One of the challenges for those of us in alternative LIS careers is how to describe ourselves. Information consultant? Check. Independent information professional? Check. Consulting/freelance/contract/independent librarian? Yep.
But the role I most often end up playing is information strategist. And what the heck, you may ask, is that?
The Information Strategist’s Role
As an information strategist, I work with for-profit and nonprofit organizations to help them create an information strategy that aligns with and drives their strategic goals. I meet with key members of the organization to determine answers to the following questions:
What are the organization’s strategic goals? For example, is it trying to recruit new members or increase donor contributions? Is this year’s goal to develop new markets, or increase revenue from existing clients? Is the board pushing for greater visibility and credibility among thought leaders, scholars, the media? Or is more effectively disseminating information to the public for broader impact your client’s most pressing mandate?
These are only some of the goals that clients may have that can be supported by print and/or online information content.
What information content will help support/drive achievement of those goals? For example, if the goal is to increase visibility among thought leaders, scholars, and the media, the client might consider doing a monthly interview/column with industry influentials and academic scholars to be posted at the website, then creating an annual compilation of key quotes, trends, and ideas to circulate to the media for story ideas.
My job would be to help them develop the concept, establish processes for creating the monthly column, research and recommend individuals to interview, possibly do the interviews, create the annual summary and analysis for the media, and identify the appropriate media contacts for distribution.
What information content does the organization already have? Many organizations have been creating information content for decades. This can include publications, video and audio pieces, oral histories, conference proceedings, training materials, archival photographs and memorabilia, and similar sorts of materials.
Often this can be repackaged and repurposed to provide membership incentives, additional revenue streams, or reference materials of value to scholars, researchers, and the media, among other options. For example, print content can be digitized and housed in a searchable, fee-based database, or made available to members for free as a benefit for signing on.
What other information content needs to be created, licensed, aggregated, or otherwise acquired? Would a research guide on how to find industry statistics be useful to researchers and the media? Would an online tutorial on how to be an effective online learner help potential students sign up for your degree program? Would a members-only column by a best-selling expert on personal finance cause people to join your investment club? Would a directory of clinicians specializing in disability rehabilitation draw users to you site, and thus increase advertising revenue?
From Information Strategy to Execution
Based on the answers to these questions, I then work with the client to develop and execute a project plan that incorporates all of the actions we’ve agreed will help achieve the highest-priority goals.
Sometimes this is a phased plan, with priorities set over a 6- or 12- or even 18-month period; others times we’re pushing against a website launch date that has us all scrambling to create and/or aggregate as much content as possible in the shortest amount of time humanly possible! (Actually, it’s usually the latter….)
To wrap up the project (or build an ongoing relationship), I then help clients determine how they will maintain and update the content elements we’ve built, and consider additional ways that information content can help them continue to expand their opportunities with current or new constituencies.
Information as a Strategic Asset
So what is an information strategist? From my perspective, it’s someone who sees information as a strategic asset, and is able to help organizations use it to achieve their goals. And from my experience, it’s a career path that many LIS professionals would be great at!