A few weeks ago, my fellow Roller Kandice and I attended a marketing industry event called Content Marketing World 2019. This event, which occurs annually and is celebrating its eighth year, focuses on, as you’ve likely guessed, all things content marketing and how to implement ideas at your organization. Throughout the two-day conference, a recurring theme emerged that I think will get small business owners’ ears to perk up: how to create authentic content on a budget and efficiently.
It didn’t matter the speakers’ professional background. Each individual shared stories of working clients that had big ambitions, but like many businesses, they were pressed for budget and time when it came to content creation. Of the many components that go into running a business, something as ephemeral as “marketing content” was deemed a lower priority. As a marketing professional, I also admit that my peers and I struggle to clearly articulate the value of investing in high-quality content that encourages audiences to engage. Rather than get wrapped up in a bunch of jargon, let me put things succinctly. Invest a bit of time and effort into your marketing content; otherwise, kiss your audiences and business good-bye.
You might be asking, “Why so much doom and gloom, Andrew? My customers are loyal and will always be there!” While I admire your confidence in your business, the modern consumer expects a lot more from brands. Gone are the days of entities being able to get by with doing the minimum in terms of marketing. Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, affordable pro-level DSLR cameras, and other trends, content creation has become democratized and faster. Sadly, some businesses are getting left behind.
There’s a way to succeed, however. With a bit of planning and eagerness to learn, everyone can create authentic marketing content that captures customers’ attention and keeps them engaged. For the sake of brevity, I’ll be focusing predominately on social media applications, but you can adapt these lessons to other digital platforms, too. Intermixed will be some tools that I’ve personally used to create content efficiently and make it more impactful.
Start with the Basics: Your Business’ Story
You’ll want to begin by picking up a pen and a piece of paper and mapping out your brand story, or the “why” behind your business. In a saturated digital environment with a plethora of content sources and where brands are competing for people’s attention, a compelling narrative can help set you apart. Additionally, and for the sake of this article, knowing who you are provides a foundation for developing content pillars. You can think of these as parent topics that are aligned with your company and will guide the production of content going forward. Examples are:
Company culture: content focused on your employees and their stories, your brand story, and other aspects of the busines
Education: content that helps to educate your target audience about your business and topics that are adjacent to it
User-generated content: posts created by others that mention or tag your business. With proper attribution and customer consent, you can repurpose this for your digital marketing channels.
With content pillars defined, you can then take the next step and outline content series, which are recurring, easy-to-understand, and value-delivering posts accompanied by high-quality visuals. Their benefits include:
The ability to create content at scale Posts aligned with your brand’s broader story and aspirations Posts generated to stoke engagement and to encourage followers to stick around
In terms of look and feel, that’s wholly up to what makes sense for your brand, be it content you generate, user-generated content (UGC), or a mixture. Regardless of how you want to execute them, it’s essential to have your content pillars and series ideas laid out. These items keep you from reinventing the wheel every time you want to create new content.
Bringing It All to Life: Ways to Generate Authentic Marketing Assets from One Large Piece of Content
Having your guidelines formulated, you’re now ready to bring things to life and reap the benefits. How does this look like in real life? Check out this example from an architecture firm that we’ve been helping at Duckpin. Here are the steps we took to go from one big piece of content into repurposing it for our marketing needs.
In the interest of working efficiently and gathering lots of content at once, we wrote out 12 questions informed by our content series ideas.
How did you initially get interested in your field? What pieces of professional advice would you share with the younger version of yourself? What sustains you at work when confronted with a challenging project?
When drafting these questions, we approached them as a means of getting the interviewee to open up and inspiring them to share personal anecdotes.
We then interviewed team members over the phone for thirty minutes.
Should you want to adopt this approach or do it via email, I encourage you to begin with some “softballs,” such as who the person is and what they do. From my experience as a podcast producer years ago, this is a great way to ease into more substantial questions and hopefully get some excellent content.
After the interview, I sit down and review the answers for “gems,” those responses easily translated into short-form content appropriate for social channels.
I will, for instance, extract powerful quotes and integrate them into assets, like a photo with a quote overlaid. One of my favorite tools for doing this is Canva, a free design tool that’s easy to learn and offers plenty of customizability in terms of branding elements. Also, don’t fret too much about the photo; make sure it’s something you’ve shot and not stock. Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s an article from the Content Marketing Institute about the value of choosing authentic images.
For other “gems,” notably when someone reveals what inspires them or something cool about their job, I either develop a Pinterest board related to these topics or I’ll ask the team to record a short video on their smartphone showing a part of their workday. For the latter, an app I like to use for editing is Magisto; it’s a tool that novice users will be able to master.
For information that is a bit longer form or not readily converted in “snackable” content, I brainstorm ways to use it on platforms that are better suited to it, like a blog post accompanied by visuals.
Bottom line: aim to show, not just tell a story and succeed at content creation with less stress.