The Top 10 Content Strategists You Need to Know
For those of you serious about building a high-performance (and converting) website, you know that there's a lot more to it than just picking a random theme, activating a few lightweight plugins, and throwing together some last-minute content. If you really want your website to be a success, you need to employ a laser-like focus on the user's experience.
If you've read our rundown of the top UX designers, then you're familiar with their highly comprehensive and strategic approaches to website development. Everything they do centers around the idea that, in order to build a website that will truly speak to their audience, thorough and thoughtful research, strategy, planning, implementation, and testing are required.
UX designers aren't the only ones who employ this approach in their work. The people responsible for developing website content do this too, and they're known as content strategists.
The goal of the content strategist is simple: to develop content that improves the user experience by first studying who the audience is and then carefully building content around the experience that will be most beneficial to them. They do this through a rigorous process that includes:
Research and Analysis
- Interview of key company stakeholders
- Competitor analysis
- Inventory (quantify) and audit (qualify) of current site content
- Metadata analysis
- Creation of brand personas, guidelines, and messaging
- Customer journey mapping.
Strategy and Planning
- Process and workflow plan
- Identification of responsible parties
- Implementation of Agile process
- Setup of digital asset management for centralized storage of content
- Definition of the core content strategy goal
- Development of site map and outline for all content.
- Write content
- Compilation of related assets (eg, images
- Application of SEO metadata and tagging
- Quality assurance review and feedback.
- Establish milestones and goals
- Regular auditing of on-site content
- Review findings with stakeholders and implement.
As with UX design, the content strategy goes above and beyond just writing a few pages of content off the cuff. When conversions, growth, and success are your goals, you'll want to employ a strategic content development approach.
Types of Content Strategists
Before moving forward, it's important to understand the two different types of content strategists you may run into (or want to become):
- Front-end strategists focus on devleoping content around the user experience. They're typically the creators.
- Backend strategists focus primarily on how to streamline and improve the process of creating content on a large scale, through the use of things like workflows, systems, and governance.
10 Content Strategists You Need to Know Right Now
Now, whether you want to hire a content strategist to help with your site's content or you simply want to know the Who's Who of content strategists, the list below will get you moving in the right direction.
Ahava Leibtag's resume goes above and beyond proving her content strategy experience and expertise. She's the founder and president of the AHA Media Group, where she and her company have helped big-name clients like Time Inc, Johns Hopkins, and Honeywell improve their content. She is also the author of The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web.
In the book, she wrote, "Within this book you'll learn the seven critical rules to align your internal and external content processes, including putting your audience first, involving stakeholders early and often, and creating multidisciplinary content teams."
In addition to her growing reputation as one of the leaders in content strategy, she's also quite active on Twitter. It's clear that she's not only passionate about the subject of content marketing, but that she also has a fond appreciation for back-end content strategy.
For those of you interested in learning more about how to create large quantities of high-quality content quickly and efficiently, check out Andrea Fryrear. Her brand is called The Agile Marketer, and that's because that's what she focuses on: Agile workflows.
Fryrear is committed to the power of Agile workflows as part of the content strategy process. As she's said, "My Agile team allowed me, as a solo content creator, to release 200 pieces of really, really high-quality content at a steady pace over the course of a year."
While she might not be the typical content strategist that talks about developing and writing content, she has some particularly useful insights on the process of creating content. If you visit her Twitter account, you'll see that she's not solely focused on Agile either. She's big on productivity and time management tips too, which makes her insights practical and useful beyond just content strategy.
Buddy Scalera is an interesting guy. Trained in Communications and previously a writer for Marvel Comics, he's now a content strategist that focuses on the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. His Twitter account and blog are both worth following if you want access to a steady stream of high-quality insights on the subject of crafting high-quality content.
While Scalera isn't necessarily someone you can hire to manage your company's content strategy, you can find him everywhere. He regularly speaks at digital marketing and content conferences throughout the year. In addition to his well-known work and speaking gigs in content strategy, he's also a big deal in the comic book world and teaches others how to write comic books.
Colleen Jones is the CEO at the helm of Content Science and she's done a lot to propel this company—and content strategy, in general—forward. She's spoken at events around the world as well as having written Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content. She also offers an ongoing schedule of workshops and webinars to teach up-and-coming content professionals on how to advance their careers in content strategy.
Visit Content Science's website and you'll see that this company is more than just a content intelligence and strategy company. So whether you're looking to hire someone to manage your content strategy or you want to find a mentor, Colleen Jones is a reliable resource in the content strategy community.
In conjunction with his wife, Amanda, Greg Verdino runs the Verdino & Co. content strategy consultancy. According to their website, Verdino is the strategy and planning half of their content strategy services while Amanda leads the creation and implementation half. What their company's website leaves out, however, is that Verdino's real strength is in digital content strategy.
Verdino's personal website paints a very different picture. In fact, it takes all the focus off of managing content strategy for clients, and puts it all on Verdino's highly sought-after ability to speak on the subject of digital transformation. If you're interested in learning more about this digital offshoot to content strategy, be sure to take a look at some of his previously covered topics as well as his book, microMARKETING.
Janice "Ginny" Redish is not the typical person you'd expect to see working in content strategy. Having received a PhD in Linguistics from Harvard University, Redish has been working to improve writing in all forms for almost 40 years.
In 1979, she founded the Document Design Center. She worked for this organization for 13 years, conducting research on common issues with workplace writing.
In 1985, she started a usability test facility that allowed people to try print and digital interfaces from major technology companies like Sony, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard.
These days, she serves as the President of Redish & Associates, a content strategy firm that focuses not only on improving clients' websites, but also print documentation. In addition, she has found time to write a number of books on the subject of content strategy, interface design, and usability.
Redish is of interest beyond her vast knowledge in content strategy? She is a big proponent of plain language — a concept which is especially helpful for minimalist and mobile design.
When looking around at the leading content strategists working today, it's pretty rare to find one that's a generalist. Kristina Halvorson is that rarity who is 100% dedicated to advocating for the power of content strategy.
She's the founder of Brain Traffic, the company that takes a three-pronged approach to helping the content strategy world get better: for customers, for fellow content strategists, and for anyone else interested in listening. She also started Confab Events, where content strategy is always the focus at their conferences.
With brands like Content Science, PayPal, MailChimp, and Facebook behind her, she is a content strategist you need to pay attention to. If you're interested in attending one of her events, follow @ConfabEvents. For more information on Brain Traffic's services, follow @BrainTraffic. And if you just want some personal insights from Kristina herself, follow @halvorson.
Content strategists aim to first determine what needs to be communicated. And this is what Margot Bloomstein's primary mission.
Her company, Appropriate, Inc, has worked on strategizing and creating content for brands like Sallie Mae, Timberland, and Lindt. Beyond general content strategy consulting, she's expanded her business to include keynote presentations, BrandSort Cards, and a book. She's also very active in the content strategy community, so be sure to check her out on Twitter if you want to stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest.
While you may get distracted by McLean Robbins' travel-focused photography and videos in her Twitter feed, you'd be missing out on a great opportunity to see her work as a content strategist.
Having worked as a writer, editor, and now content strategist for companies around the world, Robbins understands what it takes to write a compelling story for different audiences. Her current suite of services doesn't look like the offerings typically associated with a content strategist. While she does indeed offer content strategy, she also:
- Teaches workshops and classes on everything related to crafting high-quality content.
- Develops online courses on how to build your brand.
- Creates on demand coursework that focuses on different types of website content.
If you'd like to further proof of Robbins's prowess as it pertains to content strategy, just check her list of clients, which include Marriott, Georgetown University, Freddie Mac, and the National Sleep Foundation.
Val Swisher, like many of the other content strategists on this list, is the founder of a leading content agency. Content Rules has been in business since 1994, and, through this company, Swisher and her team of experts have strategically developed content for Adobe, Sony, Google, Whirlpool, and many other brands.
In addition to running Content Rules, Swisher is the co-founder of Information Development World. In her own words, Information Development World is "the only conference dedicated to helping organizations rethink the way they create, manage, and deliver content experiences. It's the conference for technical, marketing, and product information developers; folks whose job it is to create exceptional customer experiences with content."
If you're looking for an all-around expert on content strategy and want regular access to what content experts are talking about, follow @valswisher.
Expand Your Content Strategy
As you can see, content strategists vary greatly in their approaches to user experience, specialties, and even industries of interest. This makes sense considering how much work is actually involved in the process of strategizing and creating content.
Whether you're looking to hire a strategist, find a mentor, or get insights related to content marketing, you're sure to find someone of interest on this list.
Further Reading and Resources
We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related to web design:
- Composing Good HTML: this is a solid introduction to writing well-formed HTML and using HTML validator software.
- CSS3 — Intro, Guides and Resources: this is a great place to start learning webpage layout.
- Fonts For Web Design: a Primer: learn the basics of fonts and their use in web design.
Web Design Trends You'll Never Forget
Every designer wants to create timeless documents — ones that will never look tacky. But we often fail at that. In our infographic Web Design Trends You'll Never Forget we run through decades of designs that were once thought to be the height of coolness.