Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Value of Being Emotionally Bright

Do the smartest people make the best managers and leaders, or even teachers?

I used to think so, but that was before I hit the teenage years, when I had a full head of hair and was still trying to figure out the world through what my parents said – and what they didn’t say.

The problem with many smart people is that they like to show you how smart they are and treat their points of view as “the word,” without giving one drop of consideration to the views of others. I used to fall into that trap, even though I’ve never considered myself a candidate for Mensa. I think back about those moments and cringe in shame.

So, I was pleased when I read about a recent CareerBuilder survey that said more employers value “emotional intelligence” in an employee or prospective employee over raw intelligence. And now that I’m in a leadership position, I see it as well.

Emotional intelligence, or EI, is a general sense of how one can control his or her emotions, sense, understand, and react to the emotions of others, and manage relationships. Do that well, especially in a management or leadership role, and you make the workplace run better. Do it poorly, and you can make others miserable enough to want to work elsewhere. I’ve worked with people who had the EI of Mister Rogers, and others who had the EI of Hannibal Lecter. I’ve been in the presence of people of average intelligence who were good leaders because they got the best out of others, in large part because they made the extra effort to understand them. And I’ve seen brilliant people who made terrible leaders.

In each case, I’ll go out on a very short limb here and say the former is better.

What makes someone with a high sense of EI a more desirable employee? The CareerBuilder survey uncovered the following:

• They’re more likely to stay calm under pressure.
• They know how to resolve conflict effectively.
• They’re more empathetic to their team members and react accordingly.
• They lead by example.
• They admit their mistakes and learn from them.
• They take criticism well.
• They can have thoughtful discussions on issues without involving their emotions.

The key qualities that typify someone with a high EI are humility and the ability to listen, both of which can be honed if you consciously practice them. You not only need to be visible and available, you need to be courageous to admit it when you don’t have an answer and depend on team members who might. You also need to understand that the most important part of communication is not talking, but listening. Some team members just need to ask for your expertise; others feel the need to have someone to vent frustration and feel better. You should be prepared to do both – willingly and genuinely.

Monday, July 25, 2011

End a Sentence with a Preposition?
What Would You Do That For?

If there's one thing I had too much of during my elementary school years, it was the rules of English grammar. (That may be a reason why I became a journalist, but probably a minor reason.) It seemed that - in every ... passing ... year - we had a lot of homework that consisted of diagramming sentences (boring!) and learning parts of speech.

That included learning a long list of prepositions to the tune of "Yankee Doodle" (bleccch!), which brings me to one of the rules that was hammered into our heads: Never end a sentence with a preposition. Examples:

* Who are you going to the store with?
* What are you going to write about?
* What country are you from?
* Change we can believe in! (from Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign)

So, yes, a few decades later, it's one of the grammar rules that's often broken. Would my teachers cringe or wail in anguish if they saw this today? Only if they failed to change with the times, which is a distinct possibility for a couple of them.

Writing, today, has become more conversational, due in no small part to the Internet and the quest for brevity in nearly all forms of writing as publishers fight to grab the oft-challenged attention spans of time-pressed readers. Also, writing conventions change with the times. I recently read two novels: one written 10 years ago, the other about 100 years ago. The first one was a much quicker read, the other harder because the writing isn't as succinct and to the point for today's audience.

My rule as an editor: If I see a sentence that ends with a preposition, and there isn't an easier way of expressing the writer's thought, it stays.

Now, if you want to review a comprehensive answer about ending a sentence with a preposition, here's a page I can refer you to. ;-)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Job Perks Are Coming Back!

I know a guy who took a job about a year ago that was about 100 miles from home after he was out of work a few months. So, to make the change a bit more bearable, he rented an apartment close to the office and stayed there weeknights, heading home each weekend.

The lengths some will go to get a job in a challenging economy ...

Just recently, his boss told him he could work from home; not the apartment, the one for which he pays a mortgage. So, just like that, life got much simpler.

But it also got me thinking that things are getting better out there. Why? Because more employers are concerned that they'll lose valuable people to competitors with an improving job market. There are workers who will be more than happy to free themselves from a job or company they don't like but had to hang onto for financial security. Then there are others who, amid still-high gas prices, will look for something that's much less than a 100-mile commute.

Sure enough, two recent surveys underscored the growing concern among employers about losing top talent, as well as their willingness to restore perks - such as telecommuting - that were eliminated or reduced during the recession.

“Whether it’s something simple, like free bagels in the lunch room every morning, or something more substantial, such as tuition reimbursement or flexible scheduling, these perks can be an essential part of worker morale and job satisfaction,” noted John Challenger of the outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

According to a recent Challenger survey, 39% of respondents said their companies were forced to reduce or eliminate perks during the recession. But with the economy starting to spring back, about 18% said their companies have been able to restore all pre-recession perks, while another 41% have brought back some of them.

We all like to have jobs that help us keep our lives in balance. A recession can throw that out of whack for both employers and employees. It's about time we're heading back toward balance.

What's your favorite employee perk? Tell me what it is - and why - in a comment below.

Monday, June 27, 2011

3 Tips to Survive a Work Life without Structure

There's something to be said for a day-to-day life that's structured and predictable. You know, something like get up at 6, be in the office by 8:30, home for dinner by 5:30 p.m. Then, lights out at 10. Lather, rinse, repeat.

For much of the last 15 years, that's the way things have gone for me, ever since I left the daily newspaper biz. The timing for a change was right since my two kids were young and hadn't entered first grade yet.

Of course, that's not for everybody. Maybe you don't have kids, or you like the thrill or challenge of something new every day. It can be exciting. It's even better if you engage in a lot of knowledge work at home through your computer. You can set your own schedule, working when you want (if you're not trying to meet a deadline), and catching a little daytime TV from your living room.

If your work life consists of cobbling together an income from different sources, it also means you must be effective at selling yourself to prospective clients, which is easy if you can articulate the value you can offer, and you have work samples or references who can back you up. You also need the persistence and courage to endure lean times when there won't be enough work, because your earnings will likely be inconsistent from week to week. So, it takes personal and financial discipline as well.

Workers in their 20s who have yet to land full-time gigs may know what I'm talking about. Some who recently graduated from college are cobbling an income from different sources. And they can afford to since they don't have family responsibilities. I took that approach for about 18 months when I was in my 20s. There were days in which I would leave the house at 7 a.m. and not return until close to midnight. (This was before the Internet made it easier to work remotely rather than be physically present to do your work.)

As we trudge through a slowly recovering economy, there are many of these people who are working such unstructured schedules or merely among the "underemployed" - working less than 40 hours a week because they can't find full-time work. If you're among them while you look for something permanent, take these three bits of advice:

Save more of what you earn. If you're not earning a lot, this will be hard. But sock away as much as possible in a "rainy day" fund so you'll have some money for those leaner weeks or months when you're not doing enough because few need your help.

Cultivate and work your network. Face-to-face networking is the best, but LinkedIn and Facebook also provide great platforms to connect with people who may be able to help you find stuff to do. Just be ready to help them first. The best payoffs in networking come when everyone helps each other. If you're not thinking of networking as a two-way street, you shouldn't be networking. Give a lot to get even a little.

Don't forget health insurance. You may be in excellent health, but find coverage that can be there for you in case of an accident or sudden illness, as well as any prescriptions you may need. Even if you have to pay out of pocket for an annual checkup, you need to protect yourself against the potential financial catastrophe that can befall someone who's uninsured.

Do you have an "unstructured" work life? How do you make it work?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Readership to Community, Thanks to the Web

A few years ago, I had the honor and privilege of experimenting with the future - or maybe it's the present and future - of media that is turning long-held journalistic principles of interaction on their head.

I was the editorial director for a new web community of executives. Then, the notion of "web community" was quite new. And the woman who spearheaded the effort is a pioneer in the genre that, at the time, was just a few years ahead of itself.

We were offering valuable content to its members, asking them to contribute their own content and to keep the conversation moving along by commenting on fellow members' writings. And this was before social media became the behemoth it is today.

It wasn't journalism in the way I had practiced it up to that point. But as I saw the waning influence of print and the rise of the web as an information medium, the stage was set for a revolution of sorts (some will say "paradigm shift," but that's a cliche I just don't want to use - blecch!) in how journalists and news providers interact with the public.

It's that notion of community that has forced many journalists to emerge from their foxholes and interact with their readers. And while some have embraced it, others have had a hard time with the change. Traditionally, the typical journalist has been an inward-looking sort focused on the facts and getting the story out to the masses, then going home - maybe after stopping at the local bar for a scotch on the rocks - and repeating the process the next day.

But the web has turned journalism inside out, forcing many reporters and editors to belly up to a laptop instead of a bar. Why? You might say it's all about marketing, trying to build more buzz for a good story. But it's more than that. The tools of online community - blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets, and the like - are also about bringing a key element of American society, the media, closer to the people it serves. Some giants in the media field have begun to embrace that, looking for social media experts who have strong journalism instincts.

A reader wants to know more than what he or she reads in a story? The journalist can provide that in a matter of keystrokes, or even through video. Someone wants to take issue with a part of the story? The reporter or an editor can be available to respond.

This is not just a matter of practicing good public relations. It's part of being a community that invites members to participate and add to the discussion. It's what journalism has been trying to attain for decades. Now, it has the tools to help reach it.

What do you think? Should journalists be more involved in "online communities?" Share your thoughts in a comment below.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

IT Drives the Future of Health Care

An article on last week brought a smile to my face regarding the promise of information technology in improving a sector of the economy that will impact all of us to a greater degree over the next two decades: health care.

For all the concerns surrounding the delivery of health care -- costly defensive medicine, data privacy, coordinated care, the rising cost of insurance, and health care reform among them -- technological innovation looms as a key to the solution.

The article profiled a Texas hospital system's use of iPads and iPhones and how they're allowing doctors and nurses to have more face time with patients, rather than sit behind a computer at a nurses' station inputting data. Just think of it for a minute: Nurse or doctor visits patient, records blood pressure and medication changes on a tablet, which updates the patient's electronic medical record so that it's easily viewable the next time another nurse or doctor checks in with their tablet.

More of the same can be done for patients receiving health care at home, since it removes some of the stress from the nearest hospital that would otherwise have admitted the patient. That allows the hospital to devote more time to tend to patients who need more acute care, thus removing costs from the system. That can slow the rate of increases in health insurance premiums or, even better, lower them.

It's already happening and we should expect more of it. Information technology is at the forefront of this change and will play an even bigger part going forward, especially after the federal government announced this week that it's investing nearly $5 million in projects that support innovations in research, and encouraging health care IT development through such mechanisms as prizes and challenges.

If innovation and improved service delivery in IT can improve health care while controlling costs, especially as the Baby Boomers age, it's hard to see how anyone loses.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Don't Put Your Job Search on a Summer Vacation

The unemployment rate for May rose, which may discourage job seekers in finding new jobs as we head into summer.

Don't fall into that trap! There's a good reason why you should keep pushing as the temperatures get hotter. Read my latest blog post on Jackalope Jobs.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We May Like Our Message, But Does Our Audience?

A recent Harvard Business Review blog post got me thinking about how others perceive us, how we think they can perceive us incorrectly, and how those misperceptions might be our own fault.

The post tells of how a successful research analyst who had lived by and succeeded with a set of values instilled by her father had a difficult time landing a new job after losing her old one. In her job interviews, she exuded a long-held confidence and decisiveness, thinking those qualities were a winning combination anywhere.

What she didn't anticipate was how her interviewers would see that. She discovered that her style was off-putting to some and a big reason she had a difficult time finding a new job.

To adjust, she did what every job seeker, sales representative, and even every journalist interviewer should do: Consider the conversation from the point of view of the other person. What are they looking for? What makes them open up and offer more information? Is there something in your manner, your tone, or your level of empathy that can get them to do what you would like them to do, such as hire you, buy from you, or give you valuable information?

For many of us who are passionate and driven, this is difficult to accomplish. But the most important communication comes in listening: how you process not only what is said, but how it's said, and what kind of body language a person emits during a conversation. Many people (and there really are many) depend too heavily on e-mail, texting, and instant messaging to communicate with others, even when they're within earshot. That can give you the courage you can't muster when it's time for a face-to-face conversation that's less than pleasant, but you tend to miss a lot that lies beyond the spoken word.

So, if you're wondering why you can't make it to the next step of the job search process, why you can't land a big sale, or why others question your motives, think about the message you're sending beyond your words.

And if you rely too much on your fingers to do your talking, step away from the keyboard and use your mouth once in a while.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Journalism Will Always Be a Noble Calling

There are a few veteran journalists and former journalists who no doubt relish the prospect of giving one word of advice to teenagers who are thinking about working in media.

That one word? "Don't!"

True, it's not an easy place to be with information consumers getting their news from various sources - credible and otherwise - and only when they want to read or hear it. And the flight of advertising revenue away from newspapers has changed the way they do business while prematurely ending a few journalism careers.

It has been several years since I worked in a pure journalism setting, although I have utilized the same skills in different arenas. Many former colleagues have undergone similar transformations and now work in such fields as marketing communications and public relations (others freelance for a living). But even if you take an experienced journalist out of journalism, you'll have a hard time taking journalism out of the journalist.

Why? It starts with the curiosity about how things work, how things happen, and how everything comes together in one cohesive story. You know what's important to the reader and how to communicate it. You like putting threads of stories together and write or broadcast it in a way that makes sense to both you and your audience. You crave for those moments when the information you write has made an impact on someone's life.

That's what has driven the journalists of yesterday, and it's what drives those who want to enter the profession today.

Earlier this month, Robert Krulwich, an award-winning broadcast journalist, acknowledged the difficulties and challenges that new journalists graduating from college face today. In his commencement speech to journalism school graduates at UCal-Berkeley, Krulwich told them to keep pushing and make their own breaks. "People who fall in love with journalism, who stay at it, who stay stubborn, very often win. I don't know why, but I've seen it happen over and over."

I have too. I have seen former colleagues who used to wonder why they majored in journalism go on to rewarding careers. And I have seen journalists pursue something else after enjoying success in the field. It happens anywhere and everywhere.

The world will always need people to pursue the story: get the facts, assemble then into a coherent whole, and present them in a compelling way that says "Here's why this is important."

It's a noble and sometimes stressful calling. But it will always be necessary no matter the age in which we live.

So,  you want to be a journalist? "Do!"

What's your view on the current state of journalism? Please share them in a comment below.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

3 Tips to Plug a Gap in Your Resume

As I was watching ABC News last night, I listened intently to its report on how long-term unemployed Americans are facing an unfair - but for the most part legal - discrimination in the job market. Employers have included the following phrase (or something similar) in their job postings: "Must be currently employed."

In other words, if you've been out of work more than six months, don't even think about sending a resume because you're damaged goods, and if no one else will hire you, why should we?

What was even worse was an employer's response to a reporter's question on why the phrase is in the posting: "That's what many employers do." My initial response as I shook my head? "So, if many employers were jumping off a cliff ... "

As if it's hard enough being tossed out of work through no fault of your own.

But this underscores a hard and valuable lesson for the millions of Americans out of work, whether it's been a week or a year: Don't sit around doing nothing! You need to stay in the game by doing at least one of the following while you search for new full-time jobs:

  • Line up freelance or contract work. It may not be consistent, but if you can do something to bring in at least a little money, you can maintain your skills or build new ones. And you have something to add to your resume.
  • Volunteer. If you have a cause you're passionate about, and it can benefit from having someone with your skills and background, contact someone at an appropriate non-profit. This website - VolunteerMatch - acts as a recruiting tool for thousands of non-profits.
  • Go back to school or obtain a certification. Can you improve your chances of landing the kind of job you want by taking a course or two? Adding a technical certification? Going back to school for a bachelor's or master's degree? Surf the web for both online and in-class opportunities.

The lesson here is that doing something is better than doing nothing. And if you're facing a lengthy unemployment, it's up to you to fill the "gap" that will eventually appear on your resume if you do nothing. The fleeting nature of jobs and changes in corporate goals and strategies have all but killed the concept of "job longevity." It's up to you, the job seeker, to manage your career rather than have your employers manage it for you.

If you're unemployed, how have you kept yourself busy? Tell me in a comment below.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The CIO’s New Role for a New Decade

It’s amazing what the aftermath of a recession can do for the position of chief information officer.

When we emerged from the downturn of the early ‘90s, we saw the rise of the CIO as the manager of the corporate IT function. The problem was that the CIO was seen more as a glorified technical expert. IT was a function that needed to be managed while it kept the networks running.

Fast-forward a few years. The Internet became a critical part of every business strategy, and after the recession of 2001 and 2002, more businesses were viewing IT as a strategic asset that needed a leader rather than a manager. So, CIOs began reporting to CEOs, business analysts talked about the need for “strategic alignment” between IT and the rest of the business, and CIOs were tasked with answering questions about “how IT can help us deliver on our strategic goals.”

Today, of course, we’re coming out of the Great Recession. I can say that without hesitation because I have yet to find a survey or research report that says IT spending is not going up. But, just like the aftermaths of the two previous economic downturns, there are new issues on the CIO’s plate, namely:

  • Whether cloud computing can help IT and save the company money;
  • What to do about the use of mobile devices throughout the workplace;
  • How to enhance the user experience through mobile technology as a way to boost revenue;
  • How to manage the risks in such strategic undertakings as cloud computing and offshore outsourcing; and
  • Watching out for new technologies that can boost revenue and provide competitive advantage.
It’s that last bullet point that can define the CIO’s role for this decade. The IT leader who can see the potential in a new technology, effectively link that with a strategic business goal, and line up the right resources to execute that goal will be the most valued among his peers. Chris Curran addressed this “power of prediction” in a recent article on, linking the power of today’s technology as an aide for forward-thinking IT leaders.

“We now have powerful tools for predicting the future, and the data, technology and people who know how to use those tools to generate actionable information and reliable forecasts,” he wrote. “Digitally enabled conversations, movements tracked by a global positioning system (GPS), and online communications can be valuable (if sometimes controversial) sources of information for analysis, baselines and comparisons. It seems like every company I talk to lately is interested in creating an information advantage. I think they're on the right track.”

If he’s right, the role of the CIO will have completed its 180-degree turn from simply a manager of an ancillary function to a key strategic partner.

What do you think? Are more CIOs now seen as key players in the executive suite? And are they earning that status? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Leaving Your Job? Don't Go Out Like the Lakers Did!

There's going out with a bang, going out with a whimper, going out with class, going out angry - and then there's the 2010-2011 Los Angeles Lakers.

When you leave a job, voluntarily or not, it's important that you leave on the most positive terms possible. Otherwise, you may be carrying some unnecessary baggage to your next job interview and for many years into your career.

Sure, you have the right to mutter and muse privately about how the job was difficult, the boss was a control freak and ogre who never met a cocktail he didn't like, or that your co-workers were incompetent backstabbers. But dirty laundry is and should always be a private matter.

Now, as for the Lakers, they ended their basketball season with a highly discordant bang and a boom Sunday. In their playoff-eliminating loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers lost by an embarrassing 36 points and saw two of their players ejected after committing harder than hard fouls.  It was an ugly exit for a team that won the NBA title last year. When the team takes the court again in less than six months, that exit will still be on the minds of more than a few basketball fans.

Here are two reasons why you should leave a job with class and keep negative feelings to yourself:

  • Look forward, not backward. Your focus should be on the next step in your career. If you're asked about what happened at the job you left, state the reason factually and without a hint of emotion. ("My boss and I had differences of opinion on how to get the job done. Try as I did to do it his way, he still thought things weren't working out.") Then, turn the focus to what you learned on the job and how it can help a new employer. There's a better chance the hiring manager will focus on that and not on the reasons behind your departure.
  • Employers don't like malcontents. If you diss a former employer, the hiring manager for what could be your new employer may wonder if he or she will be in for the same treatment once you leave. They don't want that. They're looking for someone who will do the job, get along with coworkers, and have good things to say about the place during and after your employment.

If you want a hiring manager to remember you well after a job interview, be sure it's for something positive, memorable, and thought-provoking that you say that can create a great, lasting impression.

What advice would you like to share about leaving a job that created a lot of negative, personal feelings? Please share them in a comment below.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Want to Get Hired? Follow
This Hiring Manager's Stern Advice

Ahhh, but if all hiring managers were like Mark Hannan ...

Hannan authored a letter that was highlighted earlier this year in a post on the blog Career Enlightenment.

The letter states what he as a hiring manager expects to see on a job seeker's resume and cover letter, in no uncertain terms. Among his expectations:

  • "I am not looking to provide a temporary pit stop on applicant’s road to the perfect job."
  • " ... The percentage of applicants who provide thorough, complete and correct applications is low, so you do not have to do anything “eye-catching” or extra ordinary. A simple well-written cover letter and a well organized, standard resume will stand out from the rest, believe it or not."
  • "Please do not regurgitate the job posting in your cover letter. I wrote it so I know what it says. A specific detail or very specific, short example of your past success that will directly apply to your future success with the company will pique my interest and encourage me to read more about you."

All the more reason that, if you're applying for the job, you had better be ready to tell the hiring manager what you can do in the short term and how you can fit in with the company long term. Don't take the attitude that this will be merely a pit stop.

Also, make your resume and cover letter easy to read. As an editor, I advise writers to "give the reader a break" by using bullet points, boldface type (see above) and some italics for emphasis. (uhhh, I got a bit carried away.)

Finally, know yourself, what you've done, and how your past accomplishments can be repeated in the future. If they can't see it in your resume and cover letter, it's your job to make them see it. Unlike the stock market, past performance is an indicator of future success.

What do you think is critical to getting hired? Share your views in a comment below.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Over 50? Three Ways to Combat
the 'Overqualified' Label

You're over 50, smart, creative, and with a lot of experience and know-how that exceed anything someone in his or her 20s, 30s or even 40s possesses.

And employers don't want to come near you because they think you're "overqualified" for the job, especially if it's at a level below your last or current position.

Can I get a "Yup!" from anyone who agrees with that? Or has experienced it?

Employers have a well-based fear that they'll hire someone who will be inclined to bolt if a better opportunity comes knocking after a year or two. But that's more likely to happen with someone who's younger and looking to advance in their career. For many workers in their 50s, there isn't a lot of advancing to do before they retire. Rather, they're looking to wind down and eliminate the stress that high-pressure jobs have inflicted on them over the years. They may have paid for their kids' college educations and be close to becoming mortgage free, but they want to be productive and ratchet up their retirement savings.

Employers may not see that. In fact, they may be concerned with three things: Will he cost too much? Will he be happy working with colleagues who are young enough to be his children? Can he deal with change?

If you're over 50, you'll need to be prepared to address these concerns if you're angling for a job you want at a company you want to work for. Here's how:

  • Will you cost too much?  This is a major consideration for employers today. First, research the salary range for the position. (Sites such as and Glassdoor provide helpful data.) If the data show you'd have to take a pay cut, and you're comfortable with it, tell the hiring manager that salary is not your only consideration in accepting a job offer. If you like the job, your would-be colleagues, and the company's culture and direction, emphasize their importance in taking the job.
  • Will you be happy working with younger colleagues?  There's something to be said for working with people your own age, but this presents a learning opportunity--for both sides. If you're not social media-savvy, for example, you can learn from your younger colleagues. At the same time, your experience provides them with an opportunity to learn from you, especially you share the same skill set. So, address how you can serve as an in-house mentor to others.
  • Can you deal with change?  If you've been used to working for companies that stayed the course over many years, or you worked in only one or two roles, your ability to deal with change will be called into question. And, rightly or wrongly, the older you are, the worse the perception will be that you can't deal with change. But today's faster pace of business requires everyone to be flexible and adapt to changes in the marketplace. Be ready to demonstrate how you've dealt with change before. 

Employers that write you off because of your age and what you may command in salary do so at their peril because they're depriving themselves of the experience you bring. Aim for the companies that have the foresight to see how you fit into the role, not the other way around.

What tips do you have for older job seekers who face the "overqualified" issue? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Role of the Content Strategist

Businesses are waking up - albeit slowly - to the value a content strategy can bring to their marketing efforts. And a few are finding it important enough that they're hiring a new breed of editorial professional: the content strategist.

If you asked me 30 years ago how I would define a content strategist, my then daily newspaper industry-limited thoughts would have turned to a managing editor or editor in chief who was planning the next day's edition and asking a reporter why the school committee couldn't settle on a budget.

Well, we know what's been happening to daily newspapers, as well as reader interest in a school committee's budget deliberations.

But there are indeed parallels between a newspaper editor and a content strategist. For example:

  • They have to know the mission. Both the newspaper editor and the content strategist aim to get people to read their stuff. The more people who read it, the more valuable the medium or brand becomes.
  • They need to know the audience. Both need to answer the question: "What do my readers want to know? How can I best deliver that information?"
  • They must know how to get the right content. The "old school" editor would generally lean toward someone with at least a little subject-matter knowledge before assigning a story. Today, the content strategist looks for that same type of expertise. For instance, a content provider who's not skilled in video production will not be asked to produce a two-minute video.
This is just a baseline comparison, of course. Today's content strategist must also be aware of the many different ways a business can deliver its content today, from e-books and white papers to webinars and social media. And sometimes it takes more than one of those vehicles to get the message out. The key is to determine how to get the reader/listener/viewer--aka, the "target customer"--to pay enough attention to convince him or her to buy your company's product or service.

Whether you're thinking 1981 or 2011, the ultimate goal is the same.

What are your thoughts on the value of content strategy? Tell me in a comment below.