Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Goes into a Content Strategist's Portfolio

So how do you prove that you have great Web content strategy chops? I've been asked this question several times lately and I'm not sure that I have a great answer. A nice portfolio may not be necessary if you are interviewing for a full-time job. But if an agency wants to hire you on contract, they will usually have to sell you to the client, and to do that they will need a current resume and it really helps to have an attractive portfolio. So what goes into this portfolio?

Here are my suggestions:
  • Writing samples. Writing and editing are still a large part of the job, so you have to show that you are a very competent writer.
  • A Content Matrix sample. When interviewing potential new hires, I'm thrilled if the candidate even mentions that they understand what a content matrix is and how it is used. Show up with a sample as a client, I'd be thrilled.
  • Editorial Style Guide TOC. Just show me enough to prove that you understand the idea and could write something similar for me if needed.
  • TOC for other Content Strategy Documents. If you have done a content analysis or other client-facing documents, include a sample page or two and a TOC.
  • Annotated website screen shots for sites you worked on. Take a screen shot of a page of a site you worked on and annotate it with text explaining your contributions to the project.

OK, that's a good start but I'd love to hear your ideas! Please leave comments or send an email to with you ideas for how to create a kick-ass content strategist portfolio.


  1. As a n00b to the formal business of content strategy and dev, I'm having some trouble identifying the best format for all these items.

    Presumably one would need an electronic and a printed portfolio. Web-based ones seems the way to go for most, but I'm not at that stage yet.

    Two questions about the electronic version:

    1. For a PDF, would you recommend a horizontal or vertical layout? Or mixed? Horizontal is easy to read with no scrolling, but it tends to squish work published vertically. Re-arrange the work, perhaps? Or leave it in its original form? Specifically, I'm talking about print writing samples in typical 8.5x11 format.

    2. Again, with writing samples: How does one excerpt from it in a meaningful manner that preserves the unity of the whole? Just screen capture a particularly well-done page(s)? Snippets? The TOC?

    I apologize if these questions seem pedantic. My internet research isn't turning up anything.

    Thank you!!


  2. All great questions that many of us are struggling with.

    Regarding layout, I use a landscape page setting because I temd to have two columns of info. One column has the sample and the other usually has some callouts and explanations.

    For samples, I have a few small ones in what I send out, with a note saying that I will bring compete, un-edited samples for review at an interview due to privacy and contractual concerns. I will let the person interviewing me read the complete samples, but they cannot keep the or make copies. Clients understand this and will probably appreciate your professionalism and feel confident that you will give them the same respect at future interviews with other companies.

    We are all working this out together, so please post any ideas that seem to work for you! Thanks:)