Five non-content skills and qualities that all content strategy professionals should perfect

By Posted in - Coaching & Content Strategy & Leadership & Professional Development & Project Management & Strategy and Planning & Workshops on July 24th, 2019 0 Comments

If there’s one thing I hear myself saying over and over again it’s this: we don’t solve content problems with content solutions.

Successful content strategists are rarely folk who are just great with words, information structures and systems. They are expert strategic thinkers and highly adept at herding sheep collaborating and leading. So, what non-content skills should you develop to become a super successful content strategist?

Leadership and influence

I often hear people talk about leadership as a role or a job description. Leadership is neither of these things. It is a state of being and a quality that anyone can have or develop.

The success of a content strategy depends on multiple moving parts, individuals and skills:

– Content creators, not all of whom will be in your team

– Subject matter experts who almost always will exist elsewhere in your organisation

– Technical experts who may sit in a separate division such as an IT department

– A customer service team who own the data revealing what customers ask and care about

– A market research team who don’t always sit as part of the content strategy or UX teams.

Add to that list a whole lot of stakeholders and managers who pull the purse strings or set the strategic priorities for your organisation, and suddenly you’re in one big game of influence, negotiation and persuasion.

As a content strategist you have an opportunity to lead. But only if you work on those leadership skills.

Big picture strategic thinking

If our content strategy doesn’t align to the goals and objectives of our organisation, what’s the point? However, with our content strategy super-powers we are very well positioned to help with big strategic thinking for our organisations.

Let’s think this through:

– Our facilitation skills (see next point) position us well for asking the questions that help our organisations arrive at goals and objectives

– Our audience insights bring value to strategic decision-making, and not just content strategy

– Our content skills can be used to communicate strategic priorities (and no, I don’t just mean doing the copywriting for that pdf of the strategic plan).

Combine this with our leadership skills (see above), and you’re a very useful person in helping your organisation facilitate a vision for the future.

Workshop facilitation

We need a lot of things from a lot of people. That might mean that we need to get them together to make some decisions and tell us what we need to know. Let’s face it, your content strategy is going to fall flat if you don’t consult and involve them!

Being able to facilitate workshops and discovery sessions is a key skill for a content strategist. This might include:

– Discovery sessions to uncover and agree the goals that your content strategy needs to support

– Audience research sessions, such as focus groups

– Domain mapping, content structuring and content modelling workshops

– Creative content planning (editorial sessions, storyboarding)

– Governance and workflow mapping sessions.

Equally, there’s a lot to be said for adopting workshop-style approaches when you’re seeking to get buy-in and agreement from colleagues. Instead of just presenting your strategy or ideas (aka talking at them) a more consultative-style session makes them feel greater ownership of and investment in the decision.

At Confab 2019 I ran a session on workshop facilitation for content strategy. You can access my enhanced slide deck for this which is packed full of activities you can use.

Project management and budgeting

Content strategies have multiple components, requiring different people and skills to pull them together. On that note, I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a generalist content strategist. We are all specialist pieces in a bigger jigsaw puzzle. And that puzzle needs putting together, so here we need some project management skills.

And content strategy costs money too! You might need:

– External consultancy support (like support from us – shameless plug, get in touch)

– To buy new systems

– To commission audience research

– Use panels to recruit research participants

– Get in additional content creation support

– And so on…

So, you’ll need some budgeting and financial planning skills.

Coaching and mentoring

Lastly, there’s a strong chance that you’ll be working with a wide community of content creators, owners and managers. Many of these people won’t have the content strategy skills that you have. That’s okay. You can help them, especially if you have some well-developed coaching and mentoring skills.

In my twelve years of running a content strategy consultancy, this is where I have invested the biggest portion of my own training budget. I’ve made a sizeable financial investment in my coaching skills not only because I love it and work as a coach outside of my consultancy work, but because it’s the skill that I draw on most as a leader and a strategist.

Notice here that I say “coaching and mentoring”, not training. Training is important, but the danger with training is that it can be a process of just telling people what to do. That has its place. But I believe lasting changes that result in people believing in themselves come from when those people design their own solutions and have a hand in crafting that future. And that’s what coaching is perfect for.

So, if you want me as a content coach for your team, or to help you develop your own coaching skills, please do get in touch.

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