Missing a content creation process that works? [Here are 6 steps to one that does]

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A watertight internal content creation process is rarely at the top of any business owner’s to do list.

Mainly because the business of staying in business rightly commands ongoing attention – and the lesser priority of a process for creating content can seem like precious time wasted.

In fact, the contrary is true.

Ask any business owner who’s invested time, effort, and resources to formalise a process for content creation. They will tell you; it’s worth its weight.

Having devised such processes for many small businesses, I agree. In the vernacular, they are, you could say, totes worth it.

There are a few reasons why, and in this blog, I share a couple with you, along with practical steps for developing your own content creation process that works.

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What’s a content creation process worth?

In short, a lot.

Few resources are as precious as time, however, it’s one that is expended carelessly when it comes to creating content.

Consider the business owner who, despite best intentions, prepares all kinds of content reactively and last minute. Hint: this is most businesses.

Often influenced by the next shiny big marketing thing, they find themselves on a content conveyor belt, without a clear purpose or content that makes sense.

Nobody really knows if it’s working, least of all the business owner. However, there’s a certain satisfaction in the knowledge that something’s been done.

I call this content for the sake of content. It’s vanilla and sounds like OPC (other people’s content).

The other extreme on the spectrum of content creation is not doing anything at all.

Attributable to procrastination, paralysis, or anything in between, this can be a challenge for any person involved in the content creation process.

It’s virtually impossible to get stuff done.

Thankfully, in both cases – whether it’s too much or too little – the solution is the same.

It’s all in your mind, so make the shift

The first step is acknowledging the value of content in its role for growing and sustaining your business.

For many business owners, particularly those with a highly technical background, this is a pill that might be difficult to swallow.

I learnt this from years of working with technical professionals, like engineers, scientists, lawyers, accountants, and medical professionals.

Particularly bright in their sphere of expertise, they often have difficulty recognising the value others bring to the overall project outcome, especially in areas they don’t understand or in which they have limited knowledge.

This extremely limiting. They may even wonder why preparing content or communication for their audience is necessary. They ask: Don’t they already know what I’m talking about?

In a recent podcast interview with Dr Jesse Green, we talked about this. Quite simply, quality content that conveys our most meaningful messages in the language and values of our audience, is no longer just nice to have; it’s a necessity. In fact, it’s right up there with other functions that keep our business going, like accounting, bookkeeping, and insurance.

Note to self: If you’re one of the technical folk who wonder whether content can really help your business, I invite you to have the willingness to consider that it does – and then read on.

Your best content is no accident

It’s true. Your best content is no accident. It happens with a plan and a clear, shared understanding of what it should look and sound like.

Once we’re clear there is value in producing content, we can turn attention to developing the right process for our business.

If it’s just you, it still helps to articulate your content creation process. Why? Because maybe, just maybe, your business will grow, and it won’t just be you any more.

With a documented process, you can educate your content creation person or team about the how to, leaving less room for error, frustration, and disappointment.

In businesses where more than one party is involved, a clear content creation process is essential.

Here’s why.

Anyone who’s been in a relationship knows compromise is necessary and assumptions are a one way ticket to conflict.

Whether it’s personal, business, or friendship, there are days when one says tom-ay-to and the other swears it’s tom-ar-to, and to move things forward, concession is made.

Negotiating this with one person is challenging enough, but what happens when there is more than one party to please?

In many organisations, there are multiple stakeholders involved in the process for creating content. If you’re the person who’s been assigned the happy task of content creation (probably because nobody else will/can do it) – and assuming you’re not the boss – I can only say one thing.

Good luck.

Not only must you grapple with no clear way of of doing things, you must also satisfy the many expectations of what that content should be. And without a clear direction or guide, the waters are more than muddied.

As a result, expect to become the human equivalent of a pretzel; a content creator who must read minds and turn themselves inside out to keep everyone happy.

Follow the steps to a clear content creation process

I’m pleased to say, you can exhale a big yogic breath of relief because there are steps you can follow to take away the pain.

Now I’d love to say I just woke up one day and knew this, but discovering the steps wasn’t a straight pathway. No, instead, it was more like Oh, here’s another situation where things could go south – and then I created The Guidelines.

So, if there’s ever anyone else involved in the content you’re creating, follow these steps and The Guidelines for peace of mind, a peaceful process, and content you love.

Step 1: Confirm the content required

We’re told to never make assumptions in relationships and it’s good advice that’s sensibly applied to creating content.

Your first step is always confirming the content to be produced. Whether you’re an internal resource or external content creator, the written word is best. Your communication conveys: Here’s what you said. Would you please let me know if this what you think you said?

A shared understanding helps avoid a world of pain. Happy days.

Step 2: Confirm the process

This might seem like it’s stating the obvious, but it’s not.

If we take the ‘no assumptions’ model, we make sure everyone understands what happens next – and then what happens after that.

Maybe you’re a technical person who’s been thrown in the deep end and asked to write a blog. How do you know what the process is? You don’t. Of course you can Google it, but what you find may not be how things are done in your organisation.

Or perhaps you’re a business owner who’s engaged a content creator for the first time. With no prior experience about how the process, it makes total sense to clear this up – before a single word is written.

Ask questions about the process and make sure it’s crystal clear in your mind, irrespective of whether you’re the creator or the business owner.

Step 3: Confirm responsibility

Unfortunate finger pointing can find its way into any content creation project, and in my experience, it’s often a consequence of a vagueness around who is doing what.

It’s a classic case of: It’s not me, it’s you.

If people understand their responsibility and are accountable for it – again, written down – there’s way less chance of confusion.

Be sure to confirm responsibility for final sign off too. Everyone on the team might love the work, but unless the final decision maker is happy, you could find your best creative efforts burning on the content pyre.

Step 4: Set boundaries for feedback

One of the problems with creating written content is that obtaining feedback means reviewers must read the work that’s produced.

I know, bummer, right?

I encourage clients to make space and take the time needed to review with their full attention. My rationale? How else will they know if the work is right?

Another useful boundary is setting a time limit for feedback.

In any organisation, the day-to-day of business can so easily consume us, impacting the momentum of your content creation. With a clear timeframe, everyone understands what’s expected of them, by when.

Be assured, boundaries are okay in business.

Step 5: Specify how feedback is given

We falsely assume our stakeholders will know how to provide feedback, it’s safer, though, to assume they don’t.

Having fielded some pretty disappointing comments from clients, I came to realise that while ignorance was a factor in some cases, it was mostly because they misunderstood the intent behind what was written. As such, clarification was needed.

But there’s a way to ask, and a way not to ask. In the spirit of no assumptions mentioned earlier, you can say: When you wrote x, did you mean y? It provides an opportunity for the content creator to respond and explain. It also means there’s a better foundation for moving forward.

Rather than seeing this process as a headache, I like to think of it as learning to understand each other, something that’s necessary in any relationship. As a content creator, I can gauge where you’re at. As a business owner, you can learn that I care enough about you, your business, and your content, to respond with emotional intelligence.

Step 6: Test and measure

Even if your content isn’t perfect before publishing (it won’t be), relax.

Done is better than perfect, and you can always go back to correct and update.

If we work from the premise that our content must work for us, it will be necessary to correct, amend, and update as you go along. However, if it’s never published, you’ll never know what works or doesn’t. On the other hand, if you test and measure, you have a way of looking back that allows you to move forward with confidence.

A final word

With communication guidelines and a clear process, you are light years ahead of most – and you’re well equipped to navigate the ongoing challenges of content creation. From time to time, assess how your content creation process is working for you, and adjust as necessary. Shift your thinking to an understanding that quality content creation is fundamental to your business, just like accounting or bookkeeping, and as such, it requires some of your precious time and focused attention.

Macushla Collins is a content coach. She helps business owners, content creators and  technical professionals develop a content creation process that provides for clear communication, healthy boundaries, mutual respect, and great content. If this is the kind of process you’d like to learn more about, connect with Macushla via the contact form on this website or by reaching out on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.