Logic and instinct are great starting points for any writer. However, to stand out amidst the clutter you need ‘something more’. Combining your instinct with intelligence helps in creating content that transverses literary boundaries and becomes useful for the audience.
Here’s a 10 step journey towards creating compelling content that’s both effective and creative. We started with logic and used data to feed our creativity.

Know your audience

A great place to start is to identify who you’re creating the content for. Once you’ve built broad categories of personas to target with your product- identify what kind of content each category would be looking for. A lot has been written about the ‘buyer personas’ and making content tailored towards them. But it makes sense to take that a step further and identify ‘content personas’- all the people that could influence a buyer’s purchase decision.

The decision maker might get convinced through downloadables and white-papers which showcase the knowledge you have of your industry. But getting organizational buy-in requires your content to be useful to different people who contribute to that purchase decision. Create content pieces that range from simple how-to’s that reflect the real ‘utility’ of your product to generic thought leadership pieces that contribute to your clout in the industry.

Find out what they’re searching for

Once you’ve broadly identified your audience categories, find out what they’re looking for. To create meaningful content you need to provide answers to the specific questions that your audience is asking. Why not build content around that?

I recently heard an amazing episode (it’s hard to pick a favorite) of ‘Content Matters’ by Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media and Barry Feldman of Feldman Creative that put this concept into perspective by talking about how creating meaningful content requires you to ‘be the wikipedia for your industry for that topic’.

You can catch the entire podcast here.

I love the reference- creating content that makes a difference is all about finding relevant answers to what your audience is looking for. Simply put, become their ‘wikipedia’.

Invest time in content research

Once you’ve identified the right themes and topics your audience could be interested in, the next logical step is to validate your ideas through research. Content research has two benefits- it helps in identifying the precise topics you need to write about and also helps in curating similar content for your audience.

Content research: Creation and curation

I used EpicBeat to do some research around ‘visual marketing’ and to gauge whether it was an interesting idea to work with. The search results hint that my instincts were right as there were over 600 articles posted around the topic in the previous month. Browsing through the posts gives me an idea about what kind of content already exists and to evaluate if any of them can feed into my creative process.

Evaluate and finalise content formats

The first step towards the actual creation of content begins with identifying which formats to choose. While listicles are the most popular in most categories, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every post needs to be one. Explore the topic to identify what kind of formats work best. Good old writer’s instinct comes into play here as well. When multiple formats look appealing, use your own judgement to take a call on what kind of post you should create. Content intelligence is most useful when it acts as an aid to inspire the storyteller within the writer.

Which formats to choose?

Pro tip: Try A/B testing if you really can’t make up your mind about which format to choose. Put out the same content modified for both formats and monitor popularity. You should have a winner in 2 weeks- stick with the one that’s proven to work better.

Utilise the right insights

Identifying the right length to stick to and the overall tone to use is the next logical step in the content creation process. Think of it as getting one step closer to creating the kind of content that your audience is asking for. This is another area that is hugely aided by data. The right algorithms built into content platforms skim through terabytes of raw data to point you to insights that help in strengthening your content idea.

Content insights- Adding meat to content

Add images to make content richer

Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Still wondering about adding that image to your presentation? 

The crazy adoption rates of visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are evidence to the widely accepted fact that as humans, our brains are wired to process images faster and more readily than text. Most image sites have a huge number of free resources that can be used to make your content visually appealing. Use sites like Pixlr or Canva to create beautiful images, infographics and posts that break through wordy clutter.

Add images to make content richer

Neil Patel elaborates on the importance of adding visual elements to content in his recent post where he advises writers to add one image for every 350 words.

Be inspired and give credit where it is due

The content marketing community thrives on useful, entertaining content that’s widely shared. Pepper your own content with the right references (it’s also immensely beneficial for SEO) and ensure that you give due credit to original authors.

Be inspired and give credit where it is due

I found this great post on the Kissmetrics blog (written by Neil Patel) about how closely linked SEO and content marketing are to each other. Including relevant research and supporting posts in your own article adds to the credibility of your own content and increases its discoverability on the web.

Identify key influencers in the industry

The relevance of utility in content is evident more than ever in the meteoric rise of the ‘influencer’- regular people with huge spheres of influence and legions of followers who hang by their every word.

Add to that the burgeoning problems posed by ad blocking and you have reason enough to look for that influencer who can pass on your message. Without being interrupted.

EpicBeat helps you identify relevant influencers in every industry and categorises them into personas so you can identify the groups that make most sense to you and your content goals, propose collaborative efforts or to just build your own network.

Identify key influencers in the industry

Choose the ‘perfect’ headline

I call this the ‘garnish’.

Just like the right garnish can make or break a potentially great dish- choosing the perfect headline goes a long way in getting your content noticed. While your own ideas and content research provide abundant inspiration to zero-in on a good headline, sometimes that’s just not good enough. I love using Co-Schedule’s Headline analyzer to find the right fit.

Finalise on the headline

The best part about the tool is that it allows you to try multiple headline options and saves your score for each option. This helps in evaluating the choices and finalizing on the ‘perfect headline’ for your post.

Identify the right channels to promote

The last step in your content journey is to identify the channels to promote on. There are opposing points of view in this regard as some marketers believe that all posts must be equally promoted on all channels. However, others suggest that appropriate pieces of content should be posted on specific channels where they tend to perform better.

Data to the rescue.

EpicBeat analyzes existing content across networks to identify the popularity of the topic as a consequence of shares, applause and comments. Use it to figure out which channels you should promote your content on.

Choose the right channels to promote

Pro tip: Identify the formats that work on different networks for your chosen topic of interest and tailor content accordingly. For eg. if your audience frequents Instagram or Pinterest and you’ve just created a wordy blog post- pull out key points and facts to create an infographic that you can post on these networks. Repurposed content goes a long way in saving time and extending reach for content.


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