7 Things You Need to do BEFORE You Make Content

Content.

This word, more than any other in the last decade, has been beaten to death in the context of branding, marketing, and business development. There may be a good reason for that. The world seems to have an endless appetite for it.

You probably know you need more of content in order to establish yourself in whatever market you’re trying to¬†reach, but do you know the who/what/when/where/how behind not wasting your precious time developing it?

It probably comes as no surprise that this question is why so many businesses drag their feet when it comes to creating content. While others might try to encourage you to look past your doubts and just get started, I’d argue that this gut feeling exists as a survival response we’ve evolved as human beings to keep ourselves from squandering what little precious time we have on this earth.

So what exactly will fill this empty feeling of impending failure? The answer is a content strategy, and you can develop yours in 7 simple steps.

Step 1 – Define Your Goals

Start out by identifying all of the goals you’re trying to accomplish with your content. Are you trying to get new customers for your business, users for your app, attendees at an event, or just people in the audience to enjoy the show? What kind of product or service do you want to offer the viewer, reader, or listener? Do you want them to join a community of like-minded members?

Getting clear on your objectives first thing will give you an excellent point of reference whenever you’re making decisions regarding your content down the road. As you proceed, continue asking yourself, “Is this moving me closer to my goals?” If the answer is yes, you’re likely on the right track.

Step 2 – Define Success Metrics

How are we going to measure the achievement of our goals? Is it by the number of impressions, conversions on your webstore, or members joined? Defining success metrics keeps us aware of whether or not our efforts are yielding results, which can tame that emotional deficiency that comes when thinking about the hours it takes to craft the perfect video, blog, or podcast.

Step 3 – Content Audit

Before we act, we should reflect. Winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences, Daniel Kahneman, says that human beings have basically 2 methods of thinking. System 1 is built for speed and specializes in things like reflexive behaviors for things like sports, casual conversation, or simple reading. System 2 is designed for more complicated tasks like complex equations, intricate movement, or listening intently to one instrument in a song.

The second System is much better at analytical reasoning, so it’s important to shift into it before we do something important. Slow down before you start shooting videos or writing blogs to take the time to reflect and review past content you’ve made to find both successful and unsuccessful attempts as examples of styles and techniques to either repeat or avoid, respectively. It can make a world of difference when it comes to the impact your content will elicit.

For those of you who have little to no experience creating content, try to review the most recent informational writing you’ve done. Old college or even high school reports can be quite revealing when it comes to our strengths and shortcomings with regards to communicating ideas, especially if they’re graded by an instructor.

Step 4 – Evaluate the Competition

Now that we’ve taken a healthy look inward, we’re better qualified to eye up the competition. Feel free to dig into them the same way you just tore into yourself. You owe it to yourself NOT to be nice in this instance. It’s not like we’re doing it to actively belittle them, anyways.

If you’re the kind that gets discouraged when you see the thousands of hearts and comments on your competitor’s Instagram posts, pivot to find the chinks in their armor that can be exposed to create an advantage. Their Facebook page could be an abysmal wasteland of low engagement. Take the time to reverse engineer both their successes and failures in order to turn them into your strategy.

Just remember: don’t imitate, innovate! The goal here isn’t to jack a popular hashtag or leverage someone else’s audience (though I’m not ENTIRELY against these ideas in certain contexts). We want to freshen up our own unique ideas by getting a good idea of what has been done before.

Step 5 – Ideate Content

Put on your thinking cap and get ready to write down all of the ideas that are likely already racing through your head after such a comprehensive dive. Draw inspiration from every success and failure you’ve observed in order to ideate content that can actively achieve your goals.

Maybe you retool some old content in the context of an Instagram tactic inspired by a competitor’s successful campaign. Perhaps you film a series of informational videos on a topic relevant to your business’ industry that got a competitor’s blog post a ton of engagement. Hopefully, these examples give you a good idea of how you can turn all of your recent research into actionable ideas.

Step 6 – Evaluate Your Bandwidth

What resources do you have available? Is there a competent crew ready to get on the job, or are you struggling just to turn on your computer? Believe it or not, both of these scenarios are capable of proucing some grade A content, but only if an accurate evaluation of the situation is made.

Don’t attempt to replicate your competition’s high production 30-minute talk show (complete with a live band and audience) if the only camera you’re working with is the one on your smartphone. Why bother setting yourself up for the dissapointment of inevitably not measuring up when you can focus that energy on getting creative within your limitations? Limitations are the whole reason why people get creative in the first place. What would be the point of challenging ourselves to make things that are greater than the sum of their parts if we had unlimited resources?

Step 7 – Establish a Content Creation Workflow

Now that we’ve got the ideas, let’s plug them into a schedule. I’ve touched on this before (https://www.facebook.com/aetoricdesign/photos/g.190424928224940/2176143502402473), but I want to make a few quick points on scheduling that are extremely important here…

BE REALISTIC!

Nothing discourages creativity like a missed deadline and nothing makes us miss a deadline more than overly optimistic planning.

BE UNDERSTANDING!

Sometimes, there are emergencies that throw us off. Be prepared for life to try and buck us off our horse and to get back on after we fall off.

BE PATIENT!

All good things take time. Your content is a continuous work in progress that deserves an appropriate amount of time to grow and blossom into the world.

I hope you feel much more prepared to tackle your content after reading and following through on this post. What kind of impact do you want your content to make?

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Author: Jacob Campbell

Jacob Campbell is the owner of Aetoric Design, an agency specializing in brand identity and strategy. With over 12 years of experience designing & leading entrepreneurial creative efforts, he has reached global audiences with his work for The Futur, Anime Expo, & many others.

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