Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ellie Burke of Classy.org.
To expand your organization’s audience and generate leads, you need to produce valuable content consistently. But marketers know this isn’t a simple process. It often requires a good amount of creativity, which can be hard to just call upon at will. This leads to “content fatigue,” or the state in which marketers are burned out, uninspired, and struggling to keep their content fresh and interesting.
Luckily there’s a secret to producing quality content consistently. While it’s true that ideas can seem to strike us in random moments—in the shower, the middle of the night, while we’re driving—these moments are less random than they seem. Most often, these lightning strike ideas are your subconscious mind still at work on things you’ve previously focused on.
The key to not only capturing these ideas, but creating more of them? It’s simple, and it’s the answer to most things in life. Creating a habit.
Small, dedicated moments over time are what lead to a stream of consistent quality content. By incorporating content generation practices into your daily schedule, you enlist the help of your subconscious mind to work through ideas even when you’re not actively thinking about them. Before you know it, you’ve incorporated content creation strategies into your life in a way that becomes second nature, and you become a content machine.
Here are eight processes you should put in place in order to publish quality content on a regular basis.
1. Establish a Production Cadence
It might seem obvious that content creation requires time, but when you establish a set writing cadence for yourself, you build a cycle of expectations and habitual actions that create a fluid stream of content.
Tips for establishing a cadence:
Block Off Time
Unless you’re a full-time writer, you probably don’t have quite as much time as you’d like for content creation. To combat this, consider what time of day you feel most creative and able to produce. Use this self-awareness to build content creation into your schedule, and do just that–put it into your schedule. Block time off, schedule a meeting with yourself, and tell anyone who asks that you’re busy. This is your time to dedicate to creating content, and it’s just as important as your other tasks.
Set Attainable Goals
When you commit a portion of your day—even a small portion—to generating content, results add up over time. In addition to setting this time aside, you should be mindful of what your output goals are for each week. Then work backward from your goals.
For example, maybe you’d like to write two blog posts a week. Divide this work up into smaller steps and complete the work over the course of your week. In the case of a blog post, you can divide the single task up into smaller subtasks like this:
• Ask peer to review outline
• First draft
• Final draft
• Prepare post for publish
• Check live post for errors
2. Read, Read, Read
It’s important to keep an ear to the ground (or in this case, the books) in order to stay up to date on the latest and greatest in your field. Whether or not you’re hit with new ideas in the middle of reading an article, the material you read everyday becomes a part of your brain’s storage for future ideas that might reemerge later.
Like writing, it pays off to consume new information on a regular basis. Consider where you can squeeze it into your daily routine. With more audio content available than ever before, it’s easy to incorporate reading and listening to podcasts into your day.
Try consuming content at one of these points in your schedule:
• First thing in the morning
• During your commute
• While you eat lunch
• On the treadmill
• While you cook dinner
• Right before bed
3. Dedicate Time to Think
You’d be surprised at how productive you can be when you dedicate small blocks of your time to think only about one topic. Try this exercise while going for a run, or even while relaxing in a quiet space. The key is to force your mind not to wander and to only think about one topic for a set amount of time.
Pro tip: Try this exercise when you won’t have an opportunity to write anything down. This forces you to think through the big picture, instead of getting holed up in trying to document every detail. J.K. Rowling famously attributes part of her initial success in dreaming up Harry Potter to her lack of a pen on the train ride where the idea first struck. Had she slowed her thoughts to jot everything down, she may never have fully conceptualized the bigger idea in her own mind.
4. Hold Brainstorm Sessions
Collaboration is a quick way to amass new ideas [link: http://www.classy.org/blog/blog-post-ideas-nonprofit-content-marketers/ ] and flesh out those in their initial stages. Decide how often you’ll pull your team together for a brainstorm session and put it on the calendar on a recurring basis.
Before your group meets, be sure to send a few notes about the agenda as a starting point, or perhaps identify a theme. This will direct your conversation and better prepare your team members. At the same time, don’t let a theme limit your dialogue—encourage your team to speak up about any “random” ideas that emerge as a result of their preparation or your session.
Be sure to assign a scribe for the discussion, or have everyone submit their ideas electronically afterward. Organize any new ideas you’d like to move forward with into a list of what will become dedicated pieces of content.
Pro tip: Invite guests from other departments to your content brainstorm session to gain a fresh perspective on your topics for discussion.
5. Create a Strategic Content Calendar
After you’ve created new habits for ideation, you’re ready to get strategic and plan a content calendar. When it comes to scheduling content, it can be tempting to push out a large quantity all at once in order to hold readers’ attention, but you will likely reach a point of diminishing returns and see engagement dip off. To hit the sweet spot, test different amounts of published content per week and compare your engagement results.
It’s also important to publish a range of content that appeals to the different groups within your audience. To decide how to mix it up, examine the makeup of your audience. A survey is one way you might collect this information. What are their interests and expectations? Does one interest group dominate your reader base? For example, as a nonprofit, you may find over half of your audience are millennials interested in volunteer opportunities. This insight would help to determine the overall tone of your pieces and how frequently you post pieces about volunteer experiences.
To get started, create a list of your content types. This list will include everything from blog posts to infographics to direct mail letters.
Next, list categories for the pieces under each content type. For a nonprofit organization, this might include things like:
• Fundraising initiatives
• Volunteer opportunities
• Impact stories
• Your staff/culture
• Field work
• Industry news
Use both your engagement goals and the demographics of your audience to decide how often to publish content dedicated to certain topics and initiatives. Once you’ve set your goals for publishing content on X topic, X percent of the time, you can start building out your calendar on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis and work backward to fill the slots with the ideas you’ve generated in your brainstorms.
6. Repurpose Content
You don’t always need to start from scratch to create quality content. Each piece of content you produce (new and old) has the potential to give birth to further iterations and spin-offs.
Have any longer pieces you could break into shorter posts? Or any shorter pieces you might expand upon? Turn a guide into a series of blog posts, a post into an infographic, or an infographic into an email drip campaign. Squeeze every last drop from the lemon by examining the different ways you can package valuable information and deliver it to your audience.
7. Create and Promote a Guest Blog Program
A guest blog program is a great way to gather valuable information from an array of experts inside and outside of your field. By creating criteria for submissions and giving it a place to live on your website, you can attract new submissions to your blog that you can then deliver to your audience. Managing this program will be a more hands-off way for you to acquire new quality content from experts in the field on a regular basis. It will also supplement your content creation process in a way that, when successful, alleviates some production stress.
Pro tip: Call attention to your guest blog program whenever you publish a guest post. Include a call to action to learn more about your program and get in touch with your organization.
8. Expand Your Team
Writing can often feel like the type of work you do on an island, but there’s no need to feel alone. Great writing and content generation, in general, is the result of collaborative effort. Investments in expanding your content creation team are investments in acquiring inbound leads, or prospects that are attracted through your content. These leads ultimately expand your reach, community, and supporters. Not to mention, they’re 61 percent cheaper to secure than outbound leads.
When you create quality content consistently for your audience, you become a source of information they rely on and return to, again and again. Valuable content further develops their relationship with your organization and keeps you top of mind. Commit to creating habits in your life and workday that support content generation, and you’ll have systems in place that make it second nature.
This guest post was contributed by Ellie Burke of Classy.org. Ellie is a Content Marketing Associate and writes about fundraising strategies for the Classy blog. In her free time, she also writes young adult science fiction and fantasy.