What content creator doesn’t want the secret to producing rock star-quality content every time? Not many. Face it: Creating amazing content every time you sit down at the computer is difficult.
The key to generating high quality content on a consistent basis is to create a structure for your content offering. (Editor’s note: Click the link to tweet.)
With content creation, the goal is to have a lot of the heavy lifting finished before you ever sit down to start producing it. To this end, it’s useful to think like an old-fashioned magazine editor whose publication is based around editorial events, regular columns, and departments.
While at the heart of building an effective editorial calendar, this preparation is challenging when you are first starting out. To facilitate a smoother editorial process, it helps to plan in terms of two-week or four-week intervals (I call this the “CliffsNotes” Editorial Calendar).
Here are the five steps to rock star-caliber content creation:
1. Determine the major business events and holidays that structure your promotional calendar: Generally these occasions don’t change from year-to-year:
- Incorporate these overarching themes, events (including conferences), and holidays into your content calendar.
- Create hooks around which you can build content that highlights your company’s related promotions.
2. Establish a set of columns that will appear on a regular basis: By laying out a series of ongoing themes, you can build a publishing cycle with built-in momentum:
- Set a consistent publication schedule: Each column should appear consistently on the same day every week, every two weeks, or every four weeks — depending on your chosen schedule. The goal is to train your audience to know when to look for these theme-related content pieces.
- Brainstorm your series of columns: Here are five options every business can use to come up with great ideas for column-based content:
- Form a column around a specific topic or theme: One person should consistently write these articles, and whenever possible, that writer should be a well-known expert in the field you’ve chosen to cover. For example, I wrote a column for ClickZ on Actionable Analysis. While the content varied, every article was built on the theme of how to measure results from marketing efforts.
- Answer customer questions: These articles are easy to structure, since you’re responding to your prospects’ top issues. Further, members of your sales, customer service, or marketing team can write the answers. This strategy offers the additional benefit of giving you an opportunity to link to your product.
- Create entertaining educational content that is related to your offerings: Think of this as a show-and-tell for your products. Use “how-tos,” photos, videos or other content formats that have been found to be most useful for your particular customer base and their informational needs.
- Make your customers the stars of your content: Gather customers’ stories related to their satisfaction with your products. This is a great option for content, and it can be created using text, images, and/or videos.
- Put your employees on stage: Create a regular feature where you interview your staff, encouraging them to share a behind-the-scenes view of your company’s background and training.
3. Balance your original content with curated content, gathered from outside sources: Show your audience that you’re on top of the latest news and information on your industry:
- Provide readers with a regularly curated offering (a blog post, daily eNewsletter, a Facebook post, etc.) of the must-read news and trends relating to your field.
- Add your perspective to the curated content: This helps readers to understand the latest trends in your industry — and why they need to be paying attention to them.
4. Expand your content marketing offering with quality guest posts: Allow others to contribute useful information to your content offerings:
- Develop a set of guest posting guidelines: Be very specific about the type of content that you’ll accept, who owns the rights to it, and the acceptance process.
- Appoint an editor to select, edit, and monitor content: To ensure that the content you solicit will be on target for your audience and aligned with your editorial mission.
5. Monitor your competitors’ content offerings to gather topics you may have missed: Don’t underestimate the utility of staying abreast of what others in your category are discussing. It can give you ideas for article topics you may never have thought of.
The key to creating amazing content on a continuous basis is to establish a structure that helps you do the heavy lifting of crafting information before you ever sit down to write.
What tricks do you use to produce attention getting content every time? What challenges do you have when doing it?
Don’t miss Heidi Cohen’s presentation at Content Marketing World 2013, September 9-11 in Cleveland, Ohio. Register now to attend.
Cover image via Flickr Creative Commons