Content Strategy: Links and Next Steps

Whether or not you heard yesterday’s presentation by Lindsey Gates-Markel of Pixo on content strategy, you may be interested in learning more about it and how you can get involved in doing it:

  • Read. Two authors whose names come up A LOT when people talk about content strategy: Seth Godin and Kristina Halvorson.
  • Network. A local organization for meeting local people involved in content strategy: UX-Champaign Urbana, which has regular get-togethers and a content strategy subgroup/book club.
  • Create content.  Any U of I student can create a U of I branded website using  Make one for your RSO (or make an RSO for whatever you’re doing anyway and then make the p.i.e. site) and use the site to develop and showcase your skills in advancing your organization’s message and meeting the needs of your members.
  • Offer some strategy.  THIS website needs help!  Think about what works on this site and what doesn’t and how it could better meet your needs.  What story does this site tell?  What story should it tell?  Email me (Kirstin Wilcox) at with your thoughts or call 333-4346 to set up an appointment.  Or, if you think this website is just dandy, find another in which you have some stake and consider the same issues.


As You Plan Your Week Ahead…

Lindsey_blogMon., 10/26, 4 – 5pm in EB 149: Careers in Content Strategy with Lindsey Gates-Markel of Pixo (a custom software company in Urbana.

The Department of EnglishWed., 10/29. 5 – 6pm in EB 160: Enhancing Your Public Speaking, with Prof. Dale Bauer, Prof. Janice Harrington, Prof. Andrew Gaedtke, and members of the ESC.

And of course, in between, don’t forget…the English Student Council Annual Halloween Party!  This can’t-miss event takes place on Tues., 10/27, 6 – 7:30pm in the English Building Atrium (aka, the Mary Kay Peer Lounge).  Will the English Bldg. ghost show up this year?  Perhaps…if enough people come in costume.



Content Strategy! (Or, as we used to call it…writing. For money.)

Lindsey_blogEnglish and Creative Writing majors are good at content strategy, a growing field.  It’s hard to apply for jobs doing it if you don’t know what it is, though.  Lindsey Markel-Gates, a content strategist with Pixo, a custom software company in Urbana, will explain what she does (and how you can do it, too), on MONDAY, Oct. 26, at 4pm in EB 149.

Here’s an interview she did with the News-Gazette a few years ago (and before she started working for Pixo):

Here’s her current bio on the Pixo website:

Should You Write for Free?

writeforfoodA lot of online publications are looking for writers. Just this week, there have been a couple of links on our Facebook page: The Artifice and Impulse (edited by English major Alyssa Rege!).  Other publications haven’t yet made a pitch for English department writers this semester, but they have in the past and may do so again: Spoon University, Her Campus, Black Sheep.  None of them pay for articles.  Some of them offer opportunities to edit if writers stay with the publication, and sometimes those people get paid.

Here are some reasons to write for free:

  • You can develop writing samples (often requested by employers looking to hire creative talent).
  • It’s fun.
  • Writing about something you care about for an audience will develop your voice.
  • You can gain the skills and experience you need to get paid to write.

Here are some reasons not to write for free:

  • It can take time away from paid employment or other career-building activities.
  • It’s not fun.
  • Your writing is worth something.
  • These publications only flourish because people are willing to write for free.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make a commitment to writing for free:

Would a byline there make you look appealing to the organizations you would like to work for eventually?  The answer to this question isn’t always obvious.  If your goal is a high-end PR firm, the link to a Black Sheep article might not help you much; if you want to break into screenwriting or entertainment, it’s a rare opportunity to showcase your cutting-edge vulgarity,

Will it be fun?  If you like it–and it gives you the same entertainment value as other things you do for fun–then why not?  If you have things to say, it’s good to have a way to say them.

Will it take time away from other things you could be doing to get professional experience?

Do you have good reasons for writing-for-free for an online publication, rather than a print one?  The Daily Illini, Buzz, Public I, and other campus and community publications are also looking for writers and can supply you with the immediacy of an office and a real-life staff.  One is not necessarily better than the other, but it’s a good idea to reflect on what you plan to gain from the experience and why the online publication seems like the best way to gain it.

Will you get editorial support and supervision to help you grow as a writer?  Some publications will publish anything, others are cultivating a brand and subject writers to a great deal of oversight. For writers, there are advantages to both approaches–it just depends on what you want to gain from the experience.

Do you have a plan for transitioning from writing for free to writing for money?  If you’re doing it to gain professional experience (rather than for the fun of it), then you should set a goal to mark where “writing to gain experience” ends and “getting exploited” begins: a time limit, a number of articles, a next step (e.g., an editorship on the publication or a part-time job or internship that uses your writing skills).

Some additional resources to help you understand the economics of writing in the internet age:

Writing for Free (The Atlantic Monthly)

When Should a Young Writer Write for Free?  (Salon Magazine)

Writing for Free on the Internet is an Enormous Boon to Society (Slate)

Writing for Free: Part II (Slate)