What’s the Difference between Media Planners and Content Strategists?

Here in the Middle East, there is a limited supply of seasoned content marketers, let alone content strategists (want to know what content strategists do? Here is a refresher). Often, content people are equated with media planners (and copywriters too, but that’s another story for another time). This post will examine what exactly sets a content strategist apart from other disciplines.

While sharing a few common traits, content strategists and planners must possess different skill sets. Here are some examples of what a typical content strategist should have:

A way with the written word: Content strategists should be well-versed in the art of the written word, in order to lead and therefore inspire the creative process. While planners assess a brand, its competitors or the industry, content strategists must prepare for words – a different exercise completely. You will find a lot of content strategists who were editors in previous lives, or still are on the side (like Erin Kissane). To illustrate how this skill is deployed, think of when strategists reach the phase of their plan where they have to create different audiences and craft appropriate messaging for each one of them. Take any museum of natural history for example, and how its website and social platforms cater for casual visitors, school groups, teachers and science geeks. Content strategists help craft different messaging for each of these audiences.

Subject matter expertise: A content professional is considered a “Jack of all trades”, with skills in multiple areas such as FMCG, B2B, sports, entertainment, etc. It’s more than research or the insights garnered therein – this knowledge is tangible to creation, guiding creativity through very particular complexities and industry or region-specific nuances (and in the Middle East, content is mostly about these nuances, really).

Manifesting insights into action: While sometimes diving into the depths of data planners’ reach, content strategists must be able to seize a planner’s insights while conveying exactly how that translates to each platform, regardless of size of investment or the seeming insignificance of certain things. It’s about turning insights into action on a very granular level (think of creating micro-copy for websites, landing pages that convert, social content that builds brand love, choosing content pieces that resonate with particular people and overseeing the implementation of content strategy therein).

The good news is that there’s room for both content strategists and planners, and what I’ve seen is that our skill-sets benefit greatly from integrated work. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts about this, especially my planner brethren. Are there any more similarities and what does a good digital planner’s skill set really look like? You can send your replies to