How To Stay Sane As A Content Strategist

Content strategy is a complicated little nugget. These days, nearly 90% of companies say they “do” content strategy, but on average, only about 30% of those businesses think their strategy is effective.

Why do so many of us feel like we’re failing at such an important part of today’s business?

What is content strategy?

To dig into this question, I revisited a slideshare I once clicked through from Kristina Holvorson at Brain Traffic. She defined content strategy as essentially getting “the right content, to the right person, in the right place, at the right time.”

Seems simple right? Not exactly.

Content strategy has many moving parts (print, email, advertising, social media, etc.), and those parts can change at any moment. There’s a new, cool app. Pinterest now has ads. Instagram now has business profiles. You get the idea. This past December, I spent a good part of Proof’s Holiday Party asking any marketer, copywriter, or strategist if they’d figured out this one thing in Google AdWords that changed after their latest update.

Getting the right content to the right person, in the right place, at the right time, can be a tall order. No wonder so many of us feel like we can be more effective.

Art backed up by science

When most people think about content strategy, they think about the emails and social media posts that they get in their inbox or newsfeed. This is the art: the creative part of the strategy. You think about the target audience, how you’ll communicate with the people in that audience, and brainstorm ways to engage them. You write copy, pick images, brainstorm headlines, and feel confident people will react. But after you post that piece of social content, or send that email, how do it do? How many people responded? Did it lead to more sales, or hit your goal?

Content strategy is an art, at first, but then, it’s a bunch of spreadsheets, benchmarks, and A/B tests. Being an artist and a scientist can be very fun, and rewarding, but sometimes, you can feel like pulling your hair out.

Tips on staying sane

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably a content strategist, too. Welcome! You’re doing great! But just in case you don’t feel like you’re doing great: Here are some of my thoughts to help you stay sane and grounded in our ever-changing world of content:

  1. Know it takes a long time for a strategy to work: Obviously, don’t keep doing things that flat out don’t work, but basically, just keep swimming. Content marketing, the baby of your content strategy, take a long time to see results. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it’s not for companies looking for a quick fix.
  2. Explain why, but then just test it: Have a plan for your content, and know exactly why you think it will work, but then just test it. Be a creative artist, but don’t forget: We have science on our side.
  3. Stay optimistic: Something bombed? It happens. Assess the situation, use the numbers you have to discern why, and try something else. Think about it as a learning experience, but then actually learn from it. When things go well AND when things go poorly, it helps suss out your true audience, what they care about, and what motivates them to take action.

Content strategy is challenging, but it’s also awesome. So, keep your chin up, and try more, create more, and track more. I know you’re up for the challenge.

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