Measuring The Immeasurable: The Elusive Creativity Behind Content Strategy

In the real world, it’s basically impossible to quantify creativity. Lawyers work in 15-minute increments, teachers have structured lesson plans, but the creative process can’t be packaged up in tidy to-do lists with project deadlines and briefs. That’s why for every brilliant creative mind, there has to be a balance of organization and proactive attitude to make sure the overall vision can succeed.

That’s why content strategy and content marketing work so well hand-in-hand. Without the innovation of strategy, your marketing efforts are more likely to fall flat. On the other hand, content strategists might lack the skills to execute the building block tasks that ultimately reach the intended audience. This coupling of management coordination with artistic vision, when synced properly, can result in “quantified creativity”, a.k.a. ROI for your clients.

In my opinion, successful marketing is around 75% organization and data-driven tasks, while 25% is pure strategy. Some may disagree with me, but don’t misunderstand. That quarter slice is an essential part of the entire procedure that has equal importance to all the setup, execution, and reporting tasks. It simply is a subtler, more refined part of the procedure that relies less on hard numbers and more on intuition and skills that lie outside of neat little check boxes.

Some skills that make great content strategists are creativity, the ability to intuitively understand many different points of view, foresight for trends and evolving channels (especially in social media), and a grasp of what an ideal user experience (UX) should be. They’re the ones who can walk in the audiences’ shoes and figure out how to speak to them they way they want to be spoken to.

They establish the goals.

A championship content team works off of each other’s strengths from start to finish. A perfect example of this is the initial client audit that provides basic data to allow strategist to get inside the audiences’ minds. With this information, content strategists can identify specific goals to work towards, such as acquiring new customers vs. engaging with repeat customers, etc. This audit should also shed light on the demographics of the audience (who is, and who could be buying what your client is selling), as well as giving strategists a better idea of which marketing channels could yield the best results (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). These “whys” help content strategy team suggest the “how” to the content marketing team.

They relate to the audience.

Content strategists are mental chameleons. They have a knack for understanding the basic needs and urges of any given audience regardless of their own backgrounds and tendencies. This allows them to tweak the messaging ever so slightly to ensure maximum results.

Not only do they understand the audience’s POV, but they can pair that with current content channel trends – such as social media – and can plan their outbound communication with these different channels in mind. Finally, they have the ability to stay on-brand to mix these elements together for the perfect content storm. When this exquisitely tweaked messaging lives on the most idealized channel and is viewed by only the most relevant viewers, it’s a thing of beauty. These content masters of disguise may walk among you unnoticed even today.

They see the Big Picture.

Content strategists tend to be the dreamers, the idealists, the fantasizers. They imagine a world where there are no deadlines, no quotas, no conference calls (although that’s probably everyone’s dream). They tend to gloss over the tedious tasks to focus on big picture stuff, allowing them to really nail down the quality rather than quantity tasks. Again, this is the why, not the how of content marketing. If someone really nails a piece of compelling content, most likely it was conjured up from the fairy unicorn rainbow bubblegum puppy mind of a content strategist.

Although UX is a whole different animal, it goes to show that there’s still plenty of overlap between official titles within the marketing team. Content strategists need to have an innate understanding of what the end user’s experience is going to be and craft their content to exceed those expectations. For instance, simply having the visual acumen to alter formatting based on the end channel that content is going to live on requires an artistic eye. There are plenty of articles on how to format blog posts, emails, press releases, and more, so make sure you stay up-to-date with the latest readability trends, best practices, and run tests of your own!

All of these sort of abstract concepts make it difficult to nail down what makes a truly gifted content strategist. However, it goes to show that to really make your content marketing efforts shine, you need that balance of brainstorming and execution. When you find that content strategy “complete package”, you need to hold on tight and never let go.

Coming up with a steady stream of original and engaging content for your audience on a regular basis is tough. That’s why it’s essential for content strategists to not get burnt out on the to-dos so they can continue to focus on the broad vision and content marketers need to focus on executing the established tasks to work together for a successful campaign.

Of course, sometimes one person finds themselves responsible for the whole kit n’ caboodle. Just remember that carving out “creative time” is just as important (albeit less measurable) as “to-do” time. Content strategy superstars – remember this and you’ll be a winner.

And supervisors – don’t interrupt the creative process. Respect the creative outpour!

Hopefully this sheds some light on the elusive mystery otherwise known as strategy. Now get out there and brainstorm your little heart out!