CMI’s 2012 B2B content marketing research survey indicates the largest challenge (for 41 percent of respondents) is “producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers.”
Tied to that challenge is the ability for content marketers to create emotionally compelling content through a sustainable process.
Add to that mix, how does one find the time to accomplish this?
Over time, I’ve developed a six-step process that can help resolve these three challenges, especially when writing blog posts. The process is easy, fast, and can yield enough content for a full-length article that can be repurposed later for even more content.
The process works particularly well when dealing with topics you may not be familiar with, or when you’re pressed for time (or both). You’ll need to start by interviewing someone who is knowledgeable about the subject you’re writing about.
The interview process consists of six steps:
- Create an outline of your questions
- Conduct your interview
- Transcribe the conversation
- Write/edit your content
- Format your content to fit the platform you choose
- Proofread your work
Let’s look at each step more closely, to see how the process works:
Step 1: Create an outline
Outlines are powerful tools — never underestimate their ability to help you write more quickly. Once you have chosen your topic, the trick is to craft questions that get to the heart of the message you want to communicate.
Start the outline by asking four or five questions. The classic “Five W’s” (and one H) in journalism is a great format to follow: Ask who, what, where, when, why, and how questions. Make sure to keep your questions tightly focused on the subject at hand, so your interview subject doesn’t stray off topic.
After you’ve tackled these questions, try to anticipate any potential objections or follow-up questions that your readers may respond with. To strengthen your argument, be sure to have a solution, example, or quick story on hand that you can use to address their concerns. You’ll see below how I raised an objection and immediately followed up with an example to illustrate my point.
For example, an outline on how to get started with content marketing might go something like this:
- What is content marketing?
- Why is content marketing gaining so much attention lately?
- When is the best time to start a content marketing program?
- How do I know if content marketing will work for my company?
- What signs indicate my content marketing is on the right track?
- I don’t have much of a budget to create content. How should I begin?
- Give an example or some type of solution
This outline took two minutes to create. Of course, there could be many other kinds of questions to ask, depending on the audience and outcome of the article, but remember: this is only an outline — you’ll get into more detail as the interview takes shape.
Once your outline is complete, you may want to send your interviewee your list of questions in advance of the interview. Letting them approve or tweak the questions ahead of time can make the interview itself (Step 2) flow much more smoothly.
Step 2: Conduct your interview
Who should you talk to?: When choosing who you will interview for your story, there are three qualities you should be looking for:
- Expert knowledge
- Passionate interest in the topic
- Storytelling ability
While you don’t always have the freedom to choose your ideal interviewee, if you do have a say in the interview process, working with someone who has some or all of these qualities will make for more interesting content — and speed up the writing process.
Recording the conversation: Recording your interview is essential because it will create an accurate record of the conversation that reflects both the words of your guest and the emotion and tone being conveyed, as well. A side benefit is that you won’t be hassled with jotting down notes while you are having your conversation, or with having to ask your guest to repeat a comment that you missed while writing things down. Just be sure to get your interviewee’s permission before you hit “record” — no one wants to be surprised about being put on tape, and you don’t want to run into any awkward situations that can occur when an interviewee thought they were speaking “off the record.”
There are a few ways you can record your conversation. For example, I use an Olympus WS-700M Digital Voice Recorder, and it has worked nicely for my purposes. It’s easy to use, and has several microphone settings to choose from to suit your recording environment. Depending on your level of technological savvy, you can also consider conducting your interview via Skype, or even in person.
In general, you’ll want to aim for capturing a 60-second (or so) response for each question. But don’t worry if the conversation goes longer — you can always trim things down later in the process.
Step 3: Transcribe the conversation
Once the recording is finished, it’s time to transcribe the audio into text so you can compile the conversation into a readable piece of content. Transcripts have three main benefits, but the most important is that it allows you to completely engage with your guest without worrying about whether you’ve captured all the information correctly.
You can transcribe the interview yourself, or you can outsource this job to a professional transcriptionist. Either way, having a transcript to work from will save you time when it comes to the next step: writing and editing.
Step 4: Write/edit your content
Once your interview is transcribed, it’s time to turn all the wonderful insight you’ve gathered into your article. Sure you have the entire interview all written down, but the responses will likely require shaping and polishing before they are suitable for publication.
Editing vs. verbatim quoting: The criteria for editing responses vs. using verbatim responses will depend on the context.
For example, a response to one of your later questions may include a brief story that would make for a dramatic opening. Or perhaps a response will be too long in its entirety, but a few lines would work well as a closing statement. Feel free to move the content around until it flows smoothly from beginning to end, or do a little light editing for length or clarity, when necessary.
If it’s possible to set aside the article and return a day or two later, you’ll read the article a bit more objectively, making editing easier.
Step 5: Format the content to fit the platform you choose
When formatting your post for publication, think of how you can use your content to serve as a subtle invitation for readers to stop what they’re doing and engage with the content.
When formatting your content, you’ll want to start by breaking your information into short, concise paragraphs — this creates extra white space and makes it easy for readers to skim and read further. But formatting can be as easy as looking for places where you can bold key text, create bullet points, or use numbered lists to draw attention to your most important and most useful points. (For more tips on formatting your blog posts, be sure to read 12 Tips for Formatting Better Blog Posts.)
Step 6: Proofread your work
The final, and often overlooked, step is to proofread your content. Proofreading goes beyond correcting typos and grammar mistakes; it helps to ensure that your message is coming through clearly, doesn’t go off-track, and flows smoothly from beginning to end.
While you should always proofread your work as you create content, it’s helpful to enlist the help of someone who can review it with a fresh set of eyes (it’s amazing when someone else looks at our work and picks up things we’ve missed). Choosing to work with a professional proofreader can also help you become a better content marketer.
Can this process still work if you’re not interviewing anyone?
Yes, it can.
Just write the outline and record yourself giving the answers. It’s fast, easy, and a sneaky way to beat writer’s block!
Creating a sustainable content creation process doesn’t have to be difficult. You can use this process as it stands, tweak it to better suit your personal needs, or even take the ideas and create your own process.
Either way, you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting yourself when it comes to creating content that’s suitable for any platform.
Over to you
Do you have a sustainable process in place to capture content? Have you used something similar to this process? What type of sustainable process would you create if you were starting from scratch?