Content is not something that you should be scared of.
Ever since we first picked up a crayon as a child, we've been creating content. Sure, we didn't care about the ROI of coloring pages or the SEO of finger painting. We created because it was fun and we enjoyed doing it. Somewhere along the way, too many of us forgot this.
Ever since my book "Content Rules" hit store shelves, I've found myself talking about how to create content more than ever. People hope and pray for a silver bullet solution to the "mystery" of a content strategy, and while I'm here to tell you that there isn't one, I do want to give you tools to get started immediately.
I want to take my time this month to give you the basic steps that you can do this week during your lunch hour to begin embracing and using content in your company.
I don't care if you are a church looking for new parishioners, a singer-songwriter looking for more fans, or a small business looking to sell more widgets. Over the next five days with only an hour a day you can get started. Where you go from there is up to you.
Yes, this is only the beginning, but every journey begins with a single step.
Day 1: Take a content inventory
Talk to the other people in your company about anything they have that might be able to be leveraged as content moving forward. Every company I've ever walked through this exercise always finds something they can use. Don't worry about how you are going to use this content at the time, but rather focus on finding out what you have and making a list of it all.
I want you to start here because unless you are just starting up your business, you've got assets of some sort that we can start with even if you are not thinking of them as content right now.
Places that content might be hiding:
- If you have ever had a booth at a trade show or conference, you must have created brochures, video demos, or have some left over swag that you were giving away.
- Your marketing or sales departments must have slide decks that they work from on a regular basis.
- If your executives or other staff members speak at events or in the office there may be a video of it.
- Intranets and shared file servers often have more than you'd imagine on them. Click around and you never know what you might find lurking.
Now I can't say if you'll find coal or diamonds; but you've got to start with something and so an inventory of what you already have is a critical starting point. Then, examine what you turned up, and start thinking of ways you can reimagine that content and share it with others.
Day 2: Check out what others are doing
There is no better way to determine the type of content you want to create then to look at what others are creating. This can serve, as both research and inspiration, so don't write it off as a waste of time.
If you are not sure where to look, start on your competitors' websites. Look at what they are creating and sharing with their customers. This is also important because it sets a benchmark for where you are right now, and often you may discover that you are not as behind as you might have thought. Take specific notes on what media they are creating for, and where they are sharing their content. If they are sharing on a particular platform, than it's more than likely you want to be there as well.
Also, go out to your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts and see what your friends are sharing and commenting on. While this may not represent how your customers will share and react, it will help you appreciate more how people share content they find interesting. Understanding these behaviors will increase your chances of creating engaging content.
Day 3: Establish your footprint
One of the rules in my book is to "create wings and roots," and what you'll be doing today is setting up the roots for where your content will live.
Now, if you are a small company or have an IT department that is ok with you experimenting, this may mean setting up WordPress or another blogging platform on your servers. But, what I'm really hoping for is that you'll go out and set up accounts on the major social media networks. At a minimum, you should have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. Now, I don't know if you'll be actively using these in the future, but having them established is never a bad idea so go ahead and get them.
The goal is to set them up, but also to poke around and see what you can do on each. Most allow you to hide your actions so you can play in peace. Yesterday, you looked at your competition and more than likely asked a couple of times, "How did they do that?" See if you can find the answers as you investigate each platform.
Keep in mind that today isn't about making your Facebook page perfect or uploading a batch of photos. It is really about getting to know the technologies better. It is critical that you understand what can and can't be done on each platform so that you can use them to the fullest when the time comes.
Day 4:Walk and daydream
How many of you just read that and softly screamed, "What?"
At this point you've spent enough time in front of your computer, and it is time to get away from the office for a bit so that you can think with a clear head. Want to be really successful? Leave the phone and any other devices at the office when you leave.
Take a notebook (the old fashion paper kind) and get out of the office. Now that you've seen what others are doing and have looked at where you might be putting content, I want you to focus today on thinking about the kinds of content you'd love to create.
Do not let important things like resources, time, and budget get in the way of your brainstorming because there are always ways to get around those later. Right now, if you had no constraints, what would you love to create?
As you come up with ideas, write them down. Be as specific or generic as you want. Not sure where to start, or need a nudge in the right direction? Try some of these questions on for size:
- If I could show only one aspect of my product, what it would be?
- What 10 things questions do my customers always ask us?
- Wouldn't it be great if our customers knew ______ about us?
- What did you notice that your competition was lacking in?
Don't over-think this walk, because the goal is to have a laundry list of possible content topics. You'll have plenty of time to flush them out in more detail, but hopefully at least one on your list seems like it would be an easy one to write a post about or film a quick video about.
Save this list because you now have the starting point of an editorial calendar, and the content to fill it with.
Day 5: Create!
It is now Friday and the end of the week, so it's time to have some fun and put all those previous lunch hours to the test. It is time for you to stop thinking about doing it and actually create a piece of content.
Take one of those ideas that stood out to you yesterday and create a single piece of content around it. I'm not sure if you are more comfortable with photography, video, or writing, but pick a medium and don't over-think it. Just create it and don't focus on trying to get it right -- focus on getting it done.
Once you've written your blog post or filmed your video, go back and look at it to determine how you can make it better. Remember that if this is your first time, it will not be perfect. We all start somewhere and get better as we repeat the process. Our parents were right when they told us practice makes perfect.
Feeling good about what you created? Now work with the powers that be and publish it so others can see it. Remember those roots you created on Day 3? Now you can plant them and let them grow.
I'm not trying to make light of how much work it can take to develop and execute a successful content strategy, but I also want to show you that anyone can get started today, and that instead of putting it off, you can start creating content in a week's time.
You can walk through this exercise by yourself or you can have your department go through it with you to see what emerges from the group effort. You never know, you could be on the journey to making your content rule before you know it. Safe travels!