Publishing hacks for creating meaningful content for your business
We all know that these days businesses keen to engage with their customers and prospects may well be creating content for their business themselves.
The good news is that if you employ a lot of younger staff, many of them are already comfortable when it comes to creating content for social channels – which is where you might be targeting.
Great as that is, and I would encourage you to make use of that internal resource, what they may lack is a bit of savvy when it comes to the ‘strategy’* side of things. That includes both the ‘why’ behind what you’re doing, and the know-how around creating a consistency of voice for your business or brand.
Think like a publisher
So if the thought of ‘publishing’ or creating content for your business fills you with dread, then let me share with you some tried and tested techniques I have used in developing new publishing projects which can help you, too.
Four words you MUST ask yourself before writing a word of content
1. Why should I read?
Let’s assume you’ve decided that creating content is the thing for your business. The first thing you need to do is put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and ask yourself ‘why should I read?’.
Creating content for your business isn’t (only) about selling.
Put simply – why should they bother? What’s in it for them (and it has to be about them, and not you).
Brainstorm every single reason possible, however daft it may sound.
Be honest – your content has to pass the ‘who gives a ****?’ test, otherwise you’ve already failed.
That can be for a one-off article, or a whole campaign, identifying who you are talking to and why means you can then work out what you are saying to them.
So if you are an accountant or a lawyer, say, you might want to be thinking of saying something like ’gives a jargon-free low down on making tax digital’ etc (I’m making this up but you get the drift).
This is an exercise I have done many times both during my career at Archant and things like East Anglian Farming World, Future 50, and later for www.startandgrow.uk and the customer magazine New Horizons, which I launched for One Traveller.
So as an example: here are my ‘Why should I read’ reasons for businesses reading this article:
I want to create content for my own business
I’m not sure I have the capacity to do it myself, so am thinking about bringing in outside help
I’m looking for answers which are easy to understand and based on real-world experiences
I want to create content that’s valuable and useful to my customers and I’m not sure I’ve been getting it right up until now
Remember once you have worked out the reasons for why you should read your content – you need to make sure that your content fulfils those goals.
RED ALERT: If you don’t know who your target audience is – you need to take a step back and think about this, otherwise you are simply going for a scatter gun approach – a waste of your time and resources.
YOU’RE KIDDING RIGHT?: Here are some answers I’ve heard in the past to this question:
a. My boss says we have to do this
b. Our competitors are doing it
Note: These are common but not compelling reasons for creating content. If you find yourself in this position, don’t despair. Your boss will be happier if you can convince him or her that you have thought about their ‘idea’ (remember it is always their idea, unless it goes wrong, then you own it) and are devising winning ways to make it a reality.
• Let’s not get hung up with the ‘strategy’ side of things – I’m not talking about creating pages of reports going into the Nth degree – one side of A4 (or may be two) should be enough for now.
2. Why should I buy?
For businesses and content creators with a commercial intent in mind – ie ‘where is the money going to come from? then this is a second question worth asking.
This may or may not apply so much for your business – but typically the reason I would ask this in the media context was about why advertisers would want to support the new product. What does it mean for them? What will they get out of it (eg a chance to talk to target audience, raising brand profile etc)
In this case, though I would suggest you ask this question and list the answers from the point of view of your prospects and customers and why should they buy your product. (It’s that thing you once learned about features and benefits). Typically though, you are not going to sell directly, though you might want to have a link to a landing page, or a panel etc – up to you.
My answers would be something like:
Because I have a proven track record of delivering compelling content
Because I think I can do a better job of helping businesses with their content than current providers
I can work with growing SMEs who lack the capacity to produce content themselves but are keen to build it
I can train and mentor staff and help develop in-house content champions
All services are ‘pay-as-you-go’ and you’re not tied to a contract
Don’t forget – this need not be complicated stuff at this stage, you can get on to that later, at best you might need paper and pen, and may be some willing colleagues or partner to brainstorm some ideas. (Personally I’d do this, too BEFORE you start looking at things like keywords and SEO, which you can then do once you’ve got the overview in place)
I’m biased towards the written word – eg print, blogs, brochures etc, but these principles work just as well if you’re wondering about how to create video content for your business, or indeed how to create a business podcast.In which case you will be asking – ‘why should I watch?’, ‘why should I listen?’ etc
A word of warning – a lot of businesses get blindsided by the tech involved, and the analytics and obsess about that more than the actual content itself. That’s all important, but remember they are just distribution channels and measuring tools for your content, you need to be clear about what you are doing beforehand.
First off, I’d recommend getting the basic strategy right and then working out what to do next. You’ve got to understand first who your audience is, and then work out how you are going to get your content to them, and measuring its impact.
That’s the bit that comes next.
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