Strategy – it’s essential to content marketing success.
Just like every good ship needs a captain, every client account team or campaign will need a content marketing strategist to lead the way. As the name of the role might indicate, these professionals are the consummate experts in developing, communicating and executing strategy.
If you’re a business looking to amp up your content marketing efforts or social media presence, a strategist would be the clear hire to make. And if you work with a marketing agency, it’s highly important you get to know exactly what a content marketing strategist is and what they do on a day-to-day basis. The CMS – as sometimes called – will be your point-person for every need, want or question you have.
So what does a content marketing strategist do? Let’s explore the role, the skills to look for and the habits of highly effective CMS.
What is a content marketing strategist?
A content marketing strategist is the individual who is ultimately responsible for creating or collaborating on strategy. It is their job to help launch marketing campaigns and measure results, which may then inform future strategic decision-making. As that wide-bearing responsibility may suggest, strategists are involved across the spectrum of content marketing.
- Identify business goals and the marketing means to those ends.
- Coordinate with editorial teams on content creation.
- Target audiences, keywords and best-performing content forms.
- Consult on search engine optimization or deliver analytics.
That’s just a small sample of the workload a content strategist will typically assume.
Regarding the softer skills of the role, a strategist is first and foremost a leader. This applies in either an internal or external context: An in-house strategist has to be a capable self-starter, while an agency liaison must be proactive.
Who becomes a CMS?
Generally speaking, the most common route to becoming a CMS is to be in digital marketing or some client-facing position (while online skills are key to the job, they can be learned).
A strategist is first and foremost a leader.
These professionals have a passion for brainstorming and then putting those ideas into action, watching the events unfold and measuring the effects. Such is the general framework of managing a marketing campaign, and a strategist will have some ownership over each phase.
Client relationship management is a pillar of the job, so anybody considering becoming a strategist should have experience in that area, if not a natural disposition for leadership, team-building and just shooting the breeze.
A bachelor’s degree in marketing may be a plus, but it’s not always a requirement. If you have innate interpersonal skills, then content marketing strategist might be the right role for you. The right personality is a big piece of the strategist puzzle: You need to be willing to meet clients halfway, and then resourceful enough to find a way to get across the other half to the finish line with a result everyone is happy with.
4 top skills for content strategists
Content marketing strategists need to balance creative and strategic responsibilities, as well as perform other administrative or operational tasks to support campaigns. As such, CMS need a blend of skills, knowledge, experience and intuitive know-how to get the job done.
Some of those competencies include:
- Social media: There is perhaps no greater arena for brand awareness and content marketing than social media. While social-specific roles exist, strategists also have to be knowledgeable about these platforms, as they may need to select the ideal social media channels to run a campaign through. Social media posting may also fall within their purview from time to time; at the very least, CMS will help analyze social media data to direct strategy.
- Communication: Strategists should expect to be in constant communication throughout the day, whether that’s through email, over the phone or in person. Marketing strategy must be responsive, and CMS are largely in charge of maintaining that readiness. Communication skills are fundamental to the role, as they will be needed to finalize strategy, coordinate stakeholders, manage team production and report on business goals. Yet informal communication is just as important. CMS need to build relationships with clients, or with coworkers, which communication is central to. Networking and event marketing, also, will call into action those communicative skills.
- Content creation: It may come as no surprise that a CMS needs to be knowledgeable about marketing content itself. Targeting an audience entails knowing what content will perform best with that demographic or buyer persona. CMS may be placed in charge of filling out the editorial calendar with ideas, helping proofread content, or moving pieces between different stages of production.
- Expectation management: A CMS needs to be a steady hand on the account. Sometimes, clients or higher-ups may grow unhappy with results. Whatever the issue is, CMS need to be hands-on in resolving it. That doesn’t mean becoming a “yes” man or woman, but rather finding common ground or building consensus. It may also mean having frank conversations about what is achievable in reality. Goals are lofty for a reason, but may need to be brought back down to Earth. Conflicts between internal teams may also need to be resolved by a CMS, who needs to set an example for everyone else they work with.
You need to be willing to meet clients halfway, and then resourceful enough to find a way to get across the other half to the finish line with a result everyone is happy with.
A day in the life of a CMS
So, knowing what a CMS does and the skills needed to succeed in the role, it becomes easier to imagine a regular day in the life of a strategist:
9 a.m. Start the day off right with a big ol’ cup of coffee and an inbox to sort through, answering all emails as promptly as possible.
11 a.m. Hop on a call with a client to report on analytics. As soon as that’s over, fire off an internal comm to ensure production is still on track for a different project.
1 p.m. No post-lunch lull for the career CMS! It’s time to put together a presentation deck for next week and answer some more emails.
3 p.m. Check in on scheduled social media posts; read some thought leadership articles on marketing automation or brand awareness.
5 p.m. Ensure all next steps for the day have been taken, and finish up with sending some more emails while heading out the door.
What not to look for in a CMS
It’s important you’re familiar with the best practices of a successful CMS, whether you’re looking for an in-house content strategist to hire or are getting acquainted with a newly assigned CMS to your account. And in a sense, that means knowing what red flags to keep a watch for so you’re not saddled with an ineffective strategist.
Warning signs to be on the lookout for may include:
- Inattentiveness: A CMS who lets one too many things slip through the cracks can be troubling. There’s little margin for error at the top, and an organized CMS is an efficient one.
- Lack of accountability: The buck stops with a strategist; an individual who looks to shift blame or make up excuses won’t contribute the leadership required of the role. This can affect team morale and the quality of the content or success of the marketing campaign.
- Late on communications: Prompt communication is as close to a commandment of being as CMS as it gets. An email that goes unanswered or a phone call that goes unreturned can dent the confidence one may have in a CMS, as well as doubt the ability to keep up with the pace of the job.
- Overreliance on “gut feeling”: Acting on intuition has its time and place, but a strategist should be data-driven. Strategic decision-making should not be a coin flip. A CMS should have hard intelligence for recommending one strategy over another.
- Stuck in the weeds: CMS have responsibilities across the campaign, but a micromanager just won’t do. A content marketing strategist has to be able to delegate to focus on mission-critical tasks. Being stuck in minutiae may also prevent a CMS from being forward-thinking about brand or other opportunities.
The CMS is one of the most valuable and integral roles to the content marketing process. This captain of your content ship will be looked to for leadership, expertise and advice. When hiring talent or building a relationship with your agency, be aware of what makes an effective CMS.