The Content Strategy Jobs Landscape – the skills, education, experience, character traits, salary expectations and more that employers are looking for when hiring a content strategist

In a CV style, niche digital communications recruiter Firehead presents the skills, experience, education, pay scales and recruitment preferences of employers currently hiring content strategists. We also look at some of the problems of hiring content strategy talent, as well as ways that content strategists are saving money for employers. Data has been taken from own surveys* of 30 employers and 30 job adverts, as well as others sources where mentioned.

The Content Strategy Jobs Landscape

Summary

In July 2013, LinkedIn listed 7,800 content strategists on its network – 72% of whom were based in the US, with the UK and Canada far behind at just 6%. Significantly more however – 155,700 people – listed ‘content strategy’ somewhere on their profile. The numbers and spread of content strategy appear much larger than the job title of ‘content strategist’, suggesting that a content strategist may be called something else in different countries or that content strategy tasks may be carried out as part of other roles. It’s important to remember this is an evolving field in which job definitions, skills and scope are still being defined.

Work experience

Our employers survey* shows that the preferred work backgrounds for those wanting to move into content strategy are (in no particular order):

  • Media – print, digital or broadcast.
  • Marketing – with social media and content marketing skills.
  • Ecommerce – experience of complex, content-based and high-traffic sites.
  • Tech comm and software information products.
  • Agency – particularly senior management experience working on multiple B2B accounts.

Education

A Bachelor’s degree is a pre-requisite for the majority of the advertised roles we surveyed. Degrees commonly requested by hirers include:

  • Journalism
  • Communications
  • English
  • Library science
  • Technical writing
  • Business

Character traits

Employers also take a view on the type of person that suits the role of content strategist. Here are 10 desirable traits taken directly from content strategist job adverts:

  • Curiosity about the inner workings of the ‘interweb’.
  • Extremely organised & methodological; attention to detail.
  • Ambition, drive, creative spark.
  • Healthy sense of humor.
  • High tolerance for ambiguity matched only by your desire to organise it.
  • Passionate about delivering great customer experiences.
  • Multi-tasking could be your middle name.
  • Deadline driven; excellent time management/organisational skills.
  • Works well in a team environment, embraces change and is highly adaptable.
  • Self-motivated, effective problem solver; spot opportunities for improving content at strategic and detailed level.

Salary expectations

content strategist salary pie chartPay rates are relatively high, reflecting the high-level nature of content strategy work and experience required. Our basic benchmarking shows the majority of employers expect to pay £50,000 ($77,000) or more in salary, while our survey of 30 content strategy jobs showed many salaries falling in the £45k-80k ($69k-124k) range.

A 2012 US survey by AIGA of 114 web content strategists found a median annual wage of $65,000 (£42,000).

Freelance rates

freelance day rate pie chartOur basic benchmarking shows that most hirers expect to pay £500 ($775) per day or more for a freelance content strategist. Only a quarter of respondents benchmarked the job below that level.

Contentini’s 2010 survey of 42 content strategists found the mean average across all experiences and $USD day rates to be $939 (£586); the UK average was £300 ($460) per day.

Desired skills

We asked hirers which skills they value most in a content strategist and are prepared to pay more for. Here is their top 10:

  1. Business/user analytical skills
  2. Strategic planning
  3. Relevant parallel web skills (from backgrounds such as UX, IA, ecommerce)
  4. Relevant parallel industry experience (content marketing, multimedia)
  5. Technical know-how
  6. Sector experience for in-demand niches
  7. Social media savvy
  8. Project management, presentation and training skills
  9. Speaking another language
  10. Reputation (eg, has worked for blue-chip clients)

Areas of weakness

More than half (57%) of our survey respondents had experienced problems when hiring, or trying to hire, a content strategist. Content strategy hiring issues break down into two main areas:

  • 1. Skills/experience shortage
    • Little ability to strategise
    • Too text-focused
    • All theory and no practice
    • Not suited to fast-paced agency life
    • Tech-shy or stuck in a single discipline
  • 2. Lack of access to talent
    • Good content strategists snapped up by larger companies
    • Lack of experienced content strategy practitioners generally
    • Job descriptions too general/vague to attract the right talent
    • Lack of knowledge of what to hire for and where to recruit

Job locations

Location pie chart showing US as predominant hirerOur survey respondents were based predominantly the US, increasingly the UK, which reflects our community reach of course, but also the LinkedIn figures above.

Many (41%) required their content strategists to be on-site; only 22% allowed home working; 37% were open to a mix of the two. 

Types of employer

Pie chart showing type of hiring organisationThe majority of our respondent hirers were digital communications agencies and B2B businesses. Content strategy has a natural home in medium-large businesses – which have sufficient need and budget for content strategy work – or digital marketing and publishing agencies serving the content needs of brands.

‘Other’ types of hiring organisations listed by respondents included government agency, content strategy consultancy and technical documentation services provider.

Recruitment methods

The most popular method of finding a content strategist is still by word of mouth although this is likely to change as the field expands.

How-are-content-strategists-recruited bar chart

Achievements (ROI)

How has content strategy saved money for hirers; what approaches have they used that have saved time and/or money?

  • Able to outsource content strategy plans to freelancers.
  • Hiring one content strategist provides a unified approach and avoids silos.
  • Online content management tools and processes increase efficiency.
  • Usability testing.
  • DITA.
  • Content planning cuts down customer enquiries.
  • Templates and methodology.
  • Setting best practice.

Data sources / further reading*

References

Firehead is a leading recruiter in digital communications and is based in Europe. We recruit content strategists for clients in the UK, continental Europe and North America, and also offer a low-entry Content Strategy Bitesize service as a lead-in for clients wanting to take a first step into content strategy. If you would like to register with us as a potential job candidate, please visit Candidate services for more information.

Our Content Strategy Recruitment Trends Survey* was conducted from March to August 2012 using a combination of online survey tools and phone/email contacts with Firehead clients and others who employ content strategists for their company. The 30 respondent hirers came from a range of countries and sectors.

Post contents published under a Creative Commons Attribution licence – please credit (CC) Firehead.net if copying sharing or distributing this work.

Content Strategy