SlideShare a Scribd company logo
+
How to Develop Great
Content
November 26, 2016
+
What Makes for Great
Content?
(it’s not rocket science)
+
Is It Beautiful, Useful, or
Entertaining?
+
Does It Tell a Story?
+
Is It Accurate?
+
Are You Dead (Yet)?
+
Pursue the People
(you need an audience)
+
Find Your People
+
Define Your People
+
Pick a Platform
(any platform)
+
Take Ownership of Your Content
+
Lease Some Platforms
+
Choose Platforms Strategically
+
A Bit on Production
(think: iteration)
+
It Starts with an Idea
+
Give Your Work Some Spit and
Polish
+
Ask for Feedback
+
Kill Your Darlings
+
Put Your Work on Display
+
Analyze the Data
+
Some Tips on Creativity
(or, how to stay the creative course long-term)
+
Set Up Your Workspace
+
Exercise Your (Creative) Muscles
+
Use Your Peak Productivity Wisely
+
Study Other People’s Work
+
Go a Little Wild
+
Keep on Learning
+
Collaborate with Others
+
Accept Criticism
+
Spend Your Ideas
+
Keep a Commonplace Book
+
Give Yourself Permission to Fail
+
Questions?
Erin Feldman is Write Right
http://www.writerightwords.com

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How to Develop Great Content

Editor's Notes

  1. Great content meets at least one, if not two, of the qualifications. Beautiful content stirs the heart and inspires people. When you think “beautiful,” remember REI and National Geographic. They both post beautiful images but have different aims for doing so; REI wants people to purchase their gear in order to explore the great outdoors, whereas National Geographic wants people to be more aware and educated about the environment. Useful content tends to be informative. It helps people get things done. Some brands — cough, cough, IKEA — create instructional videos to help customers. Entertaining content takes people on a journey. It immerses them and makes them laugh. The Dollar Shave Club tends to fall into this category. Image: https://flic.kr/p/o7MnEf.
  2. Stories resonate and motivate people to act. Nonprofit organizations have learned this lesson well; they may present hard data in annual reports, but it’s augmented with stories of life transformation. Real-world impact draws in dollars and volunteers. Resource for developing a solid plot structure: http://www.storymastery.com/story/10-simple-keys-effective-plot-structure/. Image: https://flic.kr/p/pk3p7y.
  3. You sometimes need data to prove the case and to tell a full-bodied story. When you do, make sure the facts are timely — please don’t use stats from 2002 — and cite your sources. Image: https://flic.kr/p/in4qSv.
  4. Most great content isn’t considered great until you’re dead. Take Shakespeare. He created great content not because he wanted to be “great” in the future but because he wanted — and needed — to make a living in the present. There’s a lesson to be learned here: focus on creating good content now. Let history take care of the “great” factor. As for why Shakespeare still resonates? He wrote stories about real people and understood that life blends tragedy and comedy. Image: https://flic.kr/p/4HWXXV.
  5. Mary Karr, memoir writer, says, “People who say they write for themselves write for no one. The reader is the spark that makes your work explode into being.” (https://twitter.com/marykarrlit/status/788795746095161344) By the same token, people who write for everyone write for no one. Great content comes from writing (or drawing or taking photographs or [fill in blank]) for a specific someone. Who’s yours? Image: https://flic.kr/p/9io5vR.
  6. Once you “find” the people, check your assumptions. Study the audience as though you’re a scientist. Observe their behaviors. Ask questions. Find out what makes them tick. Use tools like Google Trends, Keyword Planner, and Buzzsumo. The more you know about them, the better and more targeted content you’ll create.
  7. Social media platforms are great, but you own nothing on them. Use them as your primary platform at your own peril. You should always, always have a place that is yours and yours alone. It’s your castle.
  8. Unless you’re already world-famous, you’ll need to “lease” some platforms to get the word out about your content. Photographers often focus on 500 Pixels and Instagram. Chefs turn to YouTube. Writers can use Instagram, too, but they’re also found on Tumblr and Twitter. Don’t forget about platforms like SoundCloud, either. Audio content can work well, particularly with the interest spawned by podcasts like Serial.
  9. While a website is more-or-less a given, other platforms should be chosen strategically. Look for a point of convergence. What networks would you use and which ones do your people populate? That’s the sweet spot. Aim there when deciding where to focus time and attention online. Image: https://flic.kr/p/dTZAW6.
  10. Remember the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”? That’s what content creation is like. You start with an idea, and the idea takes shape, either in words or another medium. Image: https://flic.kr/p/asxkZ1.
  11. Once your idea becomes a physical reality, you have to, as Annie Dillard says, assert mastery over it. If you let the work do its own thing, it will do it—without you. Take the work and refine, refine, refine. Never skimp on this step. Anyone can come up with an idea and give it an initial form. The great content creators, though, revise their work. They make it the best they can. Image: https://flic.kr/p/cc9RNu.
  12. When you aren’t sure your content’s ready for publication, ask for feedback. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and it doesn’t make you any less as a content creator. We all need an outside perspective. We get so stuck in our ideas and styles that we lose the forest for the trees. Let other people peer into your work and make suggestions. Maybe your blog posts need to employ some best practices. Maybe your camera’s filters are slightly off. It could be anything, but you’ll never know until you ask. Image: https://flic.kr/p/omRak3.
  13. If you want to be a great content creator, be a mercenary. View your work dispassionately. Kill the bad; keep the good. The more times you kill the darlings, the better off you, the content, and your audience will be. Image: https://flic.kr/p/nwbAad.
  14. “Ship it,” says Seth Godin, and he’s right. Perfectionism paralyzes. Put your best work out there and move on. Remember: everything is iteration. You can always fix things later but only if the work is out there in the first place. Take your cues from hardware and software developers. They put a product on the market and version it. Do the same with your work. Image: https://flic.kr/p/hbrh87. Check out these ShipIt journals: https://www.amazon.com/ShipIt-Journal-Five-Pack/dp/0970309996.
  15. Your content doesn’t exist in a void, particularly if working for a company. The content must deliver results. Is yours? Find out with metrics and analytics. Let them tell you — rather than gut instinct — what’s working and what’s not. Data has a story to tell if you will but listen to it. Image: https://flic.kr/p/cDW4QQ.
  16. Great content takes time, so you want a workspace that works for, not against, you. You may have multiple spaces; I have three or four designed for specific work. Perhaps you can work in the privacy of a room, but you could be a person who needs the coffee shop vibe. Try different spaces until you find one where your creativity flows best and more often. Image: https://flic.kr/p/m1Aowi.
  17. You wouldn’t run a marathon without stretching and warming up first. The same goes for content creation. If you’re serious about creating great content, limber up first. Do a couple of exercises. Get yourself accustomed to sitting in the chair or standing at the easel before you delve into the hard work of developing content. Image: https://flic.kr/p/fMPKPW.
  18. Your great content most often comes when you’re at the productivity apex. Ideas connect and become words or images. Everything flows. It seems a miracle when compared to creating content at other times of the day. Learn the lesson. Use your productivity peak well, but don’t limit work to it. You will have deadlines to meet. Train yourself to work at all times of the day but treasure the productivity peaks when you have them. Safeguard them, too, when possible. Image: https://flic.kr/p/s8f2PH.
  19. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” says Charles Caleb Colton. I don’t know about imitation being a form of flattery, but it is good practice. It teaches you to distinguish between mediocre and good art. When you see great content, study it. Ask how it works and why. Decipher what the creator was doing—or you think he was doing. Study how elements work for and against each other. Base compositions and art on their work until their modes integrate with your own. Your art and content builds on other’s; you never create in a vacuum. Image: https://flic.kr/p/ncAxGb.
  20. At some point, you develop a personal style. You should depart from it every once in a while. Go a little wild. Create art or writing the complete opposite of “you.” The departure gets your brain and hands thinking in different ways, leading to new ideas and conclusions. You may discover a new form that fits you better, or you may return to your previous style with a deeper knowledge of it and how it works. Regardless of where you go next with content creation, you have developed a broader skill set. It will serve you well wherever you go. It makes you adaptable, or to use a buzzword, “agile.” Image: https://flic.kr/p/nWUNNT.
  21. If you leave with no other point, go with this one: keep on learning. Stay curious. Ask questions. Learn new forms. Study old ones. Great content creators are lifelong learners. They study audiences, develop new skills, and explore new platforms, processes, and tools. Image: https://flic.kr/p/qDGYwB.
  22. You can create a lot of good content on your own, but turning it to great often requires the assistance of another person. Maybe you’re a great writer but don’t have strong graphic design skills. Find a collaborator. Their work will inform yours and vice versa, and the end product will be something far greater than you possibly could have imagined. Image: https://flic.kr/p/5CT2FH.
  23. Not all criticism is equal. Accept the constructive; ignore the destructive. Constructive criticism hurts, but it’s like a large vitamin: it improves your health, no matter how hard it is to swallow. Image: https://flic.kr/p/qJ8N2U.
  24. A funny thing happens when you use ideas: they spawn more. So, don’t hold onto them. Spend them and let new ideas come. The next idea may be the real idea. This one, the one you think you should save, may only be a step on the way toward it. From Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life: “One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.” Image: https://flic.kr/p/7tH2Xr.
  25. You may not be able to use all your ideas at once, so form a habit of saving them. Get a journal or use a notes app to store your scraps, things you see, or conversations overhead. From the smallest of ideas sometimes comes the largest and greatest of content. From Douglas Wilson’s Wordsmithy: “Your commonplace book is just a staging area. You are collecting things in order to use them, to get them into your mind and heart and thence into your writing.” Image: https://flic.kr/p/btYhQV.
  26. Not all your ideas will turn into good content. Some will hit the bottom of a gorge and shatter. Accept the fact. Embrace it. Failure means you’re trying, and it always — if you don’t let it become the final statement on your body of work — leads to great content and art. Your work soars as you attempt new, scarier feats. Remember: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” (The quote’s usually attributed to Churchill, but no hard proof exists for the claim.) Image: https://flic.kr/p/ouMuJy.
  27. Erin Feldman is Write Right. http://www.writerightwords.com