Everyone who writes for a living knows the dread of the empty page, but in this day and age the requirement for content is constant. Without it, companies face being left behind as competitors create it and use it to make target audiences aware of their goods and services rather than yours. There’s no time for writer’s block in the digital world.
It can be tempting to look on the web for guides to creating content but it will quickly become apparent that there is no hard or fast, fail-safe way to create the good stuff for your business.
For instance, you might have heard of ‘the five Cs of content creation’ which promises to act as your golden ticket. So, you Google the term and see that what you produce should be consistent, contextual, cohesive, concise and credible.
Yes! That was easy, wasn’t it? To find out a bit more about each point, you click the next result in the Google’s mega-list. But wait, they say that the five Cs require you to calibrate, create, curate, circulate and convert what you’ve put together into sales. That’s a totally different proposition, surely?! So is the next result, which talks about convergence, channels, community, conversion and competitive advantage.
As a professional content creator for more years than I care to remember, I’ve found ways that work for me and the ultimate message that I need to get across. There is no one-size-fits-all mentality to producing a piece which hits the mark. With each case comes different requirements, though there are commonalities to them which can be addressed.
1. Where to start when creating content
The very first thing you need to do is define your audience, which will almost certainly be different for every piece of content you create. If you don’t understand who you’re writing for and what their requirements are, you’re figuratively walking around in the fog while wearing a blindfold in an unfamiliar town.
Similarly, setting some specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals for your content will help define its success. Take some time to think about what you want the content to achieve and how you can measure that by methods which fit into the SMART methodology.
It’s also good to understand any limitations you might face. Just as a videographer could not recreate Apocalypse Now armed with only a video camera and a budget of £250, an all-singing and all-dancing interactive pdf which meets your aims isn’t really appropriate if you have several other pieces of content to create in a list as long as your arm. Think of yourself as well as your audience and adapt to the solution that best suits you as well as them.
2. Let there be content!
Now that you’ve done some of the hard yards that strips some of the mystery away from creation, getting your ideas down should be a little easier. You know what your intended audience is interested in and what their pain points are, so it’s time to consider what it is exactly that you are putting together and what suits your audience.
Is it an article or a blog? An infographic? One or a series of social media posts? A guide, an e-book or a whitepaper? A podcast or a webinar?
Creation is obviously different for each format, so preparation is the key. Map it out section-by-section with the key points you want to make and how you’ll make them. Optimise it, according to both your budget and your time constraints, so that it’s working at its best on which ever platforms you’re issuing it. And that can be more than one place at more than one time.
3. Getting the most out of your content
Content isn’t a tissue that is used once and then thrown away. As you continue producing top-notch content, so you are steadily increasing a physical library of it. Providing it’s still relevant of course, you can repurpose older pieces for different platforms and audiences and schedule its publication for times when you know it will appeal to different segments of your wider audience. You can use it many times in many ways.
You’re going to want to write new content though, and keyword research can help you avoid once more staring down the blank page. Using it helps you find out what your audience is reading about elsewhere, giving you the prompt to delve deeper into their wants and needs and the things that keep them awake at night. Similarly, looking into what’s trending on social media hashtags can offer real-time insight into the concerns of those at the coalface.
Content creation is a rewarding part of your role as you see how it lands with people invested in your area of expertise. Doing the groundwork before you plunge headfirst into the process will help you plough your own furrow and find the way that’s best for you.
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