Great content. Make no mistake, it is a lot of work. But what are the raw materials of good content? And, more importantly, what is the process of making those raw materials into something that your audience is going to love?
As with anything in life, it’s all about planning – having everything in place so you can repeat the process again and again. After all, content is only effective if it’s consistent and high-quality.
So let’s look at five key steps to creating great content.
Step 1: Coming up with the topic
To begin, review your company materials – white papers, eBooks, articles, research your company has carried out, and so on. They all have potential. The key is to read over them thinking about your audience’s need, and how this information (albeit rewritten into a different form) will address it.
Now do the same with your competitors – what are they covering, and are there gaps that you can exploit?
Next, look at industry news – is there anything in the public consciousness right now that ties into your initial topic ideas that you found from researching your company materials and competitor activity? Hooking your topic to something current could help boost traffic.
Finally, a tool tip: Check out BuzzSumo. This enables you to run a search to discover content ideas and get insights into what is working on different platforms. This is the lens you want to use when you return to your initial topic ideas. Your goal: create a mix of content – some of which swings for the fences and covers the hottest topics in your industry, and some in more niche areas, with less traffic, but a higher chance of you dominating that space.
Step 2: Writing the brief
‘Give me the freedom of a tight brief’ – it’s a call from writers across the world. The more you have nailed down your idea into a coherent brief, the more you’re going to get out of your writer. There’s a key difference between telling the writer exactly what to write and describing the effect you want the piece to have on the reader. Go for the latter, but ensure you are clear enough on the key points so the writer has a compass.
If there are ‘must include’ points (perhaps provided by the client) or SEO considerations, keep these in a separate table on the brief document. If you have extensive views on structure, consider creating a separate (but short) PowerPoint. Let the actual brief itself flow like a good piece of writing – remember, your writers are readers too. Be kind to them.
Give the writer signposts – information which lets them then go off on a journey and make the piece their own. Ensure you include a line or two on what you want the reader to feel after reading this, on how this topic fits in with the client’s offering, and what action you want this piece to drive.
Step 3: Research and writing
The short solution here is good recruiting. Understand the kind of content you want to produce, then get a writer to match. If you recruit well, you can pretty much look the other way for this section of the process while the writer does their thing.
Just ensure you think carefully about the job at hand, and whether a traditional copywriter, a writer with a journalism background, or a conceptual writer, would fit the bill. If it’s a client that’s going to be with you for a long time, a really good writer can learn to write about pretty much any subject – so you don’t necessarily need to recruit someone with experience in that specific sector.
The writer will look at the brief, return to you with any questions. If the brief is clear, which it hopefully is, the next time you hear from them is when they deliver their work – something well structured, with solid sources (Mike’s blog is not a source), written and rewritten so it’s addressing the reader’s need (rather than sounding like a Wikipedia entry), and not doing anything to push the reader away.
Step 4: Editing
Ideally, the writer has put URLs to any sources cited in comment boxes. First the editor needs to check them – are they reliable, high-quality sources, and secondly have they been interpreted correctly.
Then it’s looking at structure and flow – is the argument compelling? Is the information front-loaded as it should be? Don’t forget to return to the brief – has everything been included, especially any notes from the client?
Step 5: Client feedback
Once the client has read it it’s time to make those final changes. Sometimes with content marketing, the client may ask for some directly promotional text to be included. It’s important here to push back, politely, as a beautifully written article, one that genuinely helps the reader, and builds trust, can be ruined by a few salesy lines at the end.
But you also need to ensure that you take into consideration all the client’s notes, and really deliver something they love and something that addresses the goals outlined in the brief.