Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Content Strategist or Chief Storyteller or Writer? What's in a title?

The “terms” in the career fields seem like they’re always changing. I recently noticed that the title “content strategist” has become popular. Since my curiosity piqued I wondered, “What is a content strategist?” I soon learned it was a fancy term for the old fashioned title of executive editor or editor-in-chief or director of communications, depending on the organization. The other common term I’m starting to see pop up is “Chief Storyteller,” which is a fancy term for writer or author.

So what makes a content strategist any different than an executive editor? Well, except for the “content” mostly being electronic content to be used on electronic media, it’s really not that different. We’ve taken the word “articles” or “information” and turned it into aforementioned content. Content can be articles and information or it can be information to populate data fields. A strategist would figure out the best and most effective way to communicate information across multiple platforms. A better way of saying it, a strategist would not simply throw mud (AKA information) on an electronic wall and let the smudges mark where they may. The strategist is supposed to idealize where information can most effectively reach its intended audience with the best results.

Now my other favorite title is Chief Storyteller. It’s cute. All it means is the person is in charge of the company’s overall message and how it’s told. If you really want to give it more mileage it can also mean novelist or the person in charge of his or her fictitious story.

What does this all matter? Well, in the business world where people who perform these jobs and those managers who hire for these positions, communicating what exactly the job requires matters. Generally speaking many laypersons don’t know or understand the buzzword “content strategist”. What does that mean? Should I care about it? Do I need to work with a content strategist or a writer or a marketer (the Days of Yore terms LOL)? Sometimes all these words tossed around by business people seem to be words they’re just kind of enjoying saying it.

Q: What do you do for a living?
A: Why I’m a content strategist?
Q: A what?
A: Um… never mind.

I’ve been amused seeing the way these terms get bantered around sometimes very pretentiously. It’s like the business elite came up with a new way to say something and savor the words in their mouths like a fine wine. It makes them feel “in the know” – and for the rest of us average folk we frown and wonder, “What is that?” Being one of the average folk I checked it out and realized it was another one of those business terms some people were using in place of well-tread business idioms like (remember this) “low-hanging fruit”. When I worked in corporate I knew this guy who truly felt superior to the rest of the team because he used that phrase. In fact, he used to find the latest fad phrases and say them in various meeting presumably because he thought he looked smart. Frankly, I found it silly.

I have a revelation now. Just because you know how to say “content strategy” in a single sentence doesn’t make you smarter than the rest of us. Really if you pare it down to the basics, you’re communicating with an audience (either internally in your organization or externally AKA as B2B or B2C … are you rolling you eyes and getting my point?). Back in the aforementioned Days of Yore we called this communications.

Reality is nothing really changes just the delivery mechanisms. I still need to know how to write to reach my audience. I still need to know my ABCs, and I still need to know grammar. I know this might seem unfathomable to some, but spelling and grammar check only go so far. They haven’t created an algorithm quite yet to discern subtle differences in usage.

And this my friends is my rant for the day. So yes! Need to hire a content strategist or heir to the writing throne? I can do it. And I swear I won’t say “low-hanging fruit”. Call me at 916-300-8012 or send an email to

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