I often wonder what skills are needed for a content strategist.

This graph by Richard Ingram from Rahel Anne Bailie and Noz Urbina’s book, Content Strategy, pretty much highlights most of the skills that a content strategist should possess. I’d call the skills listed on the graph as “hard and specific.” I’d also like to add “soft and general” skills that a content strategist needs to complement skills listed on the graph.

Content Strategist Essential Skills

Please bear in mind that the percentages of the graph are the results of surveying 265 content strategists worldwide who shared their skills, knowledge, and abilities from a pre-determined list. It’s not a surprise that most of the content strategists’ skills lie in content analysis, development, content management, writing/editing, editorial strategy, and information architecture. The percentages on the graph do not represent an optimal mix of a content strategist’s skills. So, what is the right skill set for a content strategist?

Frankly, that’s not the right question to ask. The question that clients should ask themselves is: What content challenges are you trying to solve? Your challenges should determine what type of a content strategist you should hire. This is where “soft” skills come into the mix. It’s an inherent ability to maneuver the political landscape, influence others to move in the desired direction and communicate with senior management in a way they understand.

Ability to tie content benefits to business objectives:

Although the skillset listed on the graph is essential, it’s important to quantify the benefits of content in relationship to the company’s business objectives.

Skill to “herd the cats”:

Content strategists usually don’t have a team. Herding the cats is a difficult task that usually involves a lot of give-and-take. In addition to tying the benefits of your project to their overall objectives of your “cats”, it is helpful to find senior sponsors in the various departments that you’ll need to be successful: engineers, marcom, web, writers, branding, etc…

Capability to explain content the way senior managers can understand:

Management does not really care about copywriting, the CMS tools, information architecture or even the editorial calendar. They want to know the results of the content strategy and execution. What are the accomplished outcomes or failures of all the content strategy you implemented? Elaborate in a way they will understand.

This brings up the question: “should the content strategist be in-house or outsourced?” Both models work, depending on your organizational structure, company size, budget and content needs. For a big enterprise, it may make sense to have the content strategist in-house, while outsourcing may be more efficient for smaller companies. No one can master all the skills listed above. Different challenges require different solutions. Crystalize your content challenges first, then find content strategist with the right skill set to help you solve your challenges. What other skills do you think a content strategist need? Share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+!

Who is Pam Didner?

Being in the corporate world for 20+ years and having held various positions from accounting and supply chain management, marketing to sales enablement, Pam has a holistic view of how a company runs. She thinks strategically and then translates the big picture into actionable plans and tactics.