We had an interview with Daisy Atkinson, Content Strategist at Croud.
She shared her valuable experiences and her career journey in digital agency life. Below, you can see the full Q&A and learn more about a digital marketing agency’s creative content process.
1. How did you become a content strategist? Could you tell us about your career journey, starting with your education?
I studied English at University and, having graduated during a recession, I read about the role of a copywriter in a Jobcentre directory. They make you wait a long time in there. Hours. And I needed something to read.
Of course, after my long wait, I found there wasn’t a job opening for a copywriter so, being a natural-born hustler, I wrote for nothing. It wasn’t my finest hour, writing for free, but it gave me a feel for the process of working with an editor and to brief – and meant I had something published to show.
Then, with a bit of practice under my belt, I graduated to the next step: writing for not very much.
As bleak as the paycheck was, I benefitted from a much more valuable asset: a top-notch editor. Your editor is your professional mentor and the one who will drive your career forward. Find a good one who deconstructs your work, the way you think about your work, and who pinpoints and circles your bad habits with a big red pen and inspires you with ways to fix them.
I’ve worked in-house, for agencies and freelanced a little, but learning from a great editor was probably the most valuable experience of the lot.
That being said, I haven’t hit the big time and bathed in its riches yet. But perhaps my crack at the copywriting millions is just around the corner.
2. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a content strategist, and how did you overcome it?
Forgiving myself for being a bad writer to begin with. In the digital age, your worst, most inarticulate, rambling work from 10 years ago sits side by side, ageless, with your current body of work, mocking your adult-ly accomplishments. It helps to update your online CV.
And cutthroat feedback. Copywriting is a very vulnerable display of your raw talent and it’s only natural your ego takes a knock from time to time. A thicker skin or a more distracting personal life helps you to leave criticism at the office.
3. What leads up to finding “the perfect” story for a brand?
There’s no substitute for knowing a brand inside out. Any research, assumptions, or strategies must come from a place of true knowledge of whom you’re writing for.
4. What are your expectations from a well-prepared client brief?
Tone of voice guidelines, essential talking points and a word count are usually enough to go on, but knowing the purpose or strategy behind a piece of content is invaluable to a writer’s ability to create copy that has the desired effect.
5. According to you, what are the top three skills that a content strategist should possess?
A sense of disappointment in the things you read or scripts you hear because you think you could have worded them better is a good place to start. It shows you’re switched on to the impact our communications have and you really appreciate them when they’re good.
An overbearingly analytical eye is also good for deconstructing everything you read (no matter how much you’re trying to enjoy it in the moment) in order to decipher just the right formula for recreating the same effect in your own writing.
A colossal vocabulary. It just makes sense.
6. Would you like to suggest any online courses for those who want to improve their copywriting skills?
While I can’t personally recommend any specific courses, the most important part of learning, no matter where you do it, is going through the writing and editing process. Do this as often as possible, edit the work of other people and learn from the way they edit yours.
7. Are there any hobbies or interests that helped you develop your copywriting skills?
I’m a big poetry fan. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking for the most powerful distillation of information, emotion and imagery through language, I don’t know of anything better.
8. What are your favorite tools to use as a content strategist, how are they helpful?
News apps, especially ones known for good quality journalism like The New York Times. You’ll find you wake up and read them in the morning, naturally consuming and learning from high calibre writing.
Grammarly. We all make mistakes and this will hoover up the laziest of them. Just don’t rely on it as you may autocorrect something you actually wanted to say.
Semrush Writing Assistant. This is great for SEO copywriting because it gives you the key terms you need for better search visibility and it can give you a quality score for your copy. Just don’t abuse its function. You can fool its quality score with good-looking copy, even if it doesn’t respond to the title or brief with sufficient knowledge.
9. Could you highlight the pros and cons of working remotely as a content strategist?
No one can see when it’s taken me 20 minutes to write one sentence. Sometimes you’re just not in the zone and the pressure of staring at a blank page with others watching doesn’t help. That’s definitely a downside, too. I could probably do with the impatient death-glare of colleagues every now and then to force out the copy a little quicker.
10. How has your experience been while working at a digital agency? What does “agency life” mean to you?
The best part of agency life is the variety of work and I imagine that’s the draw for most people. Working across a large number of brands gives you the chance to communicate different ideas in different voices. You get to hit the reset button every time you switch to writing for a different brand and that’s incredibly refreshing.
11. How does being a DAN member contribute to your agency’s success?
Our membership with DAN has not only allowed many of us at Croud to position ourselves as thought leaders, but it has also given us the opportunity to engage with and learn from our peers across the industry. It’s rewarding to be part of an online community of digital experts, and to have a platform through which we can share and gain insights on important industry news.