Web showing how digital content strategy has many connected components, comparing to chess pieces

Content strategy may seem like a buzz phrase—but it’s a discipline with a long history. And digital content strategy has been “trending” for well over a decade.

Needless to say, content strategy has staying power. And for good reason. A well-thought-out content strategy can align your business goals and objectives with the wants and needs of your consumers.

At WriterGirl, we’ve seen a growing need among our clients for content strategy partnerships. In the last six months, we’ve added two full-time content strategists to our team.

I recently sat down with WriterGirl content strategists Nikki Breen and Stella Hart to learn how they define content strategy and where it can have the most value.

Nikki and Stella also offered six tips for avoiding content creation mishaps. Read on for my Q&A with WriterGirl’s content strategists.

What led each of you to content strategy?

Nikki: It was an odd progression for me. I was working at a healthcare think tank as an editor and was around a lot of the content. I then moved to a large healthcare system where I did a lot of marketing work and project coordination and ended up leading oncology digital strategy. I then moved outside healthcare and into a B2B content strategist position.

Stella: I started in a role right out of college where I wrote small websites for a variety of industries. Then, for several years I wrote patient education materials and learned a lot about medical conditions, treatments and health and wellness. From there, I moved to the social work setting, where I worked with people who had disabilities and women who experienced domestic violence. I then moved back into healthcare, working for an agency as a content strategist and writer. That’s where I got my formalized training in the discipline.

Stella, how do you define good digital content strategy?

Stella: Good digital content strategy is when user or consumer needs—the tasks they come to your site to accomplish—are aligned with your organization’s business goals and objectives. When that’s in alignment with your website or other digital tools, that’s effective content strategy.

It’s all about creating a nurturing user experience. And when it’s done well, users don’t see all the work and research that goes into it—it just feels intuitive and as easy as possible.

Nikki, is content strategy all about an organization’s website?

Nikki: There are instances outside of websites where content strategy is important. Email marketing is one area. Some healthcare systems use physical mailers and newsletters. Each item should have a purpose—driven by user need—that falls into your overall content strategy. All of your content pieces should all fit together.

What can a content strategy partner bring to your project?

Stella: Whenever you bring someone in from outside your organization, there’s great opportunity for fresh perspective. They can really put the consumer needs front and center. They don’t have the same understanding of your organization, how it operates and how things have always been done. So, they can come in and learn your goals and really champion what’s going to be the best experience for your consumers.

Nikki: With the WriterGirl content strategy team, specifically, you get the perspectives of people who have experience with multiple healthcare systems. We can see trends and guide clients toward what’s working and steer them away from what hasn’t.

How can someone make the case for hiring or partnering with a content strategist?

Nikki: I’ve been in a position where someone has come to me and said: “We want you to do this, this and this to drive traffic to the website.” As I would dig in, I would find that approach would yield very low return—if any.

A content strategist can point to best practices, data and research to show, for example, that if they took half of those dollars and did something else instead, they could get quadruple the return.

Stella: We can help teams prioritize. We can identify what will give the biggest bang for the buck and align resources strategically.

When should a content strategist be brought into a project?

Stella: A content strategist can bring value at any point in a project. But, if you want the most value, content strategy should be engaged from the start. If we’re involved and embedded from the beginning, we can be much more effective.

Nikki: If we are there from the start of the race, we can help drive the car and navigate around issues. If we’re pulled in later in the game, we’re more like an ambulance performing a rescue mission.

What is the biggest misconception about content strategy?

Nikki: The biggest misconception about content strategy is that it’s an option. That it’s a “nice to have,” not a “need to have.”

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6 tips to mitigate content creation mishaps

A content strategist can help you avoid content creation mistakes, like putting too many resources toward efforts with low return. Nikki and Stella offer these six tips to avoid content creation mishaps.

1. Build your team

Before starting just about any content-related project, it’s important to know who will be involved. Ask yourself:

  • Who’s on the team? Does the team include a content strategist?
  • Who’s in charge?
  • How will you involve stakeholders?
  • Who’s accountable throughout the project? In other words, who’s monitoring for quality and ensuring goals are achieved?

2. Know your business objectives and KPIs

Not all marketing and communications teams have meaningful ways to measure performance. It’s important to understand your organization’s strategy and business goals and develop key performance indicators (KPIs) to identify, monitor and measure value.

3. Know what you have to work with

Before starting any content project, you should gain a good understanding of your digital ecosystem. Find out what you own in terms of websites, social channels, microsites, blogs, etc.

Get tips for conducting a successful content audit.

4. Understand your brand competitors

Find out who you are competing against in your market—geographically and online. What search terms are your consumers and potential consumers using? And what do those terms yield? Where your competition falls within those search results is their SERP (search engine results page) ranking.

5. Develop a style guide

Establish your organization’s brand voice and tone and develop editorial web writing rules for content creators to follow.

Find out what elements every style guide should include.

6. Establish governance

Set up your digital ecosystem so it will keep running smoothly and remain current. Doing so from the start will save time in the long run. Create specific rules around decision-making, content updates, crisis communications, and planned and unplanned updates. Create accountability, tools and workflows for content development and placement.

What content strategists can do for you

Content strategists can help with many projects, including but not limited to: 

  • Competitive reviews/analysis
  • Content redevelopment
  • Data-driven marketing personas
  • Editorial calendars
  • End-to-end website audits
  • Key performance indicator (KPI) development, measurement and monitoring
  • Keyword planning for marketing campaigns
  • Location and wayfinding strategy (including Google My Business profiles)
  • Marketing plans
  • New websites or web redevelopment projects
  • Provider marketing strategy
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) audits and reviews
  • Service line marketing
  • Social media plans
  • Style guides
  • User experience audits
  • Website governance


Are you looking for content strategy support? WriterGirl has 20+ years of experience crafting custom healthcare content. Reach out to us anytime to learn how we can help you reach your goals.