How the Applied Content Strategy Class Helped Me Become a Content Strategist
Cynthia Gelper, Content Strategiest
Guest blogger and content strategist, Cynthia Gelper, shares her experience of Rebecca Steurer’s Applied Content Strategy class, and how it helped her break into the content strategy career.
Content strategy can sometimes seem mysterious and difficult to explain. When a content strategist I met a few years ago first suggested I look into doing what he did, and he tried to explain exactly what that was, it took me a while to fully understand. During my college time and the early years of my career, there was no such thing, although the skills content strategy draws on have always existed. But now that the label and function existed, I wanted to learn more about it. I had an editorial and marketing background, had been working in digital content for more than a decade, and found user interaction with content fascinating. So I felt like the foundation was already there, but I needed to find the right resources to learn and start getting my feet wet. I began my exploration into content strategy by following the advice this content strategist had given me: going to meet-ups where other content strategists networked and shared knowledge, and reading what content strategists had been writing about their discipline (there was no shortage of books, conferences and blogs about content strategy and user experience, as I quickly found out). It was at one of these content strategy meet-ups that I was lucky enough to hear Rebecca Steurer speak about the class she taught in Applied Content Strategy. I was thrilled to hear there was such a thing as a class where someone who’d been working in the field would share materials and show students what to expect, even giving us a chance to hone our content strategy skills with a sample project that would build our confidence as well as our portfolios. Rebecca’s class proved to be a treasure trove of information and Rebecca herself turned out to be incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. From learning how to assess content to creating wireframes, tagging strategies and editorial calendars, we got a comprehensive exposure to real-world content strategy. Rebecca gave us the option of taking a real web site (she had some ideas, but I chose my nephews’ elementary school’s site, which was a mess) and taking a deep dive into assessing it and making suggestions. I even interviewed parents who used the school site about their frustrations with it and what they would like to see it do. Rebecca’s class helped us understand the sometimes delicate dance content strategists have to do balancing the needs and demands of the business side of the project with user-advocating experience designers, plus constraints of budgets and limited technical resources. Content strategy is a field that touches many other disciplines and one of the reasons it appealed to me, after making my living as a copywriter for many years, was the interaction and collaboration with folks in other functional roles. Rebecca helped us understand how to do that successfully. In addition to finishing the class with a real project under my belt and presenting it in front of a professional audience, her class gave me the intangible gift of confidence. Now I really felt like I could call myself a content strategist, and I had the resources to deal with whatever came up in the work. I’ve been working in the field ever since and took Rebecca’s advice to start a blog about content strategy, where I interview thought leaders in the field. I would highly recommend that anyone who’s serious about getting into this discipline and wants to see how multifaceted it is, should sign up for a class with Rebecca. She has the ability to take something that sounds complicated and difficult and make it understandable and real. I still turn to my materials from her class as resources and I still count myself as lucky to’ve had her as my instructor. In a fast-moving field where your experience and problem-solving ability is your currency, Rebecca’s class outfitted me well for unpredictable challenges. You can’t buy confidence, but you can certainly expose yourself to resources and experiences that help build it, and her class did that for me.