Ellen de Vries
Ellen de Vries
4th September 2015

Imagine you’re sitting in cafe with a Content Strategist and they’re asking you how you're approaching your next project. How would that conversation go? Have you got content? Have you got a strategy?

Some people associate Content Strategy closely with Content Marketing and SEO, some people associate it with Information Architecture, and others see it as language, tone of voice, style and template design. All of those assumptions are correct.

It can be confusing because Content Strategists often have their fingers in many of the pies, and often they put their fingers in pies that belong to other disciplines. They have to be nosy, because their main mission is to make sure that every digital experience they work on has a sustainable future that’s supported by a realistic content strategy.

So, how do you have that conversation? Here’s a handy cheat sheet with all the issues you could be talking to your content strategist about.

Your Content Strategy cheat sheet.

A Content Strategist who works with a UX team is likely to be able to do any of these tasks.


In the early stages of the project.

  • They will be creating a sustainable strategy for the site content based on thorough research, detective work and user testing.
  • They’ll offer designers relevant raw content in the early stages of the design so that the entire design can be moulded holistically.
  • They collaborate with designers to role-play scenarios, create storyboards, crafting user stories and develop personas.
  • They take stock of the content (create an inventory) that exists and assess (audit) its suitability
  • They will note any gaps or opportunities for the content production teams to consider
  • Noting where content needs to be made more adaptable for multiple devices


Throughout the project.

  • They will be paying close attention to the brand language by looking out for lack of clarity and opportunities for stronger storytelling in the project language, elevator pitch, personas and design principles.
  • They keep their eyes on the big picture, and create tools to support the governance and workflow surrounding a project, based on the direction the designs are taking. This might include a Tone of Voice or Style Guide, as well as content templates and guidance.
  • They will look at the structure and flow of information throughout the experience, and particularly the contextual ecosystem of the site content.
  • They may begin training the content teams in ways to adjust their content according to the new digital strategy


Towards release and far beyond.

  • They will look into the future and find ways to help clients make sure that the strategy can be realistically sustained beyond release.
  • They will be looking at micro-level language to make sure no legacy language has crept in; As Golum is to his ‘precious’, a content strategist will not let your button words go. After all, a poor call to action on a single button could cost an organisation big bucks.
  • They will be looking at metrics and ways to establish whether content is performing.


​How does that work in practice?

Now that you know what a Content Strategist does, here are some in-practice examples of way we’ve been working with clients on their content strategy this year (after all, context is everything).


Developing consistent style and tone of voice

After a childrens’ publisher went through a merger, we helped consolidate the language use and tone of voice between several brands. Using user research and testing, we were able to make sure we were targeting audiences accurately, with an appropriate tone and style.


Articulating the brand language

For every project we run,brands need to rework the way they articulate their personality, tone, proposition statements, elevator pitches and design principles to suit their digital offering. It’s important to work with a content specialist to make sure no meaningless, or legacy language has crept in. By documenting this information in an appealing, digestible, and accessible way, you can keep a site on target with its brand strategy.


Creating an inventory and auditing

For a major university we helped take stock of their existing content, which then determined how many templates needed to be accommodated in the CMS. The inventory was assessed against the user stories that had been created for a variety of roles.


Consulting on responsive content design

When it comes to world of devices (from mobile design, to wayfinding systems) the real estate of the screen is precious, and you might find that your content isn’t suitably adaptable to fit it. We consulted with a major retailer to help them discover ways they could begin adjusting their content processes to make their content as adaptable and re-usable as possible.


Story forming

We created a leave-behind educational book as part of a consultative programme for a major media organisation.Using the hero’s journey model, we developeda story and collaborated with an illustrator to bring the text alive.


Content training and mentoring

We conducted research, and then created templates and training materials for a large UK university, training a section of the staff to be content guardians for a complex internal system that regularly needed content updates on policy and FAQs.


Governance documentation

For a major global publisher, we conducted research to discover how content teams were working across nine different marketing departments, and nine publicity teams. Using this information we created tailored documentation to help them align their processes and hire the right resources for creating their digital content.


Designing with raw content

The days of using placeholder text in designs are over, and there’s an acknowledgement in the industry that language, brand storytelling and the content itself are the raw materials that we need to work with from the outset. Design for the mobile requires content to be distilled to its most concentrated form, and creating information to be as adaptable as possible, so that it can be published contextually


How to find out more about Content Strategy.

We’ve created a weekly collaborative meeting called the Content Delicatessen, an opportunity for our designers, developers and operations teams to come together and discuss any content issues they’d like to. In the last few weeks we’ve had Jeremy Keith working on his presentation structure, we’ve had discussions on the hero’s journey, we’ve had discussions on blogging strategies and we’ve even had a poetry reading.

If you like the sound of this kind of thing come to an open space Content Delicatessen on the 28th of September as part of Brighton Digital Festival. This is co-hosted and organised in association with Heather Atchison and Lauren Pope, with drinks and light deli snacks sponsored by Clearleft.