When it comes to content strategy, no matter how many times we define it, redefine it or outline it, we can mostly agree that it involves applying, creating and writing content to achieve business goals.

An Evaluation of Content Strategy via Job Descriptions

We can talk abstractly about content management and strategy until the content cows come home, yet until we start addressing how companies are selling content management to themselves and others, can we really begin to understand what content strategy is and what it should be.

In order to do this, we’ve decided to randomly survey job descriptions for online content manager positions. Thanks to Google Instant, our search brought up the three following job openings. Here’s an excerpt of each. Links to the full description are provided.

Company: EchoDitto
Job Title: Website Content Manager
Job Description: The website content manager will be responsible for developing the voice for all aspects of the organization’s online presence. In addition to writing, editing and proofreading site content, this person will also work closely with the technical team to maintain site standards with regard to new development. The website content manager will also be responsible for crafting site promotions, email newsletters and online outreach campaigns.
Qualifications: Exceptional communication and organizational skills; Advanced knowledge of HTML and experience with popular content management systems (Drupal, Convio, Kintera, etc.); Ability to manage multiple projects in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment; Basic Adobe Photoshop skills; Proven ability to build consensus and work effectively within a cross-departmental team; 3-5 years experience managing content and production for high traffic websites; Bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism, Technical Writing or a related field; and Passion, Integrity and Energy!

Company: Network Communications, Inc
Job Title: Online Content Manager
Job Description: NCI is seeking an Online Content Manager to manage all web content and projects related to the company's websites. This position will write, edit and proofread new content while ensuring that all documents meet established content standards. The Online Content Manager will facilitate publishing content to NCI web sites and work with developers and Operations staff to assess and resolve any technical challenges in displaying the content. The Online Content Manager will supervise a staff of Online Copywriters.
Qualifications: This position requires a bachelor's degree in a related area and at least 5 years of experience in the field. The Online Content Manager must have a strong technical background in addition to the creativity required to develop responsive, interesting original content. Traditional writing skills and expertise in New Media is required. Successful candidates should have experience leading and developing a writing staff.

Company: Buzzillions.com
Job Title: Online Content Manager
Job Description: The Online Content Manager will lead a team of writers in synthesizing the millions of reviews on our site into user-sourced advice, from how to start shopping to product recommendations. The Online Content Manager will be primarily responsible for: Growing and developing our existing Buzzillions' writers program; Overseeing the content production for Buzzillions; Identifying new content opportunities and ways to repurpose existing content throughout the site; Developing a comprehensive content management system; Implementing changes to site layout and content based on usability testing and website analytics.
Qualifications: Writer/editor with an eye for creating online content; Online content deployment and planning; Project manager who can juggle multiple priorities; Familiarity with basic SEO best practices and keyword research; High level of initiative and ability to work with minimal supervision; Loves shopping and reading reviews (even if it’s just window shopping); Enjoys working with people on a mission and joining the Friday afternoon fun.

What Does a Content Manager Do?

As we begin our evaluation, let’s first take a look at the words consistent throughout these descriptions:

  • writing, editing and proofreading
  • content standards, site standards
  • publishing content, content production

Each of the descriptions explains the actions associated with developing and pushing out content. Two of them also allude to the notion that there are standards, which guides the development of content. While it is not clear whose standards these are and how they were developed, the mere acknowledgement of standards is remarkable.

Interesting enough, only one used the word content management system, but even then the online content manager was tasked in “developing a comprehensive” CMS, with no indication if there was already one in place or if they expected the applicant to build one herself.

With Whom Does a Content Manager Work?

Two of the descriptions mention that the candidate will work closely with a technical team to “assess and resolve any technical challenges in displaying the content.” While cross-departmental collaboration is always recommended, it’s not clear if there is co-ownership of the website and its development.

Additionally, two of the descriptions say that the content manager will lead and supervise “a team of writers” and “a staff of Online Copywriters.” Among the responsibilities associated with the team is “synthesizing the millions of reviews.” Recognizing that the staff is indeed online copywriters provides more information into the way a company regards web writing, more so than referring to them as a “team of writers,” who could be anyone with any background in writing.

What Skills Does a Content Manager Require?

A content manager, according to the qualifications listed, requires 3-5 years of experience -- meaning that a qualified applicant should have been working online before there were multiple content channels (social media, mobile and smartphones), suggesting that their skills have evolved since then. As well, a content manager is a leader, who can work independently and multitask. Writing experience is a must, as is creativity (and Photoshop skills), which suggests some design work will be in your future. Above all, a content manager needs passion and energy!

Only one description mentions experience with SEO and keyword searching, which incidentally is the only description that talks about usability testing and analytics.

What Does This Mean for Content Strategy?

These three job descriptions all describe the responsibilities for a position of the same name. But what they actually tell us is that content is just a small part of what content managers do. It takes creativity, leadership skills and of course, writing ability, to produce and publish content.

Not one of these companies outlines the overall goal of the content manager (e.g, We need an online content manager to improve the quality and design of content on our websites so as to increase revenue and sales). Instead, they describe actual tasks (e.g. “synthesiz[e] the millions of reviews on our site into user-sourced advice, from how to start shopping to product recommendations”), which are probably evolving and a small part of the company’s over-arching goals.

Like any good strategy, you need designated stops and destinations, and ways to monitor progress. Anyone can draft a list of tasks associated with producing content, but in order to effectively manage content, you first need to know what you’re working towards and why. Before you draft your next job description -- no matter the role, think about why the position is necessary and how it will propel your company towards its mission and goals.