If you’re a content creator, you’ve likely been here. You’ve been humming along smoothly, and then a momentary drought of ideas hits you. What to write about? What to talk about? Who will find this useful? I’ve been here before, too. There are myriad ways to go about this, but I’ll list one way that helps me: review your approach from a journalistic standpoint.
This isn’t a checklist per se (though you could probably use it as a starter culture for one). It’s just a list a questions and things to run through mentally to help break the log jam.
Who is your audience (note: you might have several)? Do you have constituencies that you want to reach via your main audience (think about that one for a sec)? Who have you produced content for lately, and who could use some attention? Who produces the most revenue? Who shares your content when you produce it? Who thanks you and tells you they derive the most value from it? Who are your internal producers? Subject-matter experts? ‘Stars’? Does legal or your CMO need to sign off? Who can you lean on externally to assist? Can you consider some user-generated content? Or crowd-source some?
What’s your goal? What are the objectives that make up that goal (entertain, persuade, convince, list, suggest, guide, coach, advise, steer, …) ? What kind of content resonates with your audiences? (this is incredibly key – data via the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs published each year is a good starting point, if you’ve never surveyed your own audience) What content hasn’t worked well in the past? What content are you capable of producing in-house, vs. externally? What other secondary and tertiary forms of content can your main piece take on?
Presumably, much of your content will live on your site. Where else? SlideShare? YouTube? Vimeo? Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Instagram? OK, aside from the big ones… what about niche discussion boards? Customer community portals? Partner and re-seller sites?
We talked about where your content will go. Where will you get it from? Hopefully, you’re engaging in some sort of listening (Radian 6, Social Mention, mention, Google Alerts) for words and topics and trends in your industry or space. And if you’re into the whole solution selling, you’re not just listening for mentions of your products, but you’re also looking for things like your competitors, the non-branded keyword terms in your space, or the solutions that your products enable, or the words that might come out of someone’s mouth (like, “I wish that ___”)
Short-form content like insightful tweets likely don’t need lots of lead time to prepare (though if you do some bulk scheduling, and a company- or industry-related crisis happens, quickly go back and ensure that nothing you scheduled way back when could be taken out of context and appear insensitive). But things like videos and ebooks need time to prepare, script, record or write, and review. You can also consider sharing some behind the scenes photographs of your video, as you record it. You can also consider blogging about the making of whatever form of content you have. This will help fill the gaps of time between the major releases.
Knowing when to publish and share is smart as well. If you’re a travel site, then content about Rio might work well starting a year or so in advance of the Olympics. If you’re an exercise site, sharing content right after the December holidays, and pushing through into January is a good idea. These might seem obvious, but strive to look beyond that. Maybe a campaign about books (audio or paper), starting after the Superbowl, might work (capitalizing on many people’s sudden glut of free time).
Time of day is critical as well. You can read any number of studies about the best time to post. And after you read them, you can delete them. (well, if you have absolutely no data from which to start, it’s a decent proxy). The only real way is to test your own data. Christopher Penn describes it well here.
Why you are producing content is a great question. The debate on this is hot. From a business perspective, you’re likely doing it to increase awareness, get people in a funnel, convert them, and generate revenue. And that’s OK. The way you go about doing that is where the subtleties are. Like C.C. and Ann say in Content Rules, “Share or Solve, Don’t Shill”. As in, if you can create value, solve an issue, be remarkable, have utility, and be shareworthy – the content will take care of itself. If you’re creating content to check a box – well, then I’m surprised you even read this far. The content game isn’t for you.
Aside from that – really answer why you are doing this. Do you want to create content such that your company’s name becomes synonymous with the phrase “solving the copydata problem”? Then you need to understand what copydata is, why it’s a problem for your customers, why you can fix it, why they should care, and so on. If what you produce is generally solving a need, then it won’t appear as “shill”-y.
How can you create good content? Start with the five items above. Then, start reading. A lot. Make note of pithy expressions for tweets. Look for recurring themes for an ebook. Ask your tech support team for the most commonly asked questions and (wait for it…) write an FAQ ebook. Shoot a video of some developers talking about how they solved a particular coding issue. Get in the field and shoot video of some of the houses you’re selling – better yet, drive the neighborhood, show the schools, and the produce at the closest supermarket. Create a recurring series of “Ways I can convince my boss to ___”. This is content for one audience, but with multiple constituencies. Plus, a series has them coming back for more. Or, simply ask your audience what they want to see, read, listen to, and watch.
All of this is not guaranteed to get you out of your rut. It should, though, get you to start thinking differently. And that might be all you need to break through with a few new ideas.
What about you? How do you get through the logjam?