When I started studying Content Strategy in October 2021, I had little to no idea about what challenges and new learnings would be coming my way. Many months and two semesters later, my first year is already scratching at the finish line. It’s been two semesters of Ups and Downs, of Highs and Lows and most importantly, two semesters full of revelations.
I remember Rahel Bailie introducing Content Strategy in our first ever class on campus with a question: How do you explain what Content Strategy is to your family? How do you explain what you are doing?
Back then, I didn’t really know how to answer and to be quite frank, I am still convinced it is a trick question. Because one thing I learned in the last couple months is that content strategy is amongst the most diverse fields of creative working fields I have ever come across – and mind you, I’m a journalist, I have seen my fair share of creative jobs.
3 Things I Learned About Content Strategy
I have already touched upon the correlations between Content Strategy and journalism in previous posts as they are more closely related than one might initially think. This time around my goal is to sum up three major learnings I’ve gained throughout the process of my first year as a Master’s student – in connection to my job.
Number 1 – Know your Audience and Your Platform
As a journalist, writing is something that comes naturally to me. It is something I don’t necessarily have to put much thought into as my mind has become what I feel is a living dictionary that I have been carrying around for my whole life. Writing is something I feel comfortable with, it fills me with ease and confidence and producing a text does not strike me as difficult.- most of the time at least.
Writing for the web has therefore always been something I thought I already knew almost everything about – why wouldn’t I, I do it everyday. Teodora Petkova’s Writing and Editing class, however, managed to dampen my confidence in the sense that it showed me that I still have things to learn and improve in regards to web writing. The motto is „Know Your Audience and Know Your Platforms“. Writing for a website differs a lot from writing for a printed newspaper, the chosen language needs to be adapted and optimised according to the platform. SEO (search engine optimisation) plays a big role when writing texts for online purposes as well as the length. Texts which are too long generally get ranked lower as people tend to only read the first few paragraphs.
Another takeaway: Always check, which audience you are writing for and choose your language accordingly. This does not mean to suddenly incorporate Gen Z slang into articles for young audiences but be aware of the generations general mind set and attitude towards cultural and socioeconomic structures.
Number 2: Teamwork Needs Structure and Chaos isn’t Always Bad
When working in teams or departments at a newspaper, the easiest task to do is to assign everybody a role. Most of the time people are assessed by their skills and then placed on a specific topic. That must mean, teamwork is easy isn’t it?
Wrong. ˝Teamwork and team organisation might be the hardest part not only in journalism but also in content strategy – and simultaneously the most important. For an issue to be published or a project to succeed, every participant needs to pull at the same rope. People might wander off or pull into different directions throughout but in the end, every puzzle piece must find its place.
During our first two semesters we did our fair share of group projects and it astounded me how much the initial chaos resembled what journalists deal with on a daily basis on a different spectrum. When I talk about chaos I don’t necessarily mean that none of the involved parties have any idea what’s going on, I am talking about a room filled with ideas that need sorting and placement.
Organisational Genius and Team Spirit
In order to resolve the initial chaos, teamwork needs management. An organisational genius at the top who keeps the boat afloat and keeps track of every progress the teams make, team leads who report to the organisational genius on a regular basis and teams with a vision. This applies as much to a team of content creators, web developers and designers who try to bring a website to life as to a newsroom filled with journalists trying to create the best product possible everyday. I never thought about how much team structure can change the outcome of a project until we worked on a project for an informational website about cryptocurrency in the first semester with Dieter Rappold. What seemed like a nightmare of a challenge turned into a fun project with an impressive outcome, if I might pat ourselves on the shoulder for a second.
Number 3: Social Media Monitoring is Important for Content Strategy
Numbers matter – especially in journalism. What is often forgotten is that not only the statistics on the website itself count, the numbers we receive from social media are just as important. They tell the story about who consumes the media company’s content away from the website and who might be interested in the content but hasn’t been persuaded into actually visiting the web page yet.
By monitoring social media channels one can also track which region the users come from and which age group they belong to. These numbers can be an indicator of which topics could be interesting for a vast majority of potential readers and could be interesting to write about. If interpreted right, social media analytics can help improve the circulation of the news paper and attract a more diverse group of consumers.