For my master thesis, I did a lot of qualitative user interviews. Curious people always want to know, what I study. Here follow my three explanations for my studies called master in content strategy.

In the end of our interviews, people often ask: «Tell me a bit more about your studies, and how did I could contribute to your master thesis.» Well in this situation, this is getting a bit complicated… Content strategy is hard to explain in one sentence to people who have never heard of. However, I tried my best to stick close to three ways of explaining it.

Maybe I have to state here, that I posted my call for interview partners on Facebook. So these 23 people who contacted me didn’t know me before, we just met by chance on the phone.

First way: Quick and simple

My first version is rather short. I used this explanation, wherever I felt that people are mostly interested in their contribution to my work, and wondered why I had the crazy idea of asking them for an interview on Facebook.

I often start with the statement, that content is every information an organisation provides to its user. And the strategic part behind is the analysis, planning and strategic improvement of existing information. At this point I usually highlight that a big focus is on users, and that we as an organisation want to answer their questions and meet their needs whenever possible. I usually pick out an example how their answer helped me to gain insights into their goals and motivations. Then I took the chance to sincerely thank them for the contribution they made.

Second way: For people who like metaphors

While conducting qualitative interviews, you can easily feel if someone is in love with metaphoric language. He or she likes to use images to describe feelings. For those people, I like to compare content strategy with a lighthouse (Kristina Halvorson und Melissa Rach 2012). Content strategy is the lighthouse, which guides your boat of content through the sea of possibilities. Content strategy helps you to guide your organization’s decisions into the right direction. As a content strategist you are like a captain: You have to know which way you choose and you have a map with the dangers on your way. And while on your way through the sea you never lose focus of your users’ needs and goals.

Another image I do like very much: Content strategists are like the conductors of an orchestra” (Heinz Wittenbrink). Imagine that all your different forms of content are different instruments. The numerous musicians represent your internal resources and how they work together in workflow and processes. We as content strategists make sure that all these aspects come together in the right moment, to create a wonderful piece of music for the users. Usually at this part of your explanation, this is my chance to highlight their big contribution to my research and to thank them for letting me know about their motivations and goals.

Third way: For people interested in internal processes

I did also prepare a third part of explaining content strategy. However this way to explain content strategy was rarely used, because usually people are not so much interested into workflows, processes and change management. I start with the statement, that content strategy means «guiding the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content» (Kristina Halvorson und Melissa Rach 2012). When it comes to everyday live in an organization, especially in the digital age, organizations often suffer from the mass of content they produce. In order to bring these mass of content together, and to plan its creation strategically with the users’ needs and goals in mind, it needs a strong internal change to bring together people who worked in silos before.

So this is what content strategy is really about, beside analysis of content and investigating users’ needs: Bringing people together, optimizing workflow and sharing visions of how to create  content more effectively. It is a lot about standing at the coffee machine as the meeting point of every organization, going for lunch with people who like to exchange ideas and to bring people together. As important as the “content” component is the “people” aspect of content strategy, and how you can create efficient services that serves your users need. At this point – you already assume it I guess – I usually highlight the big contribution they made to my research.

However you explain it – I do wish you all the best for your content strategy project and keep your ears stiff!