Improv is great at the comedy club, but systems win in many other creative endeavors — especially in content marketing. These six steps will help you establish the right content creation system for your marketing team.
Who better to underscore the importance of a content creation system than someone who finds producing content an uphill battle: Chris Rudolph.
Chris is a business coach for digital marketers. And he’ll be the first to admit that he’s not a natural writer, and it’s not easy for him to produce content with his busy schedule. Yet he produces a ton of videos for his business, and he’s expanding into blogging.
His insights into how to produce content efficiently and regularly are the key to building a good system. But before we jump into what Chris has to say, let’s cover some common terminology.
What is digital content creation?
Digital content creation is the development of any form of online content, including text, video and audio. It can include content that will be published in a variety of digital outlets, including websites, blogs, social media, text messages, email and forums.
This content creation definition will undoubtedly be modified as new digital outlets emerge, and new forms of digital content become available. At its core, we’re talking about creating digital content.
Why is a content creation system important?
Chris Rudolph calls his content creation process the “Content Accelerator Blueprint.” Chris has found that his blueprint is instrumental in keeping him on track — especially with the amount of distractions affecting today’s marketers.
“You’ve got so many meetings and emails,” Chris said. “And then when it’s time to create some good content, people will sit down at their computer and stare at a blank screen. It’s difficult to produce under pressure.”
Chris believes that if anything seems difficult or frustrating, you need a framework, or a process. We’ll integrate some of his Content Accelerator Blueprint approach, as well as our own, into this post.
Step 1: Build a content marketing strategy
Too many people jump straight into content generation without taking a disciplined approach to building a strategy. Our approach to content strategy includes the following elements:
Set your content marketing goals: What are you looking to build? Traffic? Leads? Get a number on paper, so you have a basis for success.
Build an accurate target persona by TALKING with your customers: Don’t start any content marketing until you’re really clear on what your customer wants to hear you talking/writing about! Learn from your customers what it is that you know that can help them solve problems.
Develop your customer journey and map your keyword research: Keyword research is equivalent to market research, as it will indicate what people are talking about. You also need to map to each stage of the customer journey, to help you build content at each phase.
Set your strategy, channels and tools: From this data, you’ll firm up your content strategy, the channels you’ll use to send it out, and the tools you’ll be using in the process.
Create your editorial calendar and a few pieces of content: A critical piece in the process is to really set that editorial calendar in stone for at least six months to a year in advance. Generate several pieces of content before launching your blog, vlog, etc., to ensure you have the right tone set for your work.
Chris believes this kind of preparation is critical to understanding your customers — and generating new topics for content. “Find out what their frustrations, fears, wants and aspirations are,” he said. “I find you can really get ideas out of that.”
Step 2: Find the time to create the content
The next step is to determine who is going to produce the content. Why? Because creating effective content takes a lot of time — it’s all too easy to underestimate this component of the process.
According to Andy Crestodina and his team at Orbit Media, the average blog post takes 3 hours and 17 minutes to write.
Make sure you have time set aside within your company’s schedule to get the work done.
Step 3: Designate a content creator
Coinciding with the time will be designating the content creator. This is tough because you not only need a person with time, but also with content creation skills. That can include writing and speaking skills (preferably both), and the creativity to deliver a compelling message.
Now that’s not to say you shouldn’t involve many people in the process. You absolutely should. But you need one dedicated content producer who will generate the stuff, week after week, month after month.
Why? Because consistency is absolutely the key.
In fact, as Gini Dietrich pointed out in our post on how to start content marketing, consistency is one of the most critical elements of successful content marketing.
Step 4: Establish a content creation process
Behind every great system, there is a documented process. Everyone’s content creation approach will be different, but here are some good things to include in your approach:
Start with a series of questions that need to be answered In Chris’s approach, every piece of content must go through a Why, What, How, Now and Next process, which includes answering:
Why – Why should your target audience care about what you’re creating?
What – What are the keys to the information you are sharing with them?
How – Which steps should they follow to achieve the desired result?
Now – What can they do right now to implement your recommend actions?
Next – What do you want the reader/viewer/listener to do next (the call-to-action)?
Create content guidelines and work them into a checklist Whenever we produce a blog post, we have a series of content requirements that need to be followed, and we work from a few templates to establish consistency. Our blog post checklist includes:
- Using keywords in the headlines and first paragraph
- Create snippet copy (see pro tip below)
- Integrate semantic keywords through the post
- Include SEO basics, such as title tag and meta-description
- Use photos and other visuals in every page scroll
You’ll generate your own (you can pick up some of ours in our post on writing website copy). What’s important is that you have your content producers follow it so they’ll include all the key elements of successful content.
Chris has his own, including things like avoiding jargon. You can include these tips of elements in your guidelines.
PRO TIP: Creating snippet copy
In a blog post, write a section that could be used for the Google Answer Box. Google features these in a search, and by writing a great answer box, you can actually leapfrog people in rankings. Here is a post from SEMrush on how to choose language that will get your writing featured in the Google Answer Box.
Step 5: Document the content creation / marketing workflow
Establishing the content creation process requires documenting not only the creation of the content, but also determining the approval process, and eventually the promotion process.
According to Nathan Ellering of CoSchedule, you can shave 30-50% of extraneous work simply by documenting your process and improving the efficiency — which requires absolutely no sugar-coating.
As you document your content marketing workflow, you’ll find areas in the process that tend to drag you down. “What’s your resistance point?” Chris asks. Find it and outsource it if you can afford to. That will give you more time to be creative.
Step 6: Integrate content creation tools
A variety of content creation tools can help you generate things like memes, graphics, screenshots — the list goes on. Create your own stockpile of content creation tools to help build your content.
Canva – It’s hard to beat this tool for building great graphics that you see in this blog. We love it for pullquotes.
Snaggit – Ideal for capturing an image on your screen, and then adding effects like arrows (see the Snippet graphic above).
Camtasia – If you’re making videos to promote your post (and you should), Camtasia allows you to add captions, etc.
(You’ll find Snagit and Camtasia here.)
Yoast SEO – A great plugin for WordPress, the Yoast SEO box appears at the end of the post and includes a simple way to input your title tags and meta-description.
Here are more great lists of content creation tools:
Don’t get overwhelmed by all of these. Integrate new tools into your process as it becomes streamlined, and use them to make your content better and better.
Content creation: Use a framework and make it a habit
One of my favorite basketball coaches was Bo Ryan of my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He had a systematic approach to the game; his practices were the exact same drills and scrimmages, every day. That’s why he won over 75% of his games.
Frameworks like Chris Rudolph’s, and the steps we’ve included here, are all critical for creating quality content consistently. This stuff takes prep work and discipline. By creating a framework, you reduce the resistance and fear of the blank screen.
“It’s all about habit formation,” Chris said. “If you can use a framework to help get past that initial resistance, then it’s not so bad.“
Find out how your content and conversion ranks with our interactive version of the Content Scorecard you can fill in yourself – no email required for download.