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2014: Top 5 Content Strategy Trends for the CS Industry

As we head into a new year, it’s always fun to think about what’s in store for us. But we sometimes miss the most important point of the future: that it will be whatever we make it. I challenge you all to actively engage in the content strategy industry in 2014 to help shape it into something we can be proud of.

Here’s where I see content strategy heading over the next year:

1. A truce in the “I’m a content strategist, and you’re not” war

It seems like content strategists have been at war with each other, and related disciplines, since the beginning of time. In content strategy land, that’s somewhere around 2010. There have been distinct facets within our industry who say you can’t call yourself a content strategist if you don’t code, and disassociate themselves with all things marketing. There are others who say you you’re not a content strategist if you don’t design compelling stories that engage audiences and drive business. And others that feel you need to be a grammar guru and editing aficionado to hold your head up in any content circles.

I’m not the only one who’s getting tired of the arguments.

Scott Abel and Rahel Bailie’s upcoming book, The Language of Content Strategy, is a collaborative effort with over 50 industry professionals helping to promote a common vocabulary for content strategists. Robert Rose’s recent article for CMI, How Content Strategy and Content Marketing are Separate but Connected, recognizes the difference between the two disciplines but points out how we can, and should, work together.

2014 will see more content industry leaders aligning so that we can bury the hatchet and just work together to make great content happen.

2. Better defined content strategy skill sets

With the sudden burst in popularity of content strategy, and lack of formalized training, there are a whole lot of content strategists who don’t know much about content strategy. Or, similar to #1 above, experienced practitioners who have deep expertise in one facet of content, but no knowledge of another. This is a huge problem for our industry.

The wrong content skill-set or experience level on a project can be disastrous for our clients and damaging to our industry.  At Content Strategy Inc., it’s not uncommon for us to be called in to clean up content messes caused by a new content strategist who jumped in over their head, or by a senior-level content strategist who wasn’t able to deliver on client needs because the type of content strategy the project required was just not the kind that they practice.

There are a lot of different flavours of content strategy and one person can’t do all of them well.

In 2014, we’ll begin to define and articulate the different skill-sets and experience levels required for different types of projects. Then, we can better help our clients and companies to find the right resources for their needs. This means more content strategy wins and less messes to clean up.

3. Case studies as credentials

Our industry and our clients have been burnt by a year of taking content strategists at their word. We have to practice what we preach and show people our value, rather than just tell them. In 2014, the way to do this will be through case studies. Conferences will prefer speakers who have a compelling case study to share, and clients will prefer consultants who have case studies that show the value of their work on a similar project for a similar client.

We need to get better at ensuring that metrics and measurements are baked into all content strategy projects, and that our clients agree to contribute to a case study. In a world where it’s hard to find any content strategy budget at all, this will be easier said than done for most of us.

We’ll just have to get creative.

4. Interest in capabilities for tomorrow, but jobs cleaning up yesterday’s messes

We need to know where we’re heading so we can plan how to get there. And, let’s face it, that’s the fun part. Adaptive content is clearly here today for the big players and is gaining traction, but it’s still very much on the horizon for most large companies. Something to plan for, budget for, and build towards, but only the early adopters will really tackle this in 2014. And the full potential of truly adaptive content is further away still.

In 2014, the small group of content strategists who regularly speak about adaptive content and future functionality (such as Karen McGrane and Ann Rockley) will continue to shine a light on where content strategy is headed. We’ll also see some new names rise to the top of this short list, and other recognized names make headway in adaptive projects.

Most of us, however, will still spend most of our time cleaning up content messes that our clients or companies have spent the past five years creating.

5. Independent content strategists collaborating and consolidating

In 2013, we saw a lot of new content strategists join the industry. Many of them work as independent contractors or consultants, or as the only content person within an organization. Being new in a new industry and working in isolation is difficult, to say the least. We need to find better ways to learn from each other.

Workshops and conferences only go so far. Content strategists are looking for peers to collaborate with, and mentors to guide them. This means more industry collaboration and consolidation in 2014. Solo practitioners will reach out to each other and form new groups, both formal and informal. This will expand educational and business opportunities for content strategy in the new year.

Where do you see the content strategy industry heading? Where would you like to take it in 2014?

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