What skills does a content strategist need?
I figured that a content strategist should probably have a passing familiarity with copywriting, editing, social media, management, UX and so on. So far, so good. However, what I realised I didn't have – and probably should – was more of an understanding of what developers and designers were up to. The problem was I'd been spoilt: I've known some great developers and designers who totally get content. But this scenario was probably not one that would always be true and, in any case, I shouldn't be so lazy. Or at least lazily accepting of cultural stereotypes that equate coding with guys.
Why coding is a bit like proofreading
Bearing this in mind, I went back to school the modern way: by doing some online courses. The first course I tried was run by Nettuts and was called '30 Days to Learn HTML and CSS'. It did what it said on the tin. By day 30 I has some idea of what was going on, even if floats still tended to make my head hurt. However, having just finished proofreading a 500-page ms with 200 pages of notes and references I was surprised at how doable coding was in comparison. Proofreading requires an eye for detail and an ability to learn and implement different patterns (a Chicago-style first citation of a book in the notes section requires a different format to a second mention and a definitely a different format to a book chapter… you get the picture). Coding wasn't easy in comparison: but neither was it mind-bendingly hard, as I'd somehow thought it must be seeing as developers get paid about four times as much as proofreaders! So, I had a go at building a site. It looked awful, but was still a website of sorts. Huzzah!
After that I started a CSS 'cross-country' course by Code School. They use gaming to encourage you to work harder: it kind of worked. I liked to see myself making measurable progress up that mountain. I began to feel like I was beginning to get somewhere. I wasn't exactly going to end up as a pro, but I could at least understand what front and back end developers might be up against, some of the time. I also thought that I maybe knew enough to build my content strategy website. And if I didn't, I lived with a developer who did (note to self: don't be lazy!).
Designing my website
This time, I got my head around the design side a bit more. I like design so this ended up being quite exciting. I chose a colour pallet courtesy of COLOURlovers and a font courtesy of Typekit. I saw a narrative pathway design on Thoughbot Prime and thought that would really work. I looked at their code and after a moment of panic realised I did understand most of it. I traced the pathway to JS PLumb. I then started coding and realised that the z-index and clearfix hack are actually quite useful. Here's my preliminary sketch for this website. You can also see my code on github.
How to stop feeling like a hopeless beginner
Content Strategy for Solopreneurs, Startups and Growing Businesses
This book will help you tackle 9 common business challenges including making sure you're reaching everyone who could be a customer, persuading people to buy from you and not a competitor, and how you can get your team to consistently produce quality content.
- How thinking strategically about your content will drive growth
- Practical tips on creating content strategy deliverables that will save you time and money
- A bonus chapter on how to create a content strategy for your company in 4 weeks