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Content Creation Challenges? Try These Tips to Get You Started

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June 20,2013

By Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute

If it’s becoming a challenge to get your C-level executive to write the thought leadership content you need for your corporate storytelling efforts, remember that, while some CEOs may love to write, nearly all of them like to talk. Try capturing their insight and ideas using a more conversational format; for example, interview them using Skype and record the conversation.

Your content editors can then turn the resulting audio (or video) and transcripts into multiple content marketing pieces (e.g., blog posts, white papers, etc.). Or, if the recorded content is high quality, you can even use it in its original format as the basis of a podcast. Even if your CEO isn’t available to be interviewed and is unwilling/unable to write an article, ask if he or she would be willing to answer a few questions via an email.

In other words, don’t block the content marketing process by trying to force your executives and staff members into doing something they aren’t comfortable with— there are plenty of other ways to generate effective content marketing.

For example, when you’re at industry events, be sure to capture photos and video. Then, you can splice and dice the footage with other pieces of content you have created (or curated).

Another option is to just sit down with the person and have an informal conversation. If, say, you have a product manager who is camera shy, or doesn’t feel like she can write 500 words on a particular topic, take her to lunch, ask her to answer a few questions, and then record or take notes on her responses. Again, the resulting content can be leveraged in various formats.

Help them tell stories

When talking with executives about writing and creating content, you have to begin by simply teaching them what the act of “writing” fundamentally is: a process for translating the ideas in your head into words that can be shared with others. As the famed sportswriter Red Smith used to delicately put it, all you have to do is “sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

Of course the real magic of turning ideas into stories (or anything worth reading) happens in the editing process. Relieve your team of their worries by assuring them that the copy will be “polished up” during editing. Then get them rolling by offering these two tips:

  • Write it out: Just write blind — get all of your ideas out. Writers are usually surprised by how much structure and genuine goodness comes out by just opening up and not letting their mental “editor” get in the way. Tell your prospective contributors to just spend half an hour typing out their thoughts without restricting them in any way.
  • Storyboard it out: If they’re having trouble opening up or getting the ideas to flow, ask them to visualize what they want to say, and then write some key words, phrases, or concepts onto sticky notes. They can even draw some of their thoughts, if that’s helpful for them. This is a particularly useful technique for organizing ideas for use in longer-form content, like white papers or live presentations (mind mapping may help as well).


Help employees become aware of content opportunities

At one of the technology companies CMI has worked with, much of the customer service process took place through email. When we did an initial content analysis, we realized that many of the conversations taking place through direct customer email could easily be turned into blog and article content. It took only one customer service rep to take notice of this before the entire organization started to look for content opportunities as part of their everyday business interactions. Now, their customer service reps and sales reps are more routinely prepared to develop their emails into a FAQ for their website or to expand upon them to create blog posts.

In my experience, sometimes getting an outside perspective on this process can really help the marketing department get pointed in the right direction… or sometimes it takes someone from the outside to back up an employee’s efforts to get C-level execs to open their eyes to the power of content marketing.

In summary

According to our latest content marketing research, B2B marketers list “producing enough content” as the greatest of their content marketing challenges. At CMI, we have consulted with well over 50 of the leading brands from around the world. At each one, the perception was that they had a lack of content material. That was never the case — they always had plenty of fodder for content, it just wasn’t always in story form.

The key is to capture raw content wherever stories are happening in your organization, in whatever ways you can. Then work with editors, outside freelancers, or content marketing agencies to align it with your content marketing strategy and shape it into something truly compelling.

Joe Pulizzi is a leading author, speaker and strategist for content marketing. Joe is first and foremost a content marketing evangelist, and founded the Content Marketing Institute as well as the premier international content marketing event Content Marketing World and Chief Content Officer magazine.

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