We recently published a post called 16 signs you’re a content strategist (take a look and come back if you’ve not seen it!)

One of the ‘signs’ we listed was the following:

11. You say you’re not a marketer but some days the lines are a little too blurred for your liking

I was recently asked on Linkedin what I meant by this, so I thought it would be useful to write a blog about it. After all, for every one person that asks there are probably 50 that are wondering!

In the simplest of terms, what I’m trying to say is that there’s a difference between content ‘marketing’ and content ‘strategy’ and as a strategist you’re not necessarily a marketer.

However, the line between these two things is a fine one at best and each needs the other to survive.

Here’s where I see the difference:

While content marketing is the product of modernised marketing techniques, content strategy is the product of modernised publishing techniques. The former holds marketing theory at its core, while the latter is hell-bent on editorial theory. However, both hands need to know exactly what the other is doing to function efficiently.

The blur, I believe, is the result of content marketing leading the charge in the industry, which meant that for a long time content marketers were being held responsible for the production and strategy of the actual content. This however, is the job of a content strategist (someone with publishing nous) who has experience in writing for specific audiences.

Let’s break it down into roles:

A content marketer should be expected to think in ‘big picture’ terms and strategise across platforms, taking into account the way in which content can be best utilised and amplified to generate the desired results.

A content strategist on the other hand is the person who will think about the ‘micro’ details. They will strategise what exactly is to be said and how. They will play a heavy role in the production of the content and will be expected to understand how it will impact on an individual level.

We cannot ignore that fact that content marketing comprises the word ‘marketing’ and as such, content marketers have a responsibility to think as marketers. A content strategist lies more in line with brand journalism as it holds publishing practices close.

How can we help identify these differences in the market:

Agencies: Hire content strategists and marketers. Use your content marketers to think big picture and work closely alongside the client while your strategists busy themselves with the actual production and strategy of the content.

Businesses: What do you need more? A content marketer who can outsource content strategy/production? Or a content strategist/producer who can work alongside your marketing team?

Individuals: Ask yourself where your passion lies? Do you see yourself leading the content marketing charge and scoping out big picture strategies with your client or do you see yourself thinking about the finer details of content, the integrity, every last conversation, every last customer.

Have I missed anything? Let me know!

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tracy

Chief Brandalist / founder of Brandalism at Brandalism
I’ve spent nearly ten (very joyful!) years working in digital media. My experience spans publishing, digital content strategy, online editorial, digital project management, content production, brand journalism, social media, copywriting and travel writing (which is how the right side of my brain gets to relax....!)

I started Brandalism in 2013 after having worked in the content marketing industry for several years. I see brand journalists as being core to this industry and feel it's now time to pay attention purely to this aspect. I must admit, I also get a kick out of the hands-on content development too!
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Comments

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5 Responses to “The difference between a content marketer and a content strategist”
  1. S. Kyle Davis

    this is a really interesting article and an interesting point of view. To me, what you are calling content marketing is more what I would call inbound marketing. To me, content marketing is developing and planning content, whereas inbound marketing is more about marketing the marketing. I would see content development and still a definite marketing role. however, it would borrow a lot of its skills from other disciplines.

    I would also say that I see two types of content marketing. One of them is, as you highlight on this site, brand journalism. This covers everything that’s the brand is doing, and ensures that the company’s message, vision, and brand is put forth in everything that you do. However, there is another side to development that is focused on providing informative content to help the user. This is the side of content marketing that is really seen a lot of growth just in the last couple years. This, I think, borrows a lot of methodologies from instructional design. But then, I am an instructional designer by training, so maybe I am biased on that point.

    Reply
  2. Steve Faber

    Tracy,

    I’d say your definition of content strategist:
    “A content strategist on the other hand is the person who will think about the ‘micro’ details.” is more akin to a content tactician or manager. The strategist takes a more wholistic view of the organization’s overall marketing objectives, how content can help achieve them, and what content can help them do so.

    A content marketing manager is in charge of executing the strategy and the micro details needed to do so.

    Nice piece, that’s just my .02c

    Steve

    Reply
  3. Monica

    Graet article. Very interesting concepts to bear in mind.I agree with you that content development needs a content strategist and a content writer/developer working hand in hand.

    Inbound marketing is content that entertains and educate the audience with the purpose of turning leads into customers and this will result in different individual receptiveness, according to where the prospect is standing in his buying cycle.

    The best way to develop engaging content is to use story telling techniques in your copy.

    Reply
  4. Carmen Hill

    Interesting perspective. In content marketing we talk (a lot) about the need to think like publishers, but I think publishers are having to learn to think more like marketers these days, as well. For what it’s worth, I think of myself as a content marketing strategist—a content professional with a marketing mindset. I’m responsible for understanding the big picture—our clients’ business, audience and objectives—and then looking at how to tell their story at BOTH a macro and micro level. There’s definitely a distinction between a content/editorial strategy where the content itself is the product (publishers) and for a marketing program or campaign where the content is a means to sell a different product, but in a smaller organization the same person may do both.

    Reply

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