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  • Steven Wilson-Beales

Content Strategists: Jack of all trades, master of none?

In a recent post I reached out to the content strategy and content marketing communities and asked them to describe, in their own words, the differences between their two fields. I had a great response with some interesting insights, but I also received some negative feedback with some folk blasting content strategists and marketers alike.

Why? Well, without naming names, the criticism was essentially this: both fields encourage so called ‘experts’ who have a broad knowledge of digital but no in-depth speciality. To paraphrase – they are ‘jack of all trades, master of none’.

Now, you probably know the many ways you could argue for or against this view. There are those that will always argue that having a broad knowledge will allow you to look ‘outside the box’ for better solutions. Others might argue that without a deep understanding of a specific field then how can you truly know what you’re talking about?

This notion of expertise is infectious. I’m reminded of the opening quote from The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns:

‘The world is drowning in undifferentiated creative businesses. What the world needs, what the better clients are willing to pay for, and what our people want to develop and deliver, is deep expertise. Expertise is the only valid basis for differentiating ourselves from the competition. Not personality. Not process. Not price.’

I want to untangle this a bit. Whilst it’s true that greater access to information via the internet has led to a multitude of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ skimming the top of multiple subjects, it’s not true that Content Strategists lack expertise.

Although the term ‘Content Strategy’ is relatively new, it describes a variety of tasks that many of us have been doing for years:

‘Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.’ – Halvorson/Rach: Content Strategy for the Web

My own journey began more than seven years ago when as I was working as Content Manager for the Ministry of Sound digital team and began reading Steve Krug’s ‘Don’t Make Me Think’. I began usability testing and tweaking our layouts until we all realised we had to relaunch the website as a result. Reading a single book didn’t make me an expert, but it did significantly broaden my horizons beyond simply delivering content and the rest is history.

Whether content strategists have come from a UX, technological or editorial background, we’ve all recognised the value of content and context in making the best user-experience. possible. This has led to broadening our skills outside of our core expertise but this is a positive move.

At the end of the day, we’re all in it for the user, which must be beneficial for clients, colleagues and specialists alike.

Have you any thoughts on the topic above? Please feel free to leave your comments below.

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