Tools and tricks for content strategists

By Posted in - Pickle Jar Team & Tools on December 9th, 2019 0 Comments Tools in the background. Text reads "tools and tricks for content strategists".

There are so many different ways to be a content strategist, and so many things we can use to help us in our work. But where do we start? We’ve brought some of the Pickle Jar Communications team together to suggest some of their favourite tools, tricks, or resources they think other content strategists could benefit from. 

Make things movable

My essential tool as a content strategist is the humble sticky note. I never leave home without them. Sticky notes are invaluable when hosting discovery workshops, allowing stakeholders to quickly scribble down their insights and ideas, which will later be used to inform the finished strategy. I particularly like sticky notes because they are impermanent and can be moved around a piece of Flipchart, as conversations evolve.

The perfect example is the facts, assumptions and mysteries exercise, in which stakeholders jot down everything they know (or, more accurately, what they think they know) about their audiences on sticky notes, then place in one of the three categories. These sticky notes typically drift from facts to assumptions, or from assumptions to mysteries, after a little further exploration – because what we really want is to find out what we don’t know.

Simon Fairbanks, Senior Content Strategist

Bring some fun to the table

As researchers, we want to get into our audience’s heads. We want to uncover what words they would use in their life and what things they associate certain words with. We just want to speak their language, really. One of the things I love as a researcher is designing fun activities and workshops to discover some of that.

We can find a lot of inspiration from board games and so I give you: Scattergories. You can tweak the activity for audience research and add categories related to things you want to test with your audience (the content on your homepage, your brand, whatever you want, really). Adding a fun element will loosen your focus groups up from the start and create a more open conversation to follow.

Louise Shaw, Research Analyst

Give yourself some affirmation

Many content strategists will probably identify with imposter syndrome. What we’re doing is often complicated, messy and new. We’re developing new ways of working to make dramatic changes to the way we organise and distribute our content for the benefit of our organisations and our audiences. For that reason, I’d recommend affirmation cards. They can act as a daily dose of clarity, confidence and acceptance. And who doesn’t need some of that!

I’d recommend these ones from The Yes Mum:

Ellie Lovell, Head of Strategy

Keep it minimal

I’d invite you to take a look into the world of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. They aren’t content strategists: they are minimalists.

I think that some of their practices will appeal to content strategists out there who like bringing order to mess. Keeping something “just in case” it’s needed? Time to let go. Keeping something that’s broken? Time to replace it. Live without something for a while, did you miss it? No? Time to delete it permanently.

Try their Minimalists Game if you fancy a real challenge.

Linda Jameson, Senior Content Strategist

Change the way you see the world

What I find most useful in my work as a researcher are things that help me look at our questions – and findings – in a different way. I’m always on the lookout for resources like Tim Harford’s blog, which looks at data that’s been used in the news and how it might have been misinterpreted. There are all kinds of podcasts that explore this area too – the Data Stories podcast is a great exploration of data visualisation from all over the globe. And books like Invisible Women or The Small Big have helped me to reexamine what I look at, why I look at it, and whether I’m even looking at the right thing in the first place.

Robert Perry, Head of Research

What would you suggest as an invaluable resource for a content strategist? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on Twitter at @picklejar.

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