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Your Ultimate Guide To Master the Content Creation Process

Your Ultimate Guide To Master the Content Creation Process

Content creation acts as the heart of effective content marketing. And, as a skilled creative practitioner, you pour your heart into your work every day.

It also takes a sharp mind to make effective decisions and helping hands to consistently transform fresh ideas and insights into resonant brand storytelling. Not to mention the stamina it requires to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for more and higher-quality output.

Sure, generative AI tools can assist with some tasks. Ultimately, it’s up to you to ensure your the elements are in place to engage audiences and convert them into customers.

These expert tips, tricks, and guidance can help make the creative aspects of your content marketing easier to manage and more likely to succeed.

I’ve organized this advice to answer the three most critical content creation questions:

  • Who will create/contribute to the content?
  • How will the content align with your strategic goals?
  • How will you craft compelling stories that your audience will love?

Before you proceed: If you need a refresher on how to build the proper strategic foundation and secure stakeholder support for content marketing, check out these guides:

1. Who will create the content?

To determine the best creation model, consider factors such as the nature of your business, content competition, expertise required, and team and budget resources.

Among the options:

  • Hiring writers for an in-house team: If your brand prioritizes original content creation, produces a high volume of assets, or needs content to fill multiple channels and platforms, full-time writing talent makes it easier to control the process.
  • Leveraging internal employees and subject matter experts (SMEs): If your brand’s conversations require specialized expertise or technical know-how, involve colleagues from other organizational functions. You can also tap into the insights of executive management, sales personnel, product managers, or other employees. As CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose, points out, training your content team to be subject matter experts may be more effective than teaching SMEs to excel at writing.
  • Outsourcing to consultants or specialists: Smaller businesses, startups, nonprofits, and other companies that aren’t ready to invest in full-scale editorial capabilities may work with paid contributors (including trained former journalists) or partner with a content agency or other creative service provider.
  • Soliciting external contributors: A B2B business with a strong, subscribed community can ask industry thought leaders to write guest articles for its owned media platforms. These writers often share their expertise in exchange for valuable backlinks and exposure to new audiences. If your business has a B2C focus, enable your ardent fans and followers or relevant influencers to create user-generated content on your brand’s behalf.
  • Exploring AI writing tools: More accessible technology has made artificial intelligence content creation a robust and affordable option for most brands. Even so, skilled (human) creators are still needed to ensure the content’s quality and relevance (and to maintain compliance with Google’s Search Essentials). But AI can be a huge time-saver for research, outlines, and first drafts or filling other productivity gaps in your creative workflow.

Shape your talent pool for marketing content creation

Get extra help determining a suitable creation model, skill sets, and operational structure with these talent-focused resources:

2. How will content align with your strategic goals?

Sharing compelling, valuable stories your audience will love is an admirable goal. Of course, a strategic marketing purpose must support that love fest.

Draw your target audience’s attention by creating content in the formats and types they prefer. Positioning your content to maximize engagement and conversion is also critical. Otherwise, you spin the content engine’s wheels without getting meaningful traction.

Achieving creative and strategic alignment is a top-down endeavor. Let’s start with the practical and tactical decision-making that should occur before creating a single word or image.

Evaluate format and content type options

According to CMI’s Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — Insights for 2024, short articles, videos, case studies, and virtual events still reign supreme among content formats and types.

But just because these content options are popular doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for your brand or audience. A less popular or more specialized tactic might help your content stand out from the competition.

Before you decide, understand the strengths and limitations of each option. The examples and insights shared in the articles on these formats can help inform your research and decision-making efforts:

Find your unique approach

Next, there’s the matter of differentiating your content from your competition. You could find a content niche — an industry topic or focal area where your brand can provide practical guidance and unique thought leadership your audience won’t find elsewhere.

Focusing your creative resources around a specialized topic reduces the paralysis that comes when trying to fill too many content buckets at once. It also ensures everything created under that theme organically ties into your strategic purpose.

To home in on a distinctly valuable niche, ask these questions:

  • Can we own the conversation in this area for our industry?
  • Does our audience have a pressing — and unmet — need for this kind of content?
  • Do we have the knowledge and production capabilities to create this content consistently?

Nail down your alignment plan

Need more help creating distinct content that dovetails with your strategy and delights your audience? Continue your journey with these resources:

3. How will you craft compelling stories that your audience will love?

Successful content creation in marketing takes more than the usual creative considerations — determining topics, generating story ideas, and maintaining high creativity and quality.

Your content must serve as a platform for communicating your brand’s unique perspectives, capabilities, and value proposition. It should also tell a story that resonates with your target audience and convinces them to act.

Identify worthwhile content topics

Kick off your creative ideation by determining which subjects to write about. Ignore any that don’t reflect your brand’s identity in the most meaningful and targeted way.

To approach this task, identify primary subjects on which your target audience actively searches for information. Keyword research or topic cluster modeling can deepen your understanding of their challenges and what content might help solve them.

However, as Google’s ongoing core updates remind us, you should focus on delivering a satisfying, high-quality experience for your audience. Answer your customers’ questions, demonstrate your brand’s subject-matter experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EEAT), and add value to existing conversations to get the most search impact from the content you create.

Generate creative article ideas

The content engine requires many creative ideas to keep it running smoothly. Team brainstorming sessions can help your content creators get their creative juices flowing and generate a high volume of powerful, original ideas. AI tools can also serve as helpful brainstorming buddies.

However, unstructured brainstorms often lead to unfocused ideas that lack originality, don’t align with your strategy, or may be too challenging to execute. Consider following the Perpetual Innovation Process developed by Re:Think Innovation author Carla Johnson. It sets a stage for purpose-driven ideation while allowing innovation to thrive. The ideas that make it through the process are more likely to be embraced by your brand stakeholders and audience.  

Transform raw ideas into resonant stories

Regardless of your tactical and strategic decisions, content that never makes it off the drawing board won’t help your business. The physical act of creating your content is the true lynchpin for success.

Content creation in marketing requires focus, dedication, and craftsmanship. For assets that strike the right balance of creativity and impact, follow the advice in these top resources:

To widen the appeal and deepen the resonance of your content, don’t unintentionally (or intentionally) exclude anyone from the conversations. Avoid using gender-biased terms and language that fail to reflect your audience’s diverse experiences and perspectives. Better yet, seek underrepresented voices you can help amplify by including them in your content.

In addition, follow accessibility best practices to ensure everyone who discovers your content can consume and benefit from it. For example, write descriptive text to explain what’s shown in videos and visuals. Also, consider including transcripts and alt text so consumers who rely on screen readers can have the whole content experience.

Strengthen — but don’t strain — your creative muscles

Over time, the rigors of the process can wear down even the most talented and dedicated content creators. Look to helpful tech, like headline generators and AI content creation tools, to surface novel ideas and approaches you can expand and develop.

If you’re feeling low on creative inspiration, keep this in mind: Great content ideas don’t have to be wholly original. Try exploring efforts produced by award-winning content brands in other verticals or industries. You might find ways to iterate on their concepts and create something freshly appealing for your audience.

But don’t let the drive to do it all get in the way of your mental health. If you’re feeling burned out, your writing will naturally suffer.

When you experience content fatigue, explore opportunities to rebalance your workload or offload low-performing initiatives. It may free the mind space you need to refresh your creative energy and renew your focus. Working with a mentor can also help guide you through creative block and other stresses creators commonly experience.

Enhance your writing quality

Content riddled with typos, grammatical errors, tech issues, or factual inaccuracies can cost your brand the trust and respect of the audience and their patronage.

To avoid being mocked for producing lazy, low-quality assets or labeled as a purveyor of fake news, carefully proofread, test, and fact-check every piece of content.

Pay attention to the mechanics of skillful writing to craft click-worthy headlineseffective leads, intriguing meta descriptions, and engaging conclusions. These features determine whether readers will consume your content and or move on to someone else’s offerings.

Whether you have an in-house creative team or work with outsourced contributors, coaching your writers on your brand’s quality expectations can help avoid tiresome rewrites — or all-out rejections of their work.

Use your powers of persuasion

Even the best quality content won’t help meet your goals if it doesn’t resonate with your audience or spur them to take actions that impact your business. Decide what you’d like them to do, and then use your content powers to convince them to do it.

Try the ideas in these articles to foster emotional resonance, deepen engagement, and drive conversions:

Master the whole creative process

Want to learn more about any of the critical components of content creation? These tips, insights, and examples can guide your journey:

Go forth and create

Your content will achieve greater success with the power of a well-managed creative team, strategic and creative alignment, and uniquely valuable stories. If you find yourself stuck along the way — or have a content creation tip to share — tag CMI on social media.

Updated from a December 2022 article.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute