What’s going on in the kitchen.

On multiple occasions this week, I have been told at work that I “should be so excited” about a copywriting project because “of all the content strategy” or, invariably, “content marketing.”

Face. Palm.

This simply serves to drive home the point that these terms are poorly defined, at least in my place of business. Most of my coworkers don’t know what they mean or what the difference is or, it seems, that there even is a difference.

Which got me thinking: I need a super-easy way to differentiate content strategy from content marketing from content creation (because — just to be incredibly clear — strategic thinking in a copywriting job does not a content strategy job make).

Then I remembered Margot Bloomstein’s metaphor. As far as I can tell, Margot is the queen of metaphors, and this is no exception — her book makes quick reference to the idea of content strategy as Thanksgiving dinner. And while I’ve had a lot of trouble explaining content strategy to my coworkers, it suddenly hit me that this might be exactly the comparison to clarify it all.

Here’s how it works: in this metaphor, I am a meal-planner. I am responsible for creating the menu — including selecting recipes, ordering the courses, deciding which salad should follow which appetizer, determining which protein matches which side dish, pairing wines, and ensuring there’s room for dessert. I can itemize the grocery list, ensure that the produce is locally sourced, and choose only seasonally appropriate dishes. I can make sure that the kitchen is stocked with the right spices and the right tools, and give direction to the chef.

And the key is: I’m not the chef.

I want to be responsible for strategy, for structure, for direction — not execution. And I think this is really clearly understood when you talk about food, something familiar to everyone. But the moment you throw around words like “content” and “strategy,” the whole thing gets muddied.

And where does marketing fit in? Well, someone needs to get the word out about the meal. This needs less of a metaphor — all the same marketing techniques you’d employ for a restaurant (starting with, say, a good location and appealing storefront, a menu prominently displayed, and positive reviews and word of mouth) apply here. Content marketing is responsible for getting people into the restaurant. Content strategy is what ensures they have a good experience once they’re there. And content creation is what’s going on in the kitchen.

I don’t know if this metaphor will clear things up for others, or if it will get coworkers to stop suggesting that I should be thrilled to be “doing content strategies” when I’m copywriting. But I like the simplicity of it. Much thanks to @mbloomstein for the insight.

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