Content Strategy behind the scenes with Alison Burke
To showcase the personalities behind content strategy, I chose individuals from all over the world and asked them about what insights and life experience they can offer the rest of us.
What was your first job?
My first job was way back when I was 15 at a fast food place. But I assume you mean my first career job. That was at a nonprofit cultural enrichment organization called CreateHere in Chattanooga, TN. It was an interesting place where everyone did everything and I had a kind of hybrid role that was equal parts writing, project management, and facilitation. I learned a lot about resourcefulness and being comfortable in ambiguity — and also learned how much I love working as a problem-solver.
How did you begin to work in Content Strategy?
I think I’ve been doing content strategy since before it was a term. In my experience, companies usually only feel they need one writer, which gives us the challenge and opportunity to take on a lot of different roles at once. I’d say my entry point into content strategy mainly came from asking the questions that I didn’t see anyone else asking.
What was the highlight of your career so far?
I’m really proud to be a part of the team I’m on now and helping to build a healthcare experience that puts people at the center of its aspirations. PillPack is very design-driven and I feel lucky to get to build a voice for something as impactful, iterative, and mission-driven as our company is.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Content Strategy?
This is a tricky one! Mainly because I think the term is still new to many organizations and teams, so a lot of companies say “we need a content strategy!” without a real understanding of what it means.
I think the biggest misconception is that writing and strategy are the same job. While one person can (and often does) do both, they’re very separate efforts — and when each is given enough weight, they’re both full time jobs.
What’s the situation of Content Strategy in your country?
It’s still very much developing as a discipline. And I would say it’s largely undervalued. Aside from a few companies who understand the fundamental importance of an ongoing strategy, it’s not something that’s ranked highly among resourcing priorities.
What’s your favorite buzzword?
Haha. I generally try to avoid them, but “Zoom fatigue” is pretty relatable right now
Do you have any role model in your field and/or is there anyone on social media you find professionally inspiring to follow?
John Saito is always a favorite. I also love receiving certain weekly/monthly emails, like The Dash from UX Writer’s Collective, as well as Word Design Doctor by Georgina Laidlaw and Brain Pickings by Maria Popova.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
I always think of Ira Glass’ advice about what he calls ‘the taste gap,’ meaning that
our taste is always higher than what we can actually create. It can be disappointing, but you just have to keep pushing and practicing to try and hit your own bar.