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March 2014

(I am publishing this in response to other materials that have been published regarding the survey from the Content Strategy Collective.)

“Content strategy” is a popular term right now, but it’s a bit misunderstood. There have been people calling themselves content strategists since the late 1990s, primarily working in interactive agencies in the U.S. The term (and the discipline) went into a bit of hibernation when the internet bubble burst in 2000. Since the publication of Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web in 2008, the term has become much more well-known, shining a light on the need and process for treating content in more strategic ways.

However, the rise of content marketing strategy in about 2011 has muddied the waters somewhat, with clients and businesses now struggling to understand the way the two are different yet equal. Add to this the fact that many of the tasks and deliverables that content strategists now lay claim to were once the purview of the tech doc community, or media planners or business analysts, and it’s easy to see why there’s so much confusion.

There is a growing number of people who do content strategy work – they have formed online communities on LinkedIn, Google, and Twitter, gather in person in meetups and conferences, and work in agencies, companies, and consultancies. But each person, and each organization, seems to define content strategy differently. This makes it challenging to enter the field, find a job, hire a content strategist, or get buy-in for content strategy efforts, among other things.

By and large, professions have events, books, education programs, and organizations that represent/collect/organize them. The content strategy profession/discipline has the first two, and glimmers of the third,  but it is missing the final piece. The Content Strategy Collective aims to fill that gap.

The idea of a content strategy organization has surfaced in several online communities over the last few years. There was even a meeting of 22 content strategists in 2009 at the IA Summit referred to as the Content Strategy Consortium, but the group didn’t move forward. In September 2013, I issued an invitation to participate in the creation of such an organization, setting the wheels in motion at last. Twenty-five people from the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and New Zealand, involved in various aspects and types of content strategy, expressed interest in helping to form what we called the Content Strategy Collective.

In order to make sure that the collective reflects the content strategy community’s needs and interests, we decided to start with a survey. Richard Ingram did a wonderful content strategy survey back in 2011, and we wanted to gather similar information, as well as add more specifics about what people might want from the collective.

Before doing the survey, we posited that the community has the following needs:

  • Raise awareness about content strategy
  • Definitions: of content strategy, skillsets, job descriptions
  • Directories: in-person meetups and events, online groups/communities, educational opportunities, people and agencies who offer content strategy, job openings
  • Collect/develop a library of best practices
  • Identify potential career paths and roles
  • Create educational opportunities/certification

The survey covered a variety of areas:

  • Who are the people doing content strategy work?
  • What aspects of content strategy do they focus on and do?
  • What are their biggest challenges, and what challenges and opportunities do they see for the discipline?
  • How much of their job does content strategy comprise?
  • What do they want to see the Content Strategy Collective focus on?

The 25 people in the collective shared the survey as far and wide as we could. To our great delight, more than 1,200 people started the survey, and almost 1,000 completed it. As far as we know, it’s the largest such survey to date, and we hope that seeing the reflection of who we all are will be beneficial to the content strategy community at large.

The survey revealed some wonderful details about who we are and validated our ideas about what the community wants, and we are now ready to move forward.

Content strategists – current, past, and future – we’d love to have you involved in this collective. Whether you want to use the information we publish in the future, collaborate on creating the information, help build the collective and our offerings, or just stay informed about what we’re doing, you are welcome.

Stay tuned for more information about how to get involved!



Hilary Marsh


Content Strategy Collective

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