"When do you need a content strategist?" asks John McCrory, Group Director, Content Strategy at Huge. He answers his own question: "Only when there's content, and it's very rare that there's not some content in any project."
Huge began in 1999 as two guys working out of an apartment in Dumbo. Today, it's a global agency with over 1000 employees. Their content strategy practice began with a real estate client and history.com. Now, content strategy a big part of their business.
About two years ago, clients starting asking for help with content strategy by name, a trend representative of content marketing across the industry. Huge, which employs 16 content strategists in New York, was having difficulty finding experienced people who shared their ethos on the subject.
Their answer was to develop their strategists in-house with a fulltime 10-week course where students who are accepted to the program are paid to learn the Huge approach. Those enrolled work on an imaginary client from start to finish. Standout students are offered a permanent spot.
"We function as intermediaries with designers, tech, working with clients to evaluate what they have, so our school is really an effort to take people with knowledge in one or two areas to expose them to creative problem solving with editorial, marketing, information strategy/library science and tech." says McCrory.
So what does one really learn at content school? Lessons include: creating real-life deliverables and presenting ideas with a focus on both business needs and user needs.
"We're more than just ideas people spouting high-level strategy. Good content strategy takes getting your hands dirty," says James Moore, a graduate of the program who now works at Huge as an associate content strategist.
For Emily Atwater, another graduate of the program who also works at Huge as an associate content strategist, time management was a huge takeaway. "We consider content from multiple perspectives (editorial, structural, and production/execution) and we learn how to prioritize or combine perspectives accordingly for a holistic strategy."
For folks like Moore and Atwater, the professional education has been a huge opportunity.
Three lessons from content school:
1. Basic skill set. Students to learn the core skills beyond their main focus.
2. Produce work. Students learn how to operate in an agency environment, be a part of a team, and adjust to a client's changing needs. This is where students turn knowledge into valuable work product.
3. Present work. Students learn how to explain the methods and results and justify work they've created.