Are "Content Counsellors" the next big thing?

And the eight traits of a good one

I’ve been struggling with the topic of this post for a couple of weeks.

On one hand, I think there is some substance to it, while on the other, it potentially borders on gimmicky too.

Instead of continuing to have this discussion with myself, I thought I’d lay it on you and see what you think.

So here goes, the latest in the long line of posts looking at how comms folk have evolved…

Job Description: Content Counsellor


It is becoming more widely accepted that the advent of social media has changed the way the traditional agency / business model works.

For decades, thanks mainly to the power of newspapers, the release and production of news content could be astutely crafted by a PR agency, signed off by a client, and then distributed to the media – all to a schedule, allowing ‘staged news’ to prosper.

Real-time and social media have changed this because businesses don’t just make statements to the media via official press releases anymore – a Facebook update, a Tweet, a forum response – these are all official and public communications.

It is for this reason that I, like a lot of other people, don’t think agencies should be DOING social media for businesses.

Instead, our role should be to train up relevant talent internally, act as on-going mentors, provide strategic counsel and help them be prepared for the next thing that comes along.

The engagement HAS to come from internal teams because they are speaking on behalf of the business everyday.

The challenge / opportunity

So where does that leave agencies and consultants?

Well, the content production role doesn’t disappear completely, but a new type of advisor is also increasing in demand – this person, for lack of a better phrase, is a Content Counsellor.

In other words, as people who (should) know what constitutes great content, our role is to optimize content and ideas to appeal to the audiences relevant to a business.

Let me attempt to bring this to life by using the skill set of a ‘regular’ counsellor as a basis…

Eight traits of a good “Content Counsellor”

When I had this thought a few weeks back, my initial idea was to pick out a few common traits of ‘life’ counsellors and then adapt them for PR / comms purposes.

After reading a post called ‘Being a good counsellor – What skills are important for effective consulting’, they can all be applied.


Post says:“A good counselor is someone who can learn not to make judgments on behalf of the person being helped. Although counsellors have their own values, these should not be imposed on the client – and the counsellor must retain the ability to listen to and accept the views of clients with other standards.”

Lesson: Listen more and help the client make decisions they are comfortable with based on weighing up things properly, not under duress or excessive influence.

Patience and Acceptance

Post says: “A counselor rarely needs to use his or her self control in dealing with people, even those people who are not likeable.”

Lesson: This almost sounds like it should be the founding principal of communications consultancy – yes clients can be tough at time, but when they are required by their businesses / bosses to evolve, cut them some slack and be there for them…as opposed to getting frustrated and yelling “they just don’t get it!!”


Post says: “Learning to grow into a more complete person from the experience of life’s hard knocks can be a valuable quality in a counselor.”

Lesson: Go and set up personal blogs, make mistakes, over-share on Twitter – doing all these things yourself can help you understand the learning curve a client may be experiencing.


Post says: “Formal degrees in psychology do not necessarily make good counsellors, but a common sense approach is not sufficient. Good counsellors are willing and able to learn about themselves and other people too.”

Lesson: The exact same thing could be said for communicators. This is why the more progressive communicators share their information and thinking online – these people want to learn.

Social Skills

Post says: “It is not enough to be considered to be a good listener. Counselors learn through training how to perceive all aspects of verbal and non-verbal communication, and deliberately improve their listening skills by using appropriate techniques during counselling.”

Lesson: I thought this one was too good to be true when I first read it. Understanding the tools that help businesses listen to conversations online is hugely beneficial.

Genuineness and Warmth

Post says: “Effective counsellors have a genuine interest in other people. This is often referred to as respect or unconditional positive regard for the person being helped. People who do not need others in their lives may find this sort of warmth to unknown people as being problematic.”

Lesson: Communicators who do take a genuine interest in the people they are working with, understanding the political and organisational challenges they face, often add more value than those who don’t.


Post says: Counselors must show complete discretion, never revealing what others say or do within the counselling context. Confidentiality is paramount in counseling relationships.

Lesson: This one sells itself, but remember that people within organisations don’t necessarily like their superiors know that they have skill deficiencies – take people to the side to explain things instead of showing how smart you are in front of a crowd.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Post says: Counseling requires a lot of training, followed by much practice. A current job that will allow the possibility of a helping role could be very useful.

Lesson: No-one is an expert when it comes to social media channels (they just haven’t been around long enough yet) so practice the techniques you advise in your daily life.


I just used 993 words to delivery a pretty simple message:

Communicators often look to other professions for better ways of doing things – this might be one worth adding to that list.

What do you think?

Got what it takes to be a Content Counsellor?

Or am I talking nonsense?

Adam is the blog from Adam Vincenzini which focuses on social media and PR. Connect with Adam on Twitter or subscribe to his blog.


  • Reply February 18, 2011


    I’m not sure. I think you may have just come up with a pretty & modern skin for what the previous agency/client relationship was – the only thing that had changed was the channel.

    PR agencies didn’t create the news, well not hard news. It came from the client and the agency helped them to shape it for the best possible delivery by the client to the audience. Yes PR agencies created soft news, the surveys, the polls, the formula and these are more likely to be dissembled through social media channels, as well as the more traditional PR routes.

    The skills you list above are all key but that was equally true pre-social media (whenever that actually started)

    However, I don’t think you are crazy 😉

  • Reply February 21, 2011

    Liz Guthridge

    I’ve been referring to this new role as a curator. The seven guiding principles are:
    1. We listen.
    2. We start conversations.
    3. We encourage many people to take part.
    4. We seek out the inclusion of diverse voices, especially if we notice a small subset are dominating the conversation.
    5. We summarize the key points and connect the dots, linking the conversation to the organization’s business strategy and other big themes.
    6. We measure the effectiveness of our conversations, including the number of people who participate, the quality, the actions taken, and the outcomes that result.
    7. We revive, remix and restart conversations.

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Dan Bischoff

    Good post. But I'm not sure if this type of thing is new. Haven't good PR people always been "content counselors?" We just have a lot more tools online than used to be there in the past.

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Lillian Dee Davenport

    As a neophyte "engager" for my company, I am having a blast. Formerly, most companies have not been going to the line to find the people to deliver messages to the company's "audience". I am enjoying the creativity of how to talk about what I do such that it interests and motivates our "audience". Our PR firm Stratos Group have provided essential access,

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Mike Matchet

    To add to Liz Guthridge's comment –

    We are rolling out a curation service (CIthread) in which we see agencies as our primary users for these very reasons. As a growing trend, we see some PR now working more to help their customers engage with communities of interest directly through their website and social media channels, and maybe less focused on outreach for external placement

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