The Savvy Content Strategist: Everything You Need to Know About the Job

Content marketing is a booming industry set to reach a worth of $600 billion by 2024.

It’s growing fast because it’s the modern way to market to consumers – ironically, by not marketing or selling to them.

Instead, content marketing is about engaging with your audience authentically, growing relationships, and building trust through valuable, consistent, helpful content.

Since content marketing is the present and future of marketing, that means every business needs content to compete.

But no one is born knowing how to create profitable content.

That means people who understand how to strategize, produce, and leverage content are in high demand:

They’re called content strategists.

Let’s take a deep look at this important role in content marketing, including what you need to learn if you want to become one. 📋

What Is a Content Strategist?

A content strategist is a creative professional who builds and manages content strategies for businesses to help them reach their audiences and meet their goals.

As you’ll remember, a content strategy is a blueprint that lays out exactly how a brand will plan, create, and publish content, and thus execute content marketing.

A content strategist basically sits at the helm of their clients’ content strategies. They use their creativity, technical knowledge, leadership, and organizational ability to pull it all together. The ultimate goal? Build an efficient content marketing vehicle that will drive a business’ growth.

Lest you’ve forgotten, let’s revisit the power of content marketing and why “content strategist” is thus a very important role:

  • 70% of marketers read at least 3-5 pieces of content before talking to a salesperson (DemandGen).
  • 131% of consumers were more likely to buy from a brand immediately after reading that brand’s content (Conductor).
  • Businesses that blog produce 67% more leads than those that don’t blog (Demand Metric).
  • Businesses that blog get 55% more visitors on average (HubSpot).

Finally, remember that your content marketing is NOTHING without a content strategy behind it. In fact, having a strategy in place is one of the KEY factors that determine your success with content.

  • 78% of businesses that said their content marketing was “very successful” also had a documented content strategy (Semrush).
  • Marketers who are organized – who strategize! – are 674% more likely to report success with content (CoSchedule).
  • 72% of the most successful marketers measure their content marketing ROI (eMarketer).
  • 64% of the most successful content marketers reported having a documented content strategy in CMI’s annual B2B research.

What Does a Content Strategist Do?

If you think “building and managing a content strategy” sounds a little vague for a job description, you’re not wrong.

A TON of pieces fit inside that broad description, and, along with that, you need a ton of necessary skills to get it all done.

So, let’s break it down. Here are the two main categories a content strategist works inside, and all the associated tasks they’re equipped to do.

1. Build Content Strategies

What does a content strategist do when they build a content strategy?

  1. Brand overview and goal-setting. To create an effective content strategy, a content strategist must first understand the brand and their overarching goals for growth. Then, the strategist can create specific content marketing goals that tie in.
  2. Audience research. Content marketing is an audience-centered discipline. That means everything a content strategist does revolves around their client’s audience. They do audience research to discover who those people are so they can target them – and engage/help/connect with them – through content.
  3. Brand positioning. Next, the content strategist will figure out how to position the brand in their content to set them apart from the competition. They’ll identify a brand voice and style, the brand’s content differentiation factor (that “it factor” that separates your content from the millions of blogs on the web), and topic areas of focus.
  4. SEO and keyword research. A strategist must be able to perform keyword research as well as understand how to tie keywords to content strategically. They’ll use their knowledge to optimize content so it earns rankings and gets found in search results.
  5. Content creation planning. A pro will set up content creation as a repeatable process with guidelines and tools so any creator can jump in and create on-brand content for the business. For instance, the strategist will create brand voice and style guidelines.
  6. Content calendar set-up and promotions planning. Lastly, the content strategist will plan out how the business will publish content (when/where/how) and how they’ll promote it (what channels/methods, like social media posts or an email newsletter).

how a contest strategist creates a profitable brand content strategy

A content strategy is integral to the success of any content marketing operation. Integral.

It’s so vital, content marketing without a strategy behind it is destined to fail.

But that just means a competent content strategist with the ability to build and execute is pure gold to any business that needs content marketing but lacks the knowledge to implement it. 🥇

2. Manage & Execute Content Strategies

What does a content strategist do when they manage and execute a content strategy?

  1. Plan content. This is one of the biggest jobs a content strategist does. They need to be experts in continual content planning, including researching and ideating topics, researching keywords, and strategically mapping out the brand’s content calendar.
  2. Create content. The strategist also needs to be a content creation They’ll create content outlines and briefs for creators to follow based on their research, using the right structure to create authority content that ranks. They’ll oversee content creation, and may also write the content themselves.
  3. Distribute & promote content. The content strategist will guide the creation of social media campaigns, emails, and other promotional tactics to ensure the content gets the widest audience possible after it’s published.
  4. Track content metrics and goals. A major aspect of managing a content strategy is tracking progress toward goals over time. The strategist will have their finger on the pulse of multiple tools and keep an eye on specific key performance indicators (KPIs) they outlined in the brand content strategy.

the content lifecycle

Psssst… I teach you exactly how to grow a brand through content strategy in my free training!

free content hacker training

The Reality of Being a Content Strategist: Skills Needed, Average Salary, & Common Services They Offer

Now that you know what a content strategist does, let’s look at the skills they need, the average salary they earn, and the services they provide to clients.

Content Marketing Strategist Salary: How Much Do They Make?

According to Glassdoor, content strategists bring in an average of $72,525 per year in 2023.

On the low end, a strategist may make around $46k annually. On the high end, that number shoots to $115k.

Other resources have slightly different data. For instance:

  • ZipRecruiter says the national average for a content strategist’s annual salary is $90,910, or $44 per hour. On the low end, an entry-level strategist might make $32k.
  • Payscale says the average salary is $66,091.

content strategist salary via ziprecruiter

If we average all of these averages 😆, a run-of-the-mill content strategist should expect to make around $77k per year.

The Skills Every Content Strategist Needs

The content strategist role is an exciting one if you love to be creative but also thrive on getting analytical and deep into details.

Since content marketing is both an art and a science, the skilled content strategist needs to have a healthy proportion of both artistic and scientific sensibilities to do great things in their field.

Let’s look at both sides and what skills you’ll need under each category. 🎨🔬

Artistic/Creative Skills

  1. Storytelling flair – The best content strategists have an eye and an ear for telling good stories, ones that connect to people. Even further, they need to be able to turn keywords and data into content pieces with stories at their heart.
  2. Empathy – At the center of good content marketing is an uncanny ability to empathize with your audience, understand their struggles and pains, and help them overcome them with great content.
  3. Clever communication – Strategists must be not just good communicators, but clever ones. They need to find creative ways to speak to their audiences across channels, and they should excel at getting their ideas across and understood no matter where they’re communicating online.

Scientific/Analytical Skills

  1. Research-a-holic – A good content strategist is not just obsessed with research. It’s their lifeline. They probably have a Google search tab open in their browser at any given moment, and they can often be found tinkering around in their SEO data tools for fun. They may also nerd out over discovering niche research databases as well as finding incredible studies and statistics for content.
  2. Data-driven – Strategists rely on data at every point in their job. They do nothing randomly or by guessing. They look at the data, both qualitative and quantitative, to plan entire content strategies.
  3. Detail-oriented – The details matter in content marketing, and strategists must pay careful attention to each one. From the tiniest typo in a blog post to the minute difference in keyword difficulty scores for two terms, to the percentage change in traffic over three months for a website – they’re tuned to it all.

Common Services They Offer (with Examples)

Now, I’ve already outlined the general job description of a content strategist and the possibilities for what they might do in their line of work.

However, this doesn’t mean every content strategist offers the exact same roster of services.

Depending on their strengths and experience:

  • A content strategist could choose to focus on specific aspects of content strategy for clients like building audience personas, creating a content calendar and schedule, or creating blog content.
  • OR, they could offer the full stack of content strategy services, from building a holistic plan to executing it.

For example, one of my Content Transformation System students, Sarah, focuses more on the content creation side of things in her services. In her business, she offers inbound marketing, SEO blogging, and social media marketing packages as well as consulting.

content strategist packages - heysarah

Her SEO blogging package, for example, includes individual SEO blog posts and blog strategy plans.

Another solo content strategist, Deborah Beckwin, also offers consulting services along with specific help with pieces of content strategy. For instance, she helps businesses get their brand voice right, clarify their copy, or create their blog posts. (This strategist’s business site is ranking at the top of Google, by the way.)

content strategist services - deborah beckwin

Another successful strategist, Mallory Musante, takes an entirely different tack with her services. She offers a full-service, comprehensive content strategy for businesses that covers every detail. She maps out a strategy in 3, 6, and 12-month increments to ensure success.

content strategist services - mallory musante

Depending on your interests and experience, you can specialize as much as you want in content strategy. Or, you can go broad and create entire strategies from A to Z for brands in specific industries.

Lastly, note that most strategists offer consulting at some level of their business. This means they talk and brainstorm with clients to help them learn how to do content strategy, or how to do key pieces of content strategy.

How to Become a Modern & Dynamic Content Strategist

Interested in becoming a content strategist?

I don’t blame you.

The role is a dynamic one, and offers a combination of artistry and science that’s positively intriguing.

To get started, you’ll want to focus immediately on building your skills. After that, you can work on building experience and start adding to your portfolio.

First, learn everything you can about content marketing under the guidance and governance of a content strategy. (I discuss all of the key elements in this blog post.)

Learn about KPIs and goal-setting, audience research, brand positioning, audience research, and content creation/distribution/promotion.

Study successful examples of content marketing, learn what high-quality content looks like, and get schooled on SEO and keyword research.

And, if the job description of a content strategist scared you off a bit with its sheer amount of skills required, don’t worry.

There’s an easier way to become a content strategist.

You can learn all the content strategy skills you need in my 12-month mentorship program, The Content Transformation System. These are the exact skills and systems I used to grow my brands, including my first business, which I eventually sold for over $1 million.

Then, once you follow the pathway and learn the skills, you can also grow your own content strategy brand through content strategy and content marketing!

🤯🤯 #inception

Ready to learn how? Get your tush inside my free training – just choose the level for new entrepreneurs.

See you inside!

free class for entrepreneurs

About Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is an 8x author and a leading strategist around creating exceptional content and presence that lasts online. As the President at Content at Scale, she helps marketers achieve insane ROI in a new era of AI as a baseline for content production. She's been named in the top 30 of all content marketers worldwide, is the founder of Content Hacker, and recently exited her 100-person writing agency with a desire to help marketers, teams, and entrepreneurs find the keys of online success and revenue growth without breaking.