Our 5-Step Content Creation Process
January 7, 2020 | by Timothy Wier
Creating great content isn’t about waiting for a stroke of genius or waiting for the muse to strike.
Creating great content is about developing a specific, repeatable process for generating consistent results — and then following that process even if you don’t feel like it.
As a content agency, we have to deliver high quality content to our clients, even when it’s not our “best day.” That’s why we’ve developed our own five-step process to deliver consistent results, and to ensure that what we provide to clients will help move their companies forward.
This article walks through that process in detail.
Now I’ll be upfront, this process isn’t entirely original. If you follow any content marketing thought leaders, you’ll probably notice bits and pieces that seem familiar.
That’s because we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. A lot of best practices work, so we’re going to stick with them until we find something better.
The true value in our content creation process is how we fit all of those pieces together to meet the specific needs of startups and small businesses:
- Leveraging internal expertise rather than time-consuming research processes
- Taking an “execute first, strategize based on the results” approach
- Using content repurposing to stretch the value of your content investment
- Functioning in a price range that fits the startup’s needs: start small and grow from there
Our goal is that the content we create for our clients isn’t just a nice branding piece, but functionally drives bottom-line results.
Here’s a brief overview of our content creation process and how we leverage it to help startups grow.
Step 1: Gather subject matter expertise.
Good writing isn’t about elegantly arranging words on a page.
It’s about conveying a thought and presenting an argument in a way that makes sense to the reader. It’s about having something to say that no one else does.
And make no mistake: by virtue of the fact that your business is meeting a market need, you do have something to say.
The challenge in creating content isn’t that people and businesses don’t have anything to say. It’s that the process of getting those thoughts out there into the world takes more work than you’d think.
That’s part of the reason why gathering subject matter expertise is the first and, in many ways, most important step in our content creation process.
We’re not experts in your company. While we want to learn more about your business, customers, and market as we go along, no one knows your business like you do.
When we create content on your behalf, we want to leverage your expertise, not detract from it.
Through our information-gathering processes — namely interviews and review of your previously published content — we gain:
- Knowledge of who your current customers are, their problems, questions, and pain
- Understanding of how your market works and how your business is positioned to best meet specific needs within that market
- Ideas of who your competitors are — both direct and indirect — and how you outmaneuver their messaging
During that interview stage, we gather as much information as we can on the particular topic at hand, and then use that as the foundation for creating the content.
The more input you provide in this stage, the better set for success we will be as the process continues.
Step 2: Create content that is consistent with your brand.
Once we gather your expertise, the next step is to create the actual content itself.
In a previous post, I walked through some of the hidden costs of hiring a content writer, and the steps that a content writer generally will take when creating something new.
But in this post, I want to be more specific on the outlining and writing stages of that overall process. Here are the four steps we take to outline and then write your content:
1. Logic: Ensuring the points we’re making are correct and in the most logical order.
Before we write a draft, we create an outline of our thesis and the main points we’re making to support that thesis. This is critical, as it ensures that the subject matter expertise we’ve gathered is presented in a logical manner, and that we’ve organized an argument and story that makes sense to the reader.
2. Argument: Supporting each point with narrative, numbers, and examples to strengthen its meaningfulness.
Once the outline is in place and we know the general sections of the piece, we start to write each individual section. The goal is for each section to contain a coherent argument, supported by facts, that ultimately supports the content’s thesis.
3. Structure: Arranging the words on the page to be readable and tonally appropriate.
Beyond the logic of the piece and the ways we present the argument, there is a physical structure of the content to consider. The sentence structure, the paragraphs — all of that impacts the readability of the piece. We look at how the words on the page are arranged to ensure that it’s pleasing to the eye, easily scannable, and well-suited to the channel where it will be posted.
4. Voice: Choosing the specific words that best speak to your audience.
Then it comes down to word choice. The words on the page determine the content’s voice. If you change the words, you can change the voice and tone without changing the underlying meaning of what’s being said. Focusing specifically on the words helps us match the voice and tone to what you want your brand to convey.
Following this process helps to ensure that the information makes sense, your audience can easily digest it. Most importantly, it effectively helps to move your business in the right direction.
Step 3: Deploy & promote.
We could create the objectively best blog post, video script, or social media post in the world.
But if it’s not out there for your audience to see, what’s the point?
While the specific vehicle for promotion is going to change depending on what plan you have with us, content promotion is always going to be a key part of your success working with FEARLESS.
There are a number of reasons why this is the case:
- Starting the process of generating an ROI. If you’re going to invest in content marketing, it’s natural to want to see a return on that investment. Thus, we want to help you promote your content so can start to see the results, whether that’s lead gen for B2B or directing to an online purchase for B2C.
- Learning what your audience responds to (and doesn’t). The #1 metric of content quality is whether your audience is actually interested in what you’re talking about. By putting that content in front of as many people as possible, you’re putting it to the “test” of whether this piece is something your audience wants to consume. Over time, and with lots of different content tested, you’ll get a clearer picture of your audience’s interests.
- Building your brand authority over time. While this is a long-term objective and isn’t as high a priority compared to generating an ROI, it’s nonetheless important. Every piece of content you publish and promote helps tell the market more about your business, who you are, and the kinds of things you value. Over time, this will prove invaluable in building– or shifting — market perception.
How and where we promote your content will depend on your business, but here are a few examples of things we would do:
- Post regularly on social media
- Re-post on Medium and LinkedIn as separate articles
- Posting on sites like Quora to drive more organic traffic
- Monitor Google Search Console to see where your content is ranking
Of course, content promotion can happen in a variety of ways. Our goal is to get your content in front of as many people in your audience as possible.
Step 4: Examine & analyze content results.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Contrary to what some people may think, there are very specific ways you can track the results of your content.
(Note: this section is a basic introduction to tracking content results. There’s a lot to talk about here that’s beyond the scope of this post. Rest assured that more content on the topic will be coming — and check out our blog page to see if it’s already here by the time you read this.)
The first is to ensure that you’re analyzing the data in an organized way. There are so many data points out there that it can easily become confusing and overwhelming.
Organizing your data into specific categories can help you answer the specific questions that shed a light on whether your content is performing the way you want it to:
- Which content is drawing in traffic? Before your content can generate tangible results for your business, it has to draw people in. Look at the kinds of content that are attracting views — and the kinds that aren’t.
- Which content is engaging your audience? Your audience could read your content and think that it sucks. That’s why you can’t just look at traffic or views, you must look at engagement as well. Look at how long visitors stay on your page, whether they like it on social media, and whether it entices them to read more or immediately jump off.
- Which content is driving readers to your call-to-action? If you want to generate a return on investment, your audience must take an action on your content. Use conversion tracking to figure out how many clicks and conversions are coming in from a given piece of content.
Depending on the plan you have with us, we’ll either track this data ourselves or ask you to submit a report to us each month with the key metrics that we want to track.
From there, we determine which pieces of content are the top performers and which ones are the low performers. But based on that data, we see which attributes are driving that performance:
- Content topics
- Length/content structure
And then after examining these areas, we look at the million-dollar question: are the highest performing pieces of content in alignment with your content strategy? If so, then it means we’re going in the right direction. If not, we need to adjust.
This analysis may seem like a lot, but once we do the foundational work, we only have to do this periodically and the process takes a minimal amount of time. But when we’re talking about ensuring that your content is set up to drive results, that’s time well spent.
Step 5: Repurpose & redeploy as much as possible.
As a final step to help you achieve maximum reach, we include content repurposing at no additional charge.
The way I like to think of it is this: you paid for the words once, you shouldn’t have to pay for them again.
Obviously, repurposing content requires more than just copy and paste. And I’ll be honest — if we have a repurposing project that requires above-and-beyond rewrites, we’ll charge a fair price for that additional work. However, in my experience, the vast majority of repurposing projects don’t require that level of work.
Here are the ways that I like to think of repurposing, and in my mind the phrase “smashing and crashing” works pretty well to visualize what we do:
- Smashing. Here is where you take a larger piece of content and turn it into several pieces of shorter content. An example would be taking a blog post and turning it into a series of social media posts, or taking a longer LinkedIn post and turning it into a series of Tweets.
- Crashing. This is the act of taking several smaller pieces of content and smashing them together to make a larger piece. Take a series of social posts and turn them into a blog post, or take a series of blog posts and turn them into a pillar page.
- Changing channels. We’ve talked before about the five types of content skills sets you need. If you want to maximize our value beyond the written content, we can always help you “change channels.” Take a blog, and we’ll turn it into a video or podcast script — or vice versa.
When we sign our initial work order, we will agree ahead of time on how much and what types of repurposing you can expect within a given month.
Everything we do as a business — and I mean this genuinely — is to help you achieve your content goals and realize the success that content marketing can bring to your business.
If that’s something you would be interested in talking about, click here and let’s set up a time.