A Content Strategist is More Than a Word Jockey

A jockey leading his horse to victory

Jockeys, like copywriters, focus on the end result

I heard these dreaded words the other day, from a potential client: “How is content strategy any different from copy writing?”

This question, it must be noted, was uttered after I had done my whole dog-and-pony show/PowerPoint presentation about the value of content strategy, what the process was, what deliverables could be expected, and so on.

Disheartening, to say the least. But it got me thinking.

How does one describe, to the layperson, the difference between content creation and content strategy?

Here’s what I’ve come up with.

A content creator is the jockey. A content strategist is the stable owner.

The jockey has a super-crucial role, of course. He or she is responsible for the end product: a technically sound, well-run race (and hopefully the wreath of roses). But in most cases, they’re not the ones who provided the vehicle for the race — the horse.

That’s the stable owner’s job. It includes:

  • research (to find the appropriate dam, sire, and bloodlines)
  • business wrangling (to secure these assets and pay for them)
  • management of the people involved (everyone from breeders to transporters to vets to farriers to stablehands)
  • supervising the care, feeding, and housing of the resulting foal
  • the training process
  • testing (by comparing the horse’s racing performance in low-stakes race)
  • sourcing talent (the jockeys)
  • making decisions on venues and track types where the horse will race

Same thing in the world of content strategy. We love our content creators. They’re an essential part of our team. They make us look good and make us successful and we love seeing them ride our strategies to success. And when we find the talented ones, we treat them like gold so we can keep them around forever.

But while we may occasionally also create content, much as an owner may hop into the saddle, the main job of content strategists is to create the vehicle: the larger plan and all its ingredients. And yes, that includes a whole lot of unglamorous work, including  research, business wrangling, management, supervising the care/feeding/housing of content, training writers, testing, and making decisions about into which channels and formats our content should go.

Is this the perfect analogy? I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this much: a content strategist is much more than a word jockey. And I look forward to the day when everyone knows the difference.

Got a better explanation of the difference between copywriting and content strategist? I’d love to hear it! Share your comments here or tweet me @cc_holland.

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