By Elizabeth Sosnow published November 3, 2010

How to Grow a Content Creator: A 3-Month Boot Camp (The First Month)

If you’re like me, you’re best friends with a hungry beast called content. Despite your committed efforts to feed it, you are sadly and increasingly aware that you can’t do it alone.

You want help. You need a team of people cranking out “food” for our ravenous friend. But perhaps your colleagues still need time to ripen into the gifted creators they will become.

Is it possible to jump start that process? Yes.

After being part of a marketing communications agency for twenty years, I have gotten used to the fact that people come and go, and that the professional development process is a never-ending one. Here is a proposed boot camp schedule to help you fast track your team’s abilities to create the content you need.

This boot camp is a process is that appropriate for anyone who is working with content creators and needs to help develop their skills, including anyone from your organization or even freelancers who you work with on an ongoing basis. Having a systematic method to develop your colleagues and orient them to your organization is helps you get consistent results with your content.

Weeks one and two

1. Start with a gap evaluation.

Like it or not, you need a customized session that helps your colleague understand exactly where he or she needs to improve. Come armed with writing samples, video/audio clips or other content that illustrate your point. If you skimp on this meeting, the whole boot camp fails. (And please don’t do this step in a group because every creator has a different skill set. It’s silly to try to homogenize your team.)

2. Offer a starter menu of 15 thinkers.

I’m a firm believer that you cannot be a successful creator or teacher without being a perpetual reader and student. Help your team become better learners by giving them an RSS starter kit:

  • Who are the five bloggers they need to learn from?
  • What are the five news sources they should absorb best practices from?
  • What are five traditional and/or unexpected sources to “round out their dance card?”

If they only consume these resources for three months, you should already see an improvement in their work.

3. Develop an initial assignment.

Give each individual a project that helps them “work their problems.” While I know you would love to use this exercise on a client assignment, please don’t force this. Your responsibility in this case is to help your colleague. Put them first. A few examples:

  • Give abstracts to folks who have trouble distilling key points
  • Use outlines to help people understand how to become more linear
  • Assign survey reports to individuals who need to marry quantitative synthesis to their already strong qualitative analysis
  • Ask for 50 blog leads from someone who needs to improve their storytelling

4. Get tangible.

Initial work assignments should always have a template that offers an organizational structure and sample documents to help guide thinking. In my experience, people need direction and then they need time to absorb it. Samples, such as an annual report or a viral video, will help to build confidence and make your suggestions tangible.

Weeks three and four

1. Assign initial project plus “book report.”

After reviewing initial project work and analysis, be prepared to point out where gaps were closed and to identify opportunities to stretch further. The book report should emphasize what they were able to glean from their content role models. What are some best practices? How did they overcome obstacles? How were they able to make their ideas actionable?

2. Use initial work to develop “stepped” program.

As you evaluate initial results, distill three main improvement areas to focus on for the remainder of the boot camp. Those themes should influence your future assignments, which should be increasingly more challenging as skills are refined. (Keep in mind that folks always work at their own pace, so it may be a two-month boot camp for some and six months for others.)

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll explore the next stage of Content Boot Camp…what happens after you “rev the engines.”

In the meantime, will you share how you help younger folks start to become creators?

Author: Elizabeth Sosnow

Elizabeth develops strategy for large clients in financial and professional services, with a particular emphasis on the legal, insurance, marketing services and consulting industries. She leads BlissPR’s Digital activities, including blogger outreach, influencer engagement, SEO benchmarking, email strategy and social network analytics. Elizabeth is the incoming Chair of the Digital Practice for Worldcom’s Board of Directors in the Americas region. You can follow her on Twitter @elizabethsosnow.

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