It’s no secret to seasoned copywriters: Our industry has endured choppy waters in recent years—with no end in sight. Formats and channels for which we write, global competition, project pricing, and copy-related industries continue to rock and roil.
Copywriting’s perfect storm
This perfect storm—technological, economic and cultural—is raining pain on many seasoned copywriters. In an earlier post I suggested 9 ways to improve our chances of surviving the shifting landscape. And now I suggest one more: Content Strategy.
An emerging discipline, Content Strategy is still being defined and debated. But most practitioners agree with content strategist Kristina Halvorson: Content Strategy plans for the creation, publication and governance of useful, usable content. While it includes copywriting, Content Strategy also relies on user experience (UX) design, information architecture (IA), user interaction design, metadata engineering and content management systems planning.
And that language makes humanistic copywriters run for cover.
But we have to stop. Because it’s important for us copywriters to “get” Content Strategy.
Our survival depends on it.
5 ways Content Strategy supports your copywriting career
As journalism, publishing, advertising and other copy-intensive industries continue to implode, Content Strategy offers new possibilities for content creators. Because Content Strategy…
- Puts content front and center once again. The Internet made it cheap and easy for everyone to publish content—and we see the result: digital channels flooded with good, bad, indifferent and, ultimately, commoditized content. Rather than living up to its potential as a unique, valuable asset, copy has become a cheap, undifferentiated product. But good Content Strategy can reverse this trend. With its careful audits, analyses, planning and governance, Content Strategy treats content like a living thing, worthy of respect and resources.
- Supports quality copy. Interweb pipelines are clogged with
crappoor copy. And not just the obvious detritus: keyword crammed, ill-conceived content churned out on 45-minute deadlines. Sometimes even well written content proves useless. Because it’s invisible to search engines. Because it’s buried on poorly designed sites. Because it’s written for the wrong channel or platform. And often, because it’s tactical copy, written with no strategic insight. With a Content Strategy in place, you produce only the most essential, carefully planned copy.
- Lets you command the pricing you deserve. Commoditized, devalued content competes on price. Ten years ago, good journalists—not just The New Yorker rock stars—were paid $1-$2 a word for feature articles. Talented, experienced marketing copywriters could earn a decent living without the constant hemming, hawing and haggling over pricing that’s so much a part of freelancing today. Unless you’re willing to write for pennies, you need to cultivate discerning clients who recognize quality copy. Among the most attractive are companies and agencies committed to Content Strategy—people who understand that content is an asset and are willing to pay for it.
- Gives you team support. Back in the day, copywriters had support: Copy managers. Editors-in-chief. CDs. Proofreaders. I miss them. Today most corporations have sliced off budgetary fat and gouged into staff muscle. With copy and editing desks gone, the lone copywriter is expected to do it all. Content Strategy brings back some of the teamwork, allowing writers to collaborate with diverse content pros who care as passionately about quality copywriting as we do.
- Cleans up digital Dodge City. Since 1991, people have been dumping content indiscriminately onto the Internet: Every day, 1.5 million blog posts, 2 million videos and 60,000 new websites get heaved online. Content Strategy’s lofty aim is to clean up and organize the mess. In addition to reducing the Internet’s content landfill, Content Strategy gives your copy a better chance of being found, used and appreciated. What copywriter can’t get behind that?
Trouble in paradise
From my vantage point, there’s only one problem with Content Strategy: There’s not enough of it. Many clients don’t practice it. Others have no idea what it is. Or they confuse it with content marketing or strategic copywriting.
Don’t be among them. For quick immersion, read my review of Content Strategy For the Web by Kristina Halvorson—then buy a copy and read the whole book. And stay tuned to MarketCopywriter Blog for more info on Content Strategy from content creators’ perspectives.
But before you run away to click and read, tell me: What are your thoughts on Content Strategy? Do your clients use it? Do you see the practice supporting your work now or in the future?