Wednesday April 22, 2015
Earth Day is upon us, which means it’s time to think about sustainability in all its many forms. You’ll probably see lots of blogs this week about going paperless, carpooling or biking to work, and other ways to make your workplace “greener.”
But the word sustainability has a much broader meaning, extending to the ability of humans and businesses to maintain their pace and rate of growth.
I think this has become a big problem in the content marketing arena. Balancing quantity and quality is a fundamental struggle of any content marketer.
We need a way to do more with less time and money, which means getting smart about the process of content creation. I got inspiration from the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra used to motivate other types of sustainability.
Here’s how to sustainably create content for your small business by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
A big part of this process is simply getting organized and focusing your energy. The goal is to reduce time, money, and creative energy drained by content creation.
Focus your time on channels, topics, and campaigns that are delivering results. For online content, make sure you have tracking URLs in place to report how people interact with your content, where they came from, and where they click to afterwards. Having all your different content channels reporting to one dashboard, such as AllProWebTools, makes it easy to compare them.
For print content, speeches, and other presentations, find other ways to measure success. What content generated the most phone calls? The most business cards? The most value added to customers?
With that data in place, you can start to catalogue and rank past content. This might be a time-consuming process initially, but knowing what’s already there and how it did is really helpful:
- Look for commonalities between high-performing content pieces
- Stop spending time creating duplicate content
- Discover gaps in coverage
Identify your major content pillars – also known as “evergreen topics” – which you can always fall back on. Try organizing your content by which of these main topics it falls into.
Are there any pillars you want to focus more on in the future? Are there some that just don’t seem to generate interest? How can those under performers be modified or changed? Don’t shy away from the tough messaging questions.
From there, develop an editorial calendar. It’s very important to organize this well in advance, with as many heads together as possible to generate the best content ideas. For every piece of content you add to the calendar, make sure you can answer these questions:
- Who exactly are we hoping to reach?
- When is the ideal time to release this content?
- Which channels are well-suited to the piece of content?
- What will be the value of this content into the future?
- How can we make creating this content easy?
The first three questions are a matter of customer discovery and research. The last two are the future of your content marketing strategy as a whole.
Reusing content addresses the question, “What will be the value of this content into the future?” Don’t let your best pieces be one-offs – find ways to keep building that momentum.
The easiest way to do this is to re-promote old content:
- Include a “throw-back” section in your newsletter
- Make social posts to drive new traffic to older blog posts
- Update an old post to include new information
Syndication is another great way to reuse awesome content. Syndication means reposting your content, in whole or in part, to a different channel than where it was originally posted. For example, if you have a high performing blog post on your site, you may wish to repost the article on Medium, LinkedIn, or other syndication channels. Make sure you link to the original!
You will likely want to make some slight modifications to make the content better suited to the channel where you’re posting it. Here are some examples:
- New headline that attracts readers on that particular channel
- Introduction tailored to that channel
- Different call-to action
Another way to creatively reuse content is to simply change the medium or target audience:
- Make an audio version of blog posts.
- Great case studies also make great blog posts
- Infographics, videos, and tools like Slideshare
The last step in creating a sustainable content creation strategy is to start recycling content. Unlike reusing content, recycling involves breaking content down into small parts, which can then be recombined to make new content.
Rather than thinking of a piece of content as a complete document, start thinking about it as an assembly of different content elements. These elements can be separated and reused in combination with elements from other pieces of content.
For example, here are the elements of a slideshow presentation:
- Slide content and messaging
- Design of the slideshow
- Visual aids and images
- Spoken presentation
You could reuse the slide design for another presentation. You could publish your visual aids. You could expand the slide content into a blog post. All of these are ways to recycle content.
It’s also important to expand your definition of content. Look for unusual sources:
- Customer service representatives’ client notes
- Questions your sales team answers over and over again
- Reports and surveys your marketing team generates
- Comments left on a previous blog post or on social media
- Company descriptions from applications, press releases, etc
You can see how it might start to get overwhelming keeping all these content elements organized and catalogued, as I described in the “Reduce” section. Try sorting your content elements by topic, and make sure that everyone in the company knows how to add content to the different silos.
It’s complicated, but I’ve always been of the mindset that it’s better to invest time at the beginning to make things easier in the long run. In a lot of ways, that’s the core message of sustainability. How can we make systems and processes that don’t run out of steam – that don’t get exhausted?
Of course, for many business owners, running a content marketing campaign single-handedly isn’t going to be sustainable no matter how organized they are. But that’s the beauty of outsourcing! Even if you do outsource the bulk of your content creation, I encourage you to go through these steps with the person you hire. It will help you set better goals, and it will make sure that the content you get is the right fit.
How do you overcome the quality vs. quantity issue of content creation? How do you keep the process organized? Let me know in the comments!