How to Hire a Content Strategist_The Content Marketeer

You’re ready to bring a content strategist on board. You know you need someone to oversee your website, print materials, content marketing efforts, etc. And it’s time to start the search. So, what now?

It’s time to clarify.

Before you post an ad or notify your networks, take some time to understand exactly what a content strategist is and what kind of content strategist your organization really needs, by asking one simple question:

What will your content strategist do?

According to Kristina Halvorson, founder and CEO at Brain Traffic, “content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.”

This means your strategist will probably help identify what content needs to be created and for whom (audiences); when, where, and why the content will be published; and when and how it will be edited, moved, or deleted. And all of this in accordance with your marketing strategy, business goals, and user needs.

However, while all content strategists are planners, they do come in a variety of flavors. Some content strategists are experts at messaging strategies, style and editorial guidelines, or editorial calendar management. Others prefer large-scale content inventories, workflow charts, or plans for tracking and evaluation. And then there are those who specialize in web content, others who specialize in content marketing and social content, and still others who tackle the whole enchilada—print and internal communications included.

In other words, the nuances of content strategy are vast.

Which is why it’s important to be clear about your specific needs before you hire. Start by asking yourself a few key questions:

  • What kind of content will your strategist be working with? A website and social media presence? Print materials? Newsletters? Video? Mobile?
  • How big is your current website? Will it need to be audited, catalogued, and re-strategized? Or are you planning to launch your first site?
  • Will your content strategist be responsible for creating or editing any content?
  • What are your current pain points with content? Is your messaging off? Are you overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content—not sure what to keep, what to edit, what to throw out? Has your team taken on more than it can handle, missing deadlines and letting your site become stale and outdated?

The answers to these questions will help you define what kind of content strategist you need. If, for example, you’re a startup and plan to publish a lot of digital content, you’ll want a strategist with a digital background, probably with strengths in developing messaging and personas and identifying social media and content marketing channels.

If you’re a large organization with 20,000 pages of content on your site, you might want to look for a content strategist with a strong background in content inventories or migrations. You’ll want someone who loves spreadsheets and can spend hours sifting through your website.

If you need your content strategist to jump in and write things from time to time, you might want to look for someone with a writing background.

So, here’s your homework: Using the questions above, identify the most important characteristics of your content strategist. Then, come back here tomorrow to read part II, where we’ll guide you through finding, interviewing, and evaluating your candidates.