Discover the secret sauce of content creation.
Each of the content types up there requires different skills and processes, and since you are not a media company (not yet!) you end up giving up and stick to blog posts.
Your blog is a great acquisition channel, but without lead magnets (ebooks, guides and so on) you’re missing out on the great opportunity of converting visitors into leads, fast.
“More than 95% of your visitors won’t buy anything on their first visit. They’re either just browsing, still in the research phase or not entirely sure yet your offer is what they need. It takes time to build trust, instill confidence and build a relationship.” – CoversionXL
There’s a solution: working with dozens of content producers (businesses, agencies and media companies) we identified the building blocks of content creation.
Keep reading to discover what they are and how you can use them to produce any kind of content.
DO YOU NEED A PROCESS?
The short answer is: yes, you do.
Whether you are a solo marketer or a content manager coordinating a team, you need to have a creation process in place.
Solo marketer: analytics, socials, emails, inbound… as a solo marketer you constantly change hats and have no time to waste wandering what’s next.
That’s what processes and checklists are for: you plan once and execute till the job is done.
And if you think you don’t need processes for content creation, think twice.
Gone are they days where you hit publish, sat back and watched them come (heard about the content shock?): there’s much more “science” in content marketing than one may think, and as every science, it has its own methods and processes.
Woking in Team: If you are managing a team or working in one, you know how important alignment is.
And the best way to keep everyone aligned, avoiding misunderstandings and rework, is implementing production processes that make it clear to everybody what has to be done, why and when.
Designing detailed, end-to-end processes may seem fascinating, but the truth is, things never go as planned. Don’t stress out too much designing your processes. Simply map out what you already have and start with it. Keep your eyes open to spot what’s working and what’s not and modify the process accordingly.
THE CONTENT CREATION PROCESS
Once we agree that well thought processes are our friends – keep it simple, don’t exaggerate – let’s see how a content creation process looks like.
Before moving forward, a quick note: content creation is different than content marketing.
To be more specific, content creation is a “moment” of content marketing.
We’ll talk about the content marketing process in a future post.
As for the content creation process, here the building blocks we promised:
- The Brief
- The Draft
- The Feedback Session
- The Editing Phase
These are the building blocks of content creation: you can combine and duplicate them to create more complex processes, but they’ll always be there.
Here two examples:
Once you’ve decided what idea should be turned into content – here’s an article that will help you generate tons of ideas – it’s time to brief it.
A brief is a “roadmap for you process” – Visually.
To be clear: you need a brief even when you’ll be writing the piece yourself.
Because it helps you define the scope of your content before jumping into it, so that once you start you never have to “look back” and can focus on content creation.
- Clearly frame the main topic
- Describe why it’s important to your reader
- List related pieces of content in your library
- Provide benchmarks, resources and references
- Specify delivers, responsible and due dates
- Describe your audience*
- Outline your brand’s guidelines*
- Contain the process to follow*
*With respect to the last 3 items, we recommend to organise everything in centralised strategic documents, so that when you produce new content you don’t need to re-write down this information.
Bonus: The Braindump
Ever tried to engage you sales or CS reps with content marketing?
They are the ones who know your customers better and their knowledge would help create amazing content.Still, their busy schedules, lack of writing skills and whatnot make things impossibly hard.
We came up with an easy solution to the problem: the braindump.
The braindump is half way between a brief and a first draft. Your rep writes down everything he knows about a specific topic, organises concepts in a logical order and explains everything in detail.
That’s it. No writing skills involved. No grammar, no style, no research, no copy: all she has to deliver is a raw document that will be then turned into content by someone else.
Maximum result with minimum effort.
This is where you give a first shot to your content.
It could be you, one of your teammates or a freelancer.
This phase should be all about creativity: the brief set the frame and guidelines, now it’s time think about a unique and original way to convey the message.
How to nail the first version in 3 steps:
1 – Write: write down the storyline, include everything you know about the topics. Keep it simple, bullet points and short description will do it.
2 – Research: do some research to see what experts are saying about the subject matter and what the market is demanding (buzzsumo is great tool for this). Spot common trends and take notes.
Example: if you are writing about “Email Marketing” and 5 of the top ranking articles you find talk about “Subject lines” you may want to write about it.
3 – Combine: combine the different elements to produce something unique. Make this a two-way process:
- Bend your story to fit third parties resources
- Handpick and re-elaborate those resources to make them fit in your story, adding your own conclusions.
This will result in a hybrid piece of content.
Starting with research will hold back your creativity. If you find answers and and patterns before you create your own ones, you will end up giving those same answers and following those patterns. The result? un-original. The advice is: write down what you know (even if it’s wrong) and research later.
What should you have when you finish:
1 – A clear Storyline: the storyline should flow from head to tail. Concepts and ideas should be organized (titles / subtitles / paragraphs), coherent and connected with one another.
2 – A Complete Piece of Content: all the ideas, concepts and data should be there. Your content should covey the message as specified in the brief. Information and statements should be backed by explanations, providing external resources and data when possible.
Every content type as a different structure, and the same content type can be structured in multiple ways.Think about the different formats you could use to frame your blog posts.Once you find the structure that better fits your needs, turn it into a template to reuse when you’ll produce content of the same type, this will make your writing process so much easier.
As an example, here’s the template that Niklas Goeke uses to write his “4 minute books”Niklas Goeke ] Content Creation Pro Tip #3: Make Your Life Easier With Content Templates. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet
THE FEEDBACK SESSION
This is one of the most important and overlooked part of the creation process.
Feedback sessions make sure things are on track, allow you to correct mistakes while they happen and help you prevent rework.
Here’s how the same workflow would look like with and without feedback sessions.
As you can see, by breaking down the production process with feedback sessions, you’re drastically reducing the amount of potential rework necessary in case of mistakes.
Here, 3 rules to help you hold effective feedback sessions:
1 – Establish clear goals: make sure everyone is aware of what the topic of the session will be. If the object is the first draft of a blog post, it’s better to spare suggestions about possible featured images. This simplified grid should help.
2 – Be actionable: feedback should be clear, actionable and on point. Explain the whys and avoid suggestions based on mere personal opinions.Scribblelive]
3 – Include all relevant parties: make sure to involve everyone who may have veto power down the road, or you risk to waste all the work.
This is where you smoothen the rough edges to get to the final piece of content.
Here 3 must do:
1 – Cut, Cut, Cut: it’s well know that our attention span is now lower than that of a goldfish (6 vs 8 seconds). Keep things short. Take your first draft and cut it in half. Then take what you got, and cut it in half again.
2 – Copyedit: play with words, create impactful headlines and CTAs that trigger your readers’ emotions.
3 – Refine Communication: adjust the tone, style and embed company messages.
For written content, remember to take care about formatting and SEO too.
Whatever content you are producing, editing is the base for distribution. During the editing phase you can pick the best lines and concepts and organise them in a separate document to set the base for content distribution and repurposing.
To wrap things up:
Yes, every content type has its own characteristic and production process, but you can build any of those processes by combining the 4 building blocks we analysed today.
One last advice.
When designing your processes:
1 – Keep it simple: don’t overcomplicate things for the sake of it.
2 – Keep it flexible: establish clear goals, but let actors take initiatives
Your turn: what process to you have in place for content marketing and how is it working out?
We’ve seen how processes can help you increase the efficiency of your entire content organization. Learn how in the Starter’s Guide to Process Automation. Clic the image below to get it for free.