Content: It’s a word you’re likely to hear a hundred times a day if you work in the digital marketing industry, and with good reason. Without it, your company’s website is just a blank page with a logo and some navigational links across the header. Content is the meal you serve your customers; to keep them leaving full, and coming back when they’re hungry again, you need to be a good chef. You can think of the assorted forms of content as different types of cuisine — every chef has their specialty. Mine happens to be writing, and I thought it might be helpful to some of you, who are just getting started creating written content, to go through my process. Let’s get cooking! (And no, there won’t be anymore culinary analogies.)
Step 1: Be a sponge
It’s a good idea to have a general idea about what topic you’d like to cover, but don’t be afraid to let the world around you influence your writing. While they might not be explicitly referenced in your finished product (although it’s perfectly fine to do so if that makes sense), the various things you’re reading, doing, seeing, listening to, can create unique insight and add perspective to your work.
Step 2: Write! (Don’t Edit)
You’ve picked your topic; you’ve found your angle; now it’s time to write. What it isn’t time for is editing. Until you’ve got a first draft, avoid editing yourself. Doing so as you write strangles creativity, because it puts you at odds with yourself. Recognize that words are simply tools we use to convey our ideas. Syntax, word choice… worrying about these interrupts the flow of ideas that form the essence of your message. Nobody has to see that first draft but you. During this phase, concentrate on being considerate of your audience, and thoroughly covering the topic.
Step 3: Be Brutal
You’ve said everything you have to say, and now it’s time to shift into editing mode. During this phase, it’s important not to be married to what you’ve previously written. Imagine that what you’re looking at was written by someone else. Sure, that sentence might read beautifully, but if it isn’t on message, if it isn’t adding something tangible to your finished product, you have to be tough enough to cut it. Your goal as an editor is to whittle away all the excess fat, leaving only what is essential, while maintaining the message, the voice of the author, and the spirit in which the piece was written. Everything else must go.
Step 4: Proofread!!!
This should go without saying, yet plenty of sites still publish error-filled content every day. Check. Your. Work.
Step 5: More Eyeballs
When everything is just the way you like it, have someone whose opinion you value take a look at what you’ve wrought. This should be a person you know tells it like it is. While it’s preferable that they be well-versed in content creation, don’t discount feedback from an outsider. After all, chances are they’re similar to your end users–the people you want to click on your article. Remain amenable to feedback, and be prepared to repeat the whole process if someone has valuable input.
Step 6: Let Go
Once you’re convinced you’ve given it your best shot, publish it! Gauge response, figure out what went right and what went wrong, and apply those lessons in your next piece. That’s how you improve.
This is only my process, and while I believe there is value to be found in it, there are plenty of other methods that might work better for you. My best advice is to regularly analyze yourself, experiment with different techniques, and refine your process based on what you learn. Good luck!