By Amy Higgins published February 19, 2015

Content Strategists Can Follow Their Own Big Bang Theory

BigBang

A central tenet of content strategy is to create many content assets from the Big Idea. Here we explore how the concept works in practice.

As content marketers, we struggle with the never-ending battle of quantity vs. quality. We want to produce quality content with an extremely high ROI and we want enough content to appeal to all our varied audiences. But too often there’s a tension between quality and quantity.

What if you could produce quality content and repurpose it dozens, even hundreds, of times for your diverse audiences? Sound too good to be true?

Just as the Big Bang theory describes how the universe originated from a single point billions of years ago, the Big Bang Theory of Content will help you create – from a single point of content – an explosion of infinite ways to reuse and repurpose a single big idea or story.

To create your own big bang, think of your entire content library as a galaxy, and each high-level topic as its own solar system. For example, GE has a massive variety of content. One solar system for GE is the Internet of Things; it’s a topic area with hundreds of assets, and it supports the company’s desire to position its engines and turbines as interconnected, smart machines because of their GE software.

Deciding on a topic (i.e., solar system), however, isn’t enough to get started. Each content solar system has a sun – the single point of energy around which it revolves. For your content plan, your sun will be a single, extremely large content asset that documents all the ways in which you will dissect the Big Idea you’ve chosen, and how you will distribute it via social media. Just as our sun holds the planets and moons in orbit, so too will your content sun power all the assets you create within that topic area.

Concur creates content solar system

At my previous company, Concur, we began by planning our organization’s galaxy – or all the main topics/stories for which we wanted to be known by our audiences. For us, this was easy. We started with the main solutions Concur provides – expense and travel management, invoicing, and cash-flow management. These became our three solar systems. At this point, we didn’t look at personas or even our end-use case for each piece of content. We simply wanted to answer a single question within this galaxy of content: “How does Concur help?” and go from there.

We began with the expense story line (i.e., solar system) and created our sun, The Essential Guide to Managing Expenses. This was an entirely new process for us, almost backward from the customer’s journey. In essence, we were starting with the final destination of our customers’ journey and walking back toward their first moment of engagement.

This asset took us over six months to create, with many ups and downs along the way (a process we have cut by 75% since that first try). While creating our Essential Guide (i.e., our sun) we discovered five common themes and story lines that required a deeper dive; hence, we created the planets to tell those stories. Like the planets in our very own Milky Way, our content planets have moons orbiting around them. Some planets have only one moon while others have five or eight moons. And let’s not forget the satellites. Of course every galaxy is different, this is just how Concur’s Expense Galaxy was formed.

Create your own galactic content system

Here’s how you can view your galactic content system, including examples of what Concur created for its celestial content system.

  • Galaxy – All of your content across all topic areas
  • Solar system – A single high-level topic for your organization that can support a large library of content
  • Sun – One huge asset (e.g., a 40- to 100-page report) that tells your complete story related to that topic (it powers all of your content)

Concur example: The Essential Guide to Managing Expenses

  • Planets – Larger assets like eBooks and videos that tell a particular story line from your high-level topic

Concur example: 15-page eBook How to Create a No-Questions-Asked Expense Policy for All

  • Moons – Mid-sized assets (e.g., smaller eBooks, white papers, SlideShare presentations, and infographics) that help lead people and back up the planets

Concur examples: 12-page eBook Integrating Travel Into Your  Expense Management, SlideShare post Expense Policy Workbook, infographic What’s Your Expense Personality Type?, and Smarter-Than-the-Average Spreadsheet

  • Satellites – All of the smaller photos, GIFs, and social media posts that drive engagement to the rest of the solar system

Concur examples: 25-plus blog posts, over 100 social-media graphics, over 400 social-media posts, both organic and social

Concur’s entire expense-management solar system took almost a year to create, and we plan on using the content created for the next 18-plus months. In total, we have over 550 pieces of content, with more being generated daily as we reuse and recycle content from our sun, the Essential Guide. Our galaxy of content supports all of our activities, including thought leadership, demand generation, webinars, sales-enablement tools, customer onboarding, and in-person events.

It’s been a fascinating journey along the way. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We’ve prospered. What’s next? To infinity and beyond … with the creation of our next two solar systems.

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of  Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bi-monthly magazine.

Image courtesy of CCO magazine

Author: Amy Higgins

Amy Higgins is the senior manager of social at Zendesk. Follow her @AmyWHiggins.

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  • http://hedstrominternetconsulting.com/ Steve Hedstrom

    Great post Amy! I really like the galaxy, social system, planet, moon analogy.
    Have a Thankful Thursday! :-) Sharing this today!

    • Amy Higgins

      Thanks Steve! As my Granny used to always say, “shoot for the stars, if you reach the moon, than that’s ok.” :)

  • Amy Higgins

    Over the moon thrilled to share my Big Bang theory of content with all of y’all on CMI! Please don’t hesitate to ask me anything about how to create your own content Big Bang by commenting below or on Twitter @AmyWHiggins. (Or, chat with me in September at CMWorld.)

  • http://www.baseonegroup.co.uk/beyond John Bottom

    Like it. A single, glorious, life-giving piece of content in the middle and everything else spinning around it, bathed in its aura. Good way of thinking about it.

    • http://amywhiggins.net/ Amy Higgins

      :) Our Essential Guide at Concur gave life to so many other pieces of content. It helped us have a central life line. I left the company before we completed our next universe around AP automation. Can’t wait to see what my old team does with that galaxy!

  • Keegan

    What a great idea for organizing content! Thanks for sharing.

    • http://amywhiggins.net/ Amy Higgins

      Thanks Keegan. Tweet me if you ever have any questions about how to create your own big bang.

  • Terri Zora

    Wow, what an endeavor! I really like the idea of interconnecting content in this way. I’m going to have to think about how we can incorporate parts of this idea into our content planning for our clients.

    • http://amywhiggins.net/ Amy Higgins

      Thanks Terri! When designing your own, think about what core ideas give life to the rest of the content. That will be your sun, then divide from there. Another way to look at it is to think of the planets as channels. For example, one planets is your demand generation efforts, the moon is CTAs, and the stars are the messaging points. Just a thought.

      Tweet me if you ever get stumped and need help.

  • Nathan

    The point of your article is totally valid. Ultimately content marketing is about solving problems for your audience. Where content achieves this its lifespan will last as long as it remains relevant and can be repurposed and repositioned many times as you have stated. I’m not sure the message needs relating to the big bang theory except for the great headline of course.

  • http://www.ens.org.in E.Karnika Yashwant

    Amy-That’s a great way to grasp the concept and application of
    content marketing! It made me think of another way to demonstrate.

    Think of a tree.

    The trunk of the tree is the core message or the main website, the
    tree branches are the existing pieces of content, the leaves are types
    of content in different mediums.

    Many times, my clients are trying to grow a very young tree, or they
    are trying to revive a tree that hasn’t been properly cared for or
    pruned in a few years. It is scrawny and weak, or has branches and
    twisting vines that looks like a jungle!

    To get the most ROI, we take a look at the tree from a step back.
    Gather all the information we currently have-pick the strongest branches
    and prune away the rest.

    This gives space for growth and expansion on strong limbs and a solid base.

    Now, the content marketing improves on what’s already there.

    Like your solar system example, our client’s tree will continue to
    grow stronger and taller, casting a shadow on their competitors…because
    our tree is growing new branches and leaves and reaching toward the sky.

    And under the ground…in the background….a team is constantly working
    on building and strengthening the root system so this tree will live to
    be as strong as a grand old oak.

    This is the process we use at Key Difference when we partner with other
    content marketing agencies. We help with re-purposing content in ways
    that are fresh and effective and because we have a team of 350+ pros, we
    get it done seamlessly and in a way that’s a win-win for all.

    • http://amywhiggins.net/ Amy Higgins

      Love it! Do you have a way to think of how to see the forest through the trees? That’s where I became stumped on how to think of the content galaxies mixing together, living off one another.

      • http://www.ens.org.in E.Karnika Yashwant

        Amy, shall we connect over LinkedIn or Facebook? Type my name and you’ll find me!

  • http://www.blogengage.com/ Brian Belfitt

    Content marketing has always been about strategy. I like how you related content marketing with the way universe works. It actually bears a remarkable resemblance.

    Content marketing should not only about sharing your content everywhere. It should be about coming out with a solution for your audience and sharing it with everyone. That’s how people will notice you.

    • http://amywhiggins.net/ Amy Higgins

      Thanks Brian for your comment.
      I completely agree — content marketing is about developing content that is for your audience. The content galaxy is all about how to share that content in multiple ways to reach them.

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  • http://lukerumley.com/ Luke Rumley

    Is it better to create a single, long-form story and adapt it to digital channels or to create unique content for each channel from the same body of research? And which did you choose to do for Concur?

    • http://amywhiggins.net/ Amy Higgins

      Hi Luke! If you create a single long-form piece of content, and then adapt it for each channel, it really does become unique content per channel. At Concur, we used the long-form piece as our “bible” or encyclopedia for all of our other content. We pulled content constantly from it to be used on multiple channels in different forms and length.