What Does a Content Strategist Do?

CareerFoundry contributor Dr. Anneke Schmidt

Content strategy is an essential part of any digital marketing plan, making the role of the content strategist increasingly important. But if you’re new to content marketing or looking to make a career switch to this field, you may not be familiar with all the ins and outs of the job. So, what does a content strategist do?

According to The Drum’s Content Executive, Laura Blackwell, landing a content strategy job requires a wide range of skills and practical know-how. Not only do content strategists need to be able to develop content ideas and campaigns across multiple digital platforms, but they also need to understand search engine optimization (SEO) and have a keen editorial eye.

Sounds like a lot? Don’t worry! We’re here to give you a rundown of the content strategist job description, skills, and possible qualifications. Just use this clickable menu to skip to the section that’s most relevant to you:

  1. What is a content strategist?
  2. What does a content strategist do?
  3. What skills do you need to become a content strategist?
  4. Content strategist salary and career progression outlook
  5. Do I need a certification to become a content strategist?
  6. What does a content strategist portfolio look like?
  7. How to become a content strategist
  8. Next steps

1. What is a content strategist?

There are different interpretations of what a content strategist is, based on the scope and focus of their work. For some, a content strategist is someone who creates and distributes engaging content across specific channels to reach a brand’s target audience. For others, it’s someone who oversees the entire customer experience, from brand awareness to conversion. So, which one is it?

As so often, the answer is: it depends. Content strategists can either specialize in a specific area of content marketing (such as social media or blog content), or work holistically to develop and execute a brand’s content strategy across all channels, including email, website, and paid advertising.

In either case, however, content strategists need to have a deep understanding of their target audience and buyer personas to produce content that resonates and drives results. So, the content strategist role is best described as a combination of consultant, project manager, editor, and data analyst.

2. What does a content strategist do?

Now that we’ve considered what a content strategist is, let’s explore some of the more specific day-to-day tasks and responsibilities this role entails. Here’s a quick overview of what content strategists typically do:

  • Content ideation: generating ideas for new content based on keyword research and other data-driven insights
  • Content planning: mapping out a content calendar and editorial workflow to ensure timely and efficient digital content creation
  • Keyword research: identifying the right keywords and search terms to target in order to improve content discoverability
  • Content creation: writing and developing new content or repurposing existing content for different digital channels
  • Content management: uploading and publishing content to a content management system (CMS) or other digital platforms
  • Content optimization: ensuring all content is optimized for search engines and user experience
  • Content editing: reviewing and editing content for clarity, grammar, and style
  • Content distribution: publishing and promoting content across different channels, including social media, email, and paid advertising
  • Content audits: reviewing existing content to assess its quality and performance and making recommendations for improvement
  • Content analysis: using data analytics tools to track content performance and identify areas for improvement.

As you can see, being a content strategist comes with an immense range of responsibilities—from generating ideas and writing content to managing workflows and analyzing performance. For this, you need a mix of left-brain (analytical) and right-brain (creative) skills, as well as a passion for all things digital.

3. What skills do you need to become a content strategist?

Given the diverse range of tasks and responsibilities that come with the content strategist job description, it’s no surprise that this role calls for a wide range of skills. Here are the most important ones:

Copywriting skills

As a content strategist, you need to be able to write compelling copy that engages the reader and drives results. This means having a firm grasp of grammar, style, and tone and the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and convincingly.

Research skills

Another critical part of the job is understanding your target audience and their needs. This involves extensive research using various data sources, including web analytics tools, surveys, and customer interviews.

Editorial competency

In addition to writing compelling copy yourself, you also need to be able to edit and improve the work of others. This means having a keen eye for detail and excellent editing skills so you can ensure that all content meets the highest standards.

Analytical skills

There is no shortage of data in the content strategist’s world. Making sense of all this data and drawing actionable insights from it is a crucial skill to develop if you want to excel in this role.

Strategic thinking skills

It goes without saying that a defining characteristic of a successful content strategist is the ability to think strategically. In other words, you need to be able to see the big picture and come up with creative solutions to problems.

Project management skills

You’re likely to juggle multiple projects simultaneously in this job. Therefore, strong project management skills are essential to keeping everything on track and meeting deadlines. The ability to work well under pressure is also a plus.

Presentation skills

Another big part of the content strategist’s job is communicating with different stakeholders, including clients, senior management, and other team members. As such, it’s crucial to present your ideas clearly and confidently.

Organizational skills

Multitasking is the name of the game when you’re a content strategist. From managing multiple projects at once to coordinating a team of writers, you need to be highly organized and have excellent time management skills.

Leadership skills

And finally, as you progress in your career, you may also have to learn how to manage a team of content creators. This requires excellent project management skills, strong interpersonal skills, and leadership qualities.

4. Content strategist salary and career progression outlook

As with any job, salary expectations will vary depending on your experience, skills, and location. But to give you an idea, here are some average base salaries for content strategists in the United States, based on Payscale’s 2022 data:

  • Entry-level: $49,829
  • Early career: $58,482
  • Mid-career: $70,969
  • Experienced: $85,264
  • Late career: $102,621

Career progression is mainly dependent on experience and skills. With enough experience, you can move into a senior content strategist role or even a content marketing manager position. You may also have the opportunity to specialize in a particular area, such as SEO or social media. Or you could even move into a related field, such as UX design.

5. Do I need a certification to become a content strategist?

Even though some companies may ask for a content strategist certification or even a university degree like a BA or BSc in Digital Marketing Management, in most cases, it’s not a requirement for the job. That said, getting certified can undoubtedly give you a leg up in the job market, as it shows that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in this role.

There are different certification programs available, such as these four popular options:

If, instead, you’re interested in getting an overview of content strategy and digital marketing as a whole, you may be interested in checking out the CareerFoundry Digital Marketing Program.

6. What does a content strategist portfolio look like?

Suppose you’re looking to enter the content marketing field without any formal work experience or certification. In that case, your best bet is to put together a strong portfolio that showcases your skills and experience.

Your portfolio should include examples of your best work, any relevant research you’ve conducted, case studies you’ve worked on, and any other content you think would help demonstrate your ability to fulfill this role.

But don’t worry if you don’t have any content to include just yet—you can always start working on some small freelance projects to get the ball rolling. Or maybe create a few spec reports to show what you can do.

7. How to become a content strategist

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to become a content strategist will vary depending on your skills and experience.

For example, if you’re a recent university graduate with little to no work experience, your best bet is to start by taking some entry-level or internship positions in content marketing or related fields. This will give you the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience and learn the ropes of the industry.

But if you’re coming from a different field and hoping to make a career change, you’ll likely need to put in a bit more work to make the transition. In this case, you may want to consider the following tips:

Start by doing your research

Before making the switch to content marketing, you should take the time to learn about the industry and what content strategists do on a day-to-day basis. This will help you decide if this is the right career move for you.

Get some experience under your belt

As with any new career, it’s always helpful to gain some experience before making the jump. And luckily, there are ways to do this. You could start by working on freelance projects or content marketing internships. Or, if you’re already working in a related field, such as web development or graphic design, try to transfer your skills over to content marketing.

Build your professional network

Targeted networking is important in any industry, but it’s imperative in content marketing. The field is relatively new and constantly changing, so you need to be connected with other professionals who can offer insights and advice. You can build your network by attending industry events or connecting with marketing professionals on LinkedIn.

8. Next steps

Content strategists play a vital role in any organization, as they are responsible for developing and managing the content that appears on the company’s website, blog, social media channels, and other online platforms. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this field, develop relevant skills and experience and build a strong portfolio showcasing your best work.

Has this article piqued your interest in content marketing? Why not start by taking our free short course in digital marketing and see if the general field is the right fit for you?

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