How I Became a Content Strategist
Rebecca has been a content strategist for close to 20 years. She is the founder of ContentRS – Making content real simple and co-founder of Content Academy. You can email Rebecca with questions about content strategy at [email protected].
One of my favorite questions to answer is, “How did you become a content strategist?” My answer is typically responded with a slight head tilt along with the statement, “really?” That’s because my answer is, “I graduated with a degree in Nutrition and a Master’s in Exercise Science.” That’s right. My intent while in college was to work in corporate wellness where I could turn complicated health information into comprehensible information people could use to make healthy choices. My goal did come true. Before completing graduate school, I secured a position as an Exercise Physiologist with Advocate Fitness where I was placed in a manufacturing plant fitness center (it was some of the best days of my life, working out with so many wonderful people). However, after two years, I was yearning for more, and wanted to work/live in Chicago. So I found a job as a Wellness Coordinator at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
This is when things got interesting. Here’s my story about how I became a content strategist.
An unexpected journey to a successful career started with a Netscape workshop
What’s fortunate about my career is timing. When I was in graduate school, that’s when the Internet started (seriously!). While in graduate school at Illinois State University, workshops were offered to learn how to “code” for Netscape. That’s right, I learned how to code “HELLO” that blinked. My college roommate demonstrated how she was “Instant Messaging” with her friend in California. We could download sound bites. It was an exciting time, but who knew it would lead to a career in content strategy. The point is, we all new this Internet thing was pretty cool and I wanted to be among the forefront to integrate it into my career.
Always looking for opportunities for a new adventure
Fast forward a few years to 1999. While working as a Corporate Wellness Coordinator at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s (NMH) Wellness Program, the physicians group, NMPG, asked me if I’d be interested in working for them to manage their health information page on their website. Now, the Internet was still in its infancy. Most sites consisted of PDFs and a left navigation on the homepage, at least in the Academic Medical Center world. We didn’t have content management systems like WordPress, Drupal or Sitecore. But boy was it exciting. While managing the health information page, I also was given free reign to update content throughout the site so it read well on our desktop screens.
I feel so fortunate to have started in a career that didn’t even have a name. My title was Senior Marketing Associate. It wasn’t until 2002 that it changed to Content Manager.
Going with the flow and figuring it out as I went along
Because website design was so new, there were very few processes in place for how to develop content, migrate content or even manage content. In 2007, I was still working at the hospital, but managing content on the main hospital site. We were in desperate need to redesign the site with more visual appeal (and content). Fortunately, the Marketing Director understood what it would take to redesign the site so she assembled a team who could get it done. Expanding my team to two copywriters helped us develop useful information about the medical care available at NMH. We were tasked with developing new content, revising content, organizing content and migrating content for an 8000 page site in six months. Here’s a secret, there was no set plan how to do this. I had to figure it out as I went along, and it was a success. We did it. My defining moment was when the IT lead said, “Wow, I can’t believe all the content that is here” when we were in the bunker, launching the site. Those 10 hour days, six days a week for six months were worth it.
Staying thirsty for bigger and better experiences
Once the website was live, I decided it was time to advance my career by finding a job in an agency. Again, fortune came my way and I landed a content strategy position at Manifest Digital. Within two years, I became an Associate Director of Content Strategy. After Manifest, I found opportunities freelancing and then accepting another Associate Director position at Rightpoint.
Now, I have my own content consulting business, ContentRS – Making content real simple and partnered with Scott Winterroth to build Content Academy. It’s here that I am sharing my knowledge and insight into how to be a content strategist, because there is not enough of us in the world, and digital experiences need us!
Is becoming a content strategist right for you
If you are interested in learning how to become a content strategist, attend our FREE LIVE webinar, “Becoming a Content Strategist,” on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at 7:30 pm CT. I’ll explain what a content strategist does and what you need to do to start a career in content strategy. Register to attend!