devouring popular publications to know what the general public is talking about. On the other hand, if I have a client in a very specific niche, I’ll spend the time it takes to get to know the issues that are important to his audience.

Another element of my research involves interviewing clients. We call this “knowledge sharing.” I put together specific questions to ask clients that will provide our team with the information we need to create their content. This looks different from client to client and depends on the relationship that I have with each one. Sometimes it’s a phone call, and other times it works better through the written word.

Stay in Tune With Publications and Guidelines

One thing that sets content strategists at Influence & Co. apart from similar roles at other companies is how in tune we are with publications and their guidelines. We work really closely with our media relations team when creating a piece of off-site content and take a strategic approach to choosing publications that meet the goals and audience of our clients. My involvement here includes working with our publication strategists to pitch ideas to publications on behalf of clients and pitching topics that publications are looking for to the appropriate clients.

When interviewing our clients, we do so in a way that ensures we’re hitting all of the target publication’s guidelines, such as providing enough personal examples, valuable data, and strong takeaways. This is one of the more challenging elements of my position.

A day in the life of a content strategist varies wildly. We do have set tasks we’re focused on most days: pitching, supplementing, researching. But it’s also heavily dependent on client responsiveness and communication. The most successful content strategists are good project managers: We get ahead when we can so that if something unexpected comes up (and something always does), we don’t get behind.

The value of a content strategist lies in our ability to collaborate with a client to create a cohesive full-funnel marketing strategy that will achieve the client’s goals. It can be difficult to step back and analyze what kinds of content you need when you’re either in the weeds with day-to-day responsibilities or you don’t have experience in content marketing. Content strategists are here to help.

Want to chat more about our team of content strategists? Set up a call with us.

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About Frances Gordon

I’m a travel nerd at heart and love talking about health, the nonprofit world, CSR, and entrepreneurship. When I’m not at ICo, you’ll find me drinking copious amounts of coffee, eating chocolate, restoring furniture, and watching made-for-TV movies.

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