When discussing what a Web Content Strategist does, it is very easy to get bogged down on all of the different requirements of a role that spans so many disciplines. It is a very useful exercise to reduce it to its most important elements. In the excellent The Web Content Strategist’s Bible, Richard Sheffield outlines 4 key qualities for a content manager which have nothing to do with technical requirements. He contends that the individual must be:
- A decent writer and editor
- Someone who understands how to plan and implement a project
- Someone who really wants to do this kind of work
- Someone who understands the bare basics of how the web works technically
And that’s it. Everything else is ‘gravy’.
Different jobs will have different emphases and technical requirements. I would fully agree with the above. Of course I can think of half a dozen other attributes to add to the list but that is self-defeating.
A content manager’s job is broad and varied. They are the link between various specialists while also needing to be specialists in several areas themselves. A talented content manager will propel a site’s strategy and development forward. But to do this they need to excel in numerous areas. Here are 7 key web content skills to start with.
If you are planning a site launch in 4 months you need to identify every piece of content that you will require along with all the other tasks involved in devlopment. For Cycle Ireland, I took around 8000 photos, selected 1650, photoshopped and captioned each of those, and then started work on the videos, text and supporting content.
Being an outstanding content manager requires the ability to plan in detail from the outset. Efficient processes and good organising is essential in order to keep problems and missed deadlines to a minimum.
A web content job interview usually has a lot of ground to cover – here are 5 questions you should ask any candidate for interview.
When you interview somebody you need to know that they can do the job, that you can work with them, and that they won’t be unhappy in the job. Here are a few questions to help you with the first and last requirements.
What is your site?
This one will weed out any spoofers. You need someone who can plan long term and will see projects through, rather than take the easy route, do things which take little effort and assume nobody notices. If they have a blog with 200+ posts, they understand what a long-term content strategy is, because they have had to learn it. If they posted twice in the last 6 months, things have gone badly wrong. If they discuss why and give reasons which show that they have analysed the situation intelligently, fair enough. But if they have never had their own site/blog, it is more difficult to verify these things.
This post is continued from Content manager – how to hire (part 1 of 2)
I will finish off the list…
Sales skills are always important
Most content managers will need to sell with ever word they write. This is the primary purpose of most commercial sites, whatever it is they are selling. Many will need to sell your company when talking to potential partners. They must know what the user wants the most and then give it to them. They must know how to close with users and must be able to use effective calls to action.
Today many content jobs are content/marketing jobs. This is only a good idea if there isn’t a budget for two roles. Ideally, content will always be a standalone job and will not merely be part of somebody’s duties. Nevertheless, even if the two jobs are separate, there will need to be a lot of communication between both employees. Both will need to know in detail what the other person’s job entails. They need to know what the other is doing at any given time in order to work in tandem.
So you need a content manager. The first thing you need to decide is whether you need a content manager or do you need a data entry worker. If your immediate response to that is ‘what’s the difference’, then you probably have problems ahead.
When would you need a data entry worker? When your budget is simply too tight to hire someone with more skills and experience. When your site is not big enough to sustain a full-time job. When you are managing the site yourself and have a clear vision for it.
If you are not managing the site someone else will need to. A good content manager will have the rounded skillset necessary to deal with the many different aspects of a job which is not easy to categorise. It falls between marketing and IT, having elements of both yet belonging to neither. Few people have the personality type to be comfortable in both spheres.