San Diego Business Journal

Content Strategists Take Medium and Messages to the Next Level

TECHNOLOGY: Firms Get Help in Creating an Effective Online Presence By Brad Graves Monday, July 2, 2012
Shelly Bowen, content strategist and owner of Pybop LLC, which stands for ‘Put Your Brain on Paper,’ has worked with Intuit and RealAge designing online content for websites and other applications. Bowen says many web developers design the site first, then develop the content to fit, which is not the optimal way to design online content.

Shelly Bowen, content strategist and owner of Pybop LLC, which stands for ‘Put Your Brain on Paper,’ has worked with Intuit and RealAge designing online content for websites and other applications. Bowen says many web developers design the site first, then develop the content to fit, which is not the optimal way to design online content. Photo by Stephen Whalen.

Caritta Lee says her job is part treasure hunter, part artist and part scientist.

Actually, she is none of the above.

Lee is a content strategist, overseeing the website of San Diego County’s third largest public company, Life Technologies Corp.

Just as books have editors to make everything hang together, websites have content strategists. People who practice this digital-age craft say that as sites are created, grow larger and develop, they need content strategists to maintain consistency, focus and timeliness.

Content strategy is an emerging practice, said Shelly Bowen, a San Diego-based content strategist and principal of Pybop LLC.

Lee arrived at Life Technologies in April and was handed the task of improving the biotech company’s online presence. Life Technologies has grown to $3.78 billion in revenue. Its website, meanwhile, has sprawled to 10,000 to 12,000 pages. “We don’t know how many,” Lee said.

To get a handle on the project, Lee said she chose a piece of it — website pages on the subject of cloning — then settled down to read every bit of copy and catalog all the components, such as PDF files and videos.

Once she’s done with this audit, she and her co-workers will set out to improve the site.

Lee puts her bachelor’s degree in biology to good use in her job, presenting information to scientists. There is also a scientific component in the structure or framework of the website. She compares it to the floor plan of a house.

Content is King

When it comes time to redecorate the house, Lee and the Life Technologies staff can discuss content such as videos and copy. That’s the artistic part of the job.

Lee previously worked as a content strategist with Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online, and in Web content roles at Myspace and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Content strategy is “the buzzword of 2011,” said Edwin Lap, CEO of Cofa Media, an interactive agency with an office in Carlsbad and 11 employees.

And it’s at the core of all websites, Lap said, whether they are five pages for a small business, or 2,000 pages for a big business.

Pybop’s Bowen falls back on the words of Kristina Halvorson, who runs a business called Brain Traffic in the Twin Cities, for a description of the discipline: content strategy is “the practice of planning for the creation, delivery and governance of useful, useable content.”

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