I’ve worked in content strategy since 2009, before I even knew that what I was doing was called content strategy. I was simply taking the principles of good journalism and good design and applying them to my work. Since then I’ve honed my skills working in agencies, in-house, and as a freelance consultant.
I have a BA in Technical Journalism with an emphasis in Specialized Communications from Colorado State University, which gives me a solid foundation in both technical and creative/editorial writing. I also have an MBA in Design Strategy from California College of the Arts, which provides me with tangible experience in using design thinking to solve business problems.
Much of my content strategy work is "invisible," because I collaborate on it. It can be hard to definitively pin down who wrote what exactly, when it's a team effort of brainstorming, writing, and editing. I'm proud to be part of awesome teams, and for me it's not all about the credit, but the creation.
That said, it can be a bit tricky to show my contributions in collaborative teams, which is why I like to share content strategy process and share some examples of project success.
What is content strategy, anyway?
Content strategy is a “rich and complicated discipline.” It’s not easy to pin down, and that’s a good thing. Because it's so flexible, it can change to meet the needs of many different kinds of projects. Whether focused more on the editorial/messaging or the technical/structural, the basic goal of content strategy is to create useful content that fit the needs of real people. Basically, content strategy covers everything it takes to tell a good story — clear writing, good design and thoughtful user experiences.
What kinds of projects do content strategists do?
My work in content strategy takes on many forms, ranging from the highly tactical (writing and organizing copy on a website) to the highly strategic (facilitating design thinking workshops to discover creative solutions). Each project has different needs, and I’m happy to have many different tools to help both people and organizations tell their stories more effectively.
What do my content strategy projects look like?
Every project begins with a content audit. An audit includes making an inventory of all existing content, gathering business/technical requirements, and defining user and stakeholder needs. Depending on the results of the audit and the depth of the project, I work closely with the team to establish a vision for the content and develop a shared process for making the changes. This can take many forms.
A sample project might include establishing a more appropriate voice and style for the brand and developing written content that better matches this, as well as reorganizing the site to better reflect how users actually navigated around the website. Another project might call for design thinking workshops and primary research and testing to better understand who the users and customers really are before changing any content.
Check out some mini case studies below to get a better idea:
Mini case study 1: Girls Who Code, Summer Immersion Program 2016
For Girls Who Code in 2015-2016, I worked closely with a copywriter to create a plan to promote the 2016 Summer Immersion Program. My work included writing several student profiles, editing existing content, and developing the framework for a months' long email campaign for GHC's three audiences: Students, Families, and Community Partners. We created different emails that shared much of the same information but in the way that made sense for the different groups.
For example, we might share a student success story from the previous year and remind Students to register or to think about starting a club for next year. For parents, the email might have a student with parent deadlines to share on their calendar. Community Partners would see the success story as well, and might have more of a focus on signing up tutors or soliciting donations.
The outcome: Girls Who Code launched a record number of Summer Immersion Programs in the Bay Area (18!) and held a total of 78 in 11 cities across the United States in 2016.
Mini case study 2: Smashing Magazine Book 4, 2013
I worked with the Smashing Magazine editorial board to develop a comprehensive content strategy for the release of the Smashing Magazine Book 4. In order to pay for the high-quality hardcover printing and to gauge interest, the team wanted to run a crowdsourced/pre-order campaign.
Smashing already had amazing community of readers, the key was mobilizing them and incentivizing them to pre-order the book. We knew from past publications that Smashing readers tended to fall into two categories: those who love the feeling of a beautiful, tangible book and those who would rather just get the digital download. To incentivize both groups, we decided to preview as much of the book as possible, showcasing the contributors, the table of contents and sneak peeks. We also decided to make the digital version immediately available for download, and provided a free digital version with each order of the physical book.
The outcome: Smashing met its pre-order goals and Book 4 went to print. We found that previewing much of the content wasn't a spoiler at all, and in fact it actually encouraged more people to pre-order the physical book and enjoy the digital version while they waited for the beautiful hardcover version to arrive.
I don’t just have a way with words, I also have a pretty good eye for design. I understand the important interplay between textual and visual elements, and have been adjusting margins and playing with pixels since my days as Editor-in-Chief of my high school newspaper. I've since expanded my design repertoire to include web design, marketing materials, and publishing. I’ve got a minimalistic, user-centric aesthetic, and think of design as visual storytelling. I'm all about iteration.
I help people explore how their brand (even one person can be a brand!) works in both print and digital forms, sometimes uncovering and developing new brand identities in the process. Whether I'm creating a webpage, lettering a graphic novel, or laying out a magazine spread, I use creative problem-solving strategies and design thinking to translate information and ideas into simple and clean designs that best represent the people and the stories behind them.
What is design thinking?
Design thinking is a method for solving problems using strategic and creative solutions. Design thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning to explore the possibilities of what could be. It's rooted in empathy and keeps people at the heart of everything.
Design thinking as a framework typically includes the following stages: Define, Research, Ideate, Prototype, Implement, Learn. Rinse and repeat. Incorporating design thinking into a project means lots of idea generation, critical thinking, problem-solving and rapid-prototyping — as well as connecting more deeply with users/customers/humans to discover opportunities for innovation or change.
Design thinking not only helps create meaningful innovation, it can also be used to solve high-level business problems, write compelling web copy, or even create beautiful wedding invitations that are exactly what you were looking for.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Check out some of my design work in the Projects section.
Interested in collaboration, or want to say hi?
Drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.