The Content Creation Process: Follow These 6 Steps to Generate Content That Converts
Creating content is easy. Creating content that actually gets noticed is a whole ‘nother story.
Blogs and social posts and podcasts and videos—there’s so much online today that is competing for a limited amount of attention. To beat the odds, you need a strategy.
Now, the idea of writing blog posts or upping your social game may not sound appealing. (The thought of it may even be making you cringe.) However, pushing out content only when you feel like it (or not at all) is a surefire way to ensure that it’s going to end up like the countless others that hardly attract a passing glance.
Adding a bit of structure can even give you a sense of confidence and motivation. You know exactly where you’re going and how to get there. That’s why we’re taking this opportunity to clearly lay out the content creation process. Instead of spinning your wheels, use these 6 steps to maximize your efforts and give your content the best chance of success.
Step 1: Plan
Before we start discussing the “how,” we need to know the “why.” Sitting down to write a blog post or shoot a video is pointless if you don’t know why you’re doing it. Every piece of content you create should have a purpose and a place in your larger content strategy.
In this stage, you’ll be planning out your content—not just the topics and ideas but also the tactics behind your approach. Don’t just create content for the sake of it. Plan for how your content will inspire your audience to take action and ultimately, support you in your larger business goals.
If you have a content team, weekly editorial meetings are great ways to bring everyone together to make sure you’re all on the same page and that all the pieces (blogs, social posts, videos, podcasts, etc.) are working in tandem. If you’re a one-person operation, setting aside time on your calendar for planning is still important for evaluating your efforts.
- What pieces of content have been really resonating with my audience? Can I repurpose successful content into something new?
- What did I create last year at this time that was successful? Are there any upcoming holidays or industry events from which I can draw inspiration?
- How can I best showcase my knowledge?
- What medium(s)/channel(s) would be best to share this idea?
- What are my business goals, and how will this content support one or more of them?
- How will I know if this content is successful?
Step 2: Research
Even experts do their research. Even if you know everything there is to know about your given field, you still need to look into existing content on your topic. Take a glance at what pops up when you type related keywords into Google. What do you see? How are top-performing pieces positioned? These are your competitors. This is what you’ll be up against when someone is searching for related content, so look into what’s currently available. Then, decide how to create something even better.
The other step in this stage is basic fact-finding. To ensure that your information is 100% accurate, you’ll be looking for supporting evidence, statistics, case studies, and examples that can add credibility to your piece.
- What don’t I know, and what do I need to learn to create the best possible piece of content?
- How can I join the dialogue already in progress? What can I add to the conversation?
- Can I incorporate current events, pop culture, or relevant industry news?
- How is competing content positioned? What keywords are they using? What about the title?
Step 3: Create
Notice that we’re only now entering the creation stage. This is where most people (mistakenly) begin the content creation process. However, without the strategic foundation that we’ve built in the previous two stages, the end product will lack purpose. So, now that you’re actually putting pen to paper (or more likely, fingers to keyboard), you’ll have a solid idea of what you’re trying to achieve and what that product should look like.
Keep in mind, you’re not going to sit down and crank out a perfect piece of content on the first try, and that’s okay. This stage is all about just putting your idea into a physical form—whether that’s a video, a blog, or a social post—and bringing together the elements from the previous two stages.
- Is the content clearly branded?
- Is it showcasing a fresh perspective?
- Is it well-informed by both your strategy and your research?
Step 4: Refine
As Stephan King famously wrote, “Kill your darlings.” If something isn’t working the way you need it to, then cut it. Make it better.
The refinement stage where you step back from what you’ve created and critically evaluate whether or not your content is effective. Yes, you should be checking for basic grammar mistakes, but this is also the time to assess if your content is leading your audience to take the action you want. Remember, you’re not just creating content just for the sake of it. Your strategically creating content that inspires action and drives your business forward.
A coworker, an influencer, a professional editor—find someone you can trust to give you an unfiltered opinion on your content, especially for any areas in which you struggle (e.g. grammar, video editing, social media marketing, etc.)
- Are there opportunities for improvement?
- Is the new piece in alignment with brand standards?
- Is the content helping me to achieve my goal?
- Is the original content in active voice, free of spelling or grammar errors, written engagingly, etc.?
- Is the content focused and easy to read/view?
Step 5: Publish
It’s time to put your content on the map—or at least in your day planner.
A content schedule is essential to planning out how each piece of your content works as a cohesive whole. In this stage, you’ll figure out how you want to distribute your content through various channels (e.g. newsletter, social media, etc.)
Your content should always have a home on your website, somewhere that can be linked through your social channels and lead your audience to where you want them to go. Like spokes from a wheel, your social channels will lead back to this central content hub.
- When will the content be posted to maximize engagement?
- How and through which channels will I share this content?
Step 6: Analyze
Now for the scary part—the audience reaction. It can be intimidating to put something out into the world and see how others respond. In the best-case scenario, your content is well-liked, receives high engagement metrics, and helps you reach your business goals. However, that’s not always what happens.
Expect to have a slow beginning, momentary setbacks, and failures. It’s all part of the process. Giving up before you have a chance to really build your audience is a guarantee that your effort will all be wasted.
Instead, put some critical thought into why certain content is performing better (or worse) than others. What did you do differently? What channels are receiving better engagement metrics? Why?
Then, double down on what works.
- Did this content meet my requirements for success?
- If not, what went wrong?
- If so, can I incorporate an element of what made this piece successful into my overall content strategy?
- Can this content be repurposed back into the content cycle?
For many, the content creation process goes in cycles of stop and start. You write and make videos and post to your social pages religiously for a week. Then you burn out or get busy with something else and go for a month without publishing a single thing.
That’s a recipe for failure.
To succeed in the content game, you need consistency. Others give up when they don’t immediately get the results they want, but there will be no instant gratification here. You need a plan that is sustainable not just for the next week but for months and years to come.
If you can stick with it, your efforts will be rewarded.