The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane (New York: A Book Apart, 2011. 86 pp)

Erin Kissane is a content strategist and editor based in New York City and Portland, Oregon. She was an editor at A List Apart magazine for nearly ten years, and has also been a freelance book editor and the editorial director of Happy Cog Studios. In 2011, she joined content strategy consultancy Brain Traffic, where she leads content projects and eats cake.

Now More than Ever, College Is the Best Time in Life 

Have you seen the job statistics lately? More to the point, have you seen the employment rates for recent college graduates? What about liberal arts majors in particular? A study of 2009 college graduates finds 25.2% of liberal arts majors unemployed after graduation. Those humanities majors employed often found their jobs low paying and college degrees unnecessary.

For years, the general assumption was: get a degree; get a job. Well the current economic context suggests a shift for college students. Either stay in school and earn more degrees, or major in a “marketable” field like accounting, business management, or engineering.

Could there be a third way? In The Elements of Content Strategy, Erin Kissane outlines content strategy as an emerging profession.

All Hail King Internet

In case you haven’t noticed, the Internet runs the world these days. While some residual value remains in businesses running brick-and-mortar stores, the Internet is now the marketplace, a virtual mall so to speak.

With the rise of Internet communications comes the necessity of content strategy. Kissane writes,

“Content strategy is rising because organizations all over the world have begun to realize that they desperately need it to handle their rapidly expanding online communications” (2).

Not only do individual businesses need content to communicate with potential customers, Internet surfers desire content. Blogs and social media have replaced the days of the newspaper as the arbiter of information. Content, then, becomes the connection between a business and its potential customers.

“Content is perfectly appropriate for users when it makes them feel like geniuses on critically important missions, offering them precisely what they need, exactly when they need it, and in just the right form” (5).

If content bridges the gap between businesses and customers, the job of a content strategist is to connect these two parties by facilitating a web space meeting the needs of both parties.

The Content Strategist: An Amalgamate Profession

Interestingly, Kissane breaks down the job of the content strategist into 4 separate professions:

“Though it lacks a goat head, content strategy also has a legacy. Several, in fact. And each has plenty to teach us. A complete genetic breakdown would require a separate book, so for now, let’s consider the four most influential fields: editorial work, curatorial work, marketing and persuasion, and information science” (16).

Editorial and marketing work appear self-evident. In order to create compelling content one needs to both remain consistent in formatting and grammar, and also write persuasively. In fact, information science, too, makes sense given its role in effectively storing and retrieving information.

But the curator field piques my interest. Curators conjure a vision of uptight tour guides in museums and overly informed janitors dusting ancient relics. But a curator, in truth, balances the job of an administrator and an artist. A curator not only knows what sine qua non forms of art an audience wants to see, s/he will also apprehend the need for benches and restrooms through the museum.


“On the web, we deal with each other in heavily mediated ways, but we’re still primates. We need accommodations for the thousand disabilities that we experience; ways of marking and saving information for later so we can take breaks; ways of skipping through content when we’re in a hurry; friendly orientation and navigation aids; access to real human assistance, via live help, telephone, email, or any other reasonable channel; and the ability to consume content on the devices and in the locations of our choice” (27).


Are You Looking for a Job?

A veritable mix of editor, curator, marketer, and scientist, the content strategist runs the engine of the business website. More importantly for those unemployed college graduates, a content strategist requires the skills of liberal arts majors.

An emerging field in a marketplace still suffering growing pangs, the world needs more content strategists. Look for entry-level jobs in web editorial, online marketing, or information management. You might soon find a lucrative career in content strategy. If you want to learn more, read The Elements of Content Strategy.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

Are you unemployed and seeking a job? Have you considered content strategy? What drawbacks could arise in this profession?
Share your thoughts below.

Posted by: Donovan Richards
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