In addition to guest posting on the UpCity blog, Cibirix Digital Marketing is featured as one of the Top Content Marketing Agencies in Winston-Salem, NC. Check out their profile here.
Are you a content marketing professional who’d like to increase your productivity while also reducing your stress level? If this is you, you’re not alone! Keep reading for some tips to help you be more effective when it’s “go time,” and to help keep your sanity in the process.
Get Ready to Write
Getting ready before you start writing is perhaps the most important tip for effective content generation, if not for being more effective and productive in general:
1. Get to know your audience
Start with a clear focus on who you’re creating content for in the first place. If the content is for a particular business client, get to know that client. Who are they? What’s their business about (this is much more revealing than simply asking what they do, produce, or sell)? What’s their why? Once you solidly establish these things, it will be much easier for you to create content that they will appreciate, and that will truly reflect who they are, what they do, and how they do it for their future customers.
If you’re writing for a broader audience than a single client (a specific demographic or target niche market, perhaps) take some time to do your research and learn everything you can about the group in question. Create some customer or buyer personas (if you haven’t already), and refer to them often as you write and generate content. Think about what kind of language, tone, and approach will be most effective for connecting with this audience. If you can start by figuring out what makes them tick and how to connect with them before you ever pick up a pen or touch a keyboard, then what you write will have a much better chance of landing and sticking with your target readers.
2. Make a plan before you start
As the wise philosopher Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith (a character from the popular 1980s TV seriesThe A-Team) is known for saying, “I love it when a plan comes together.” It’s a great feeling when a plan comes together and things work according to plan, but in order to be able to enjoy that feeling, you must first have a plan. Let me explain.
If you’re a professional novelist, you may have the gift of being able to put pen to paper and just letting the ink flow. This method may be fantastic for writing a novel, but it’s not so fantastic for generating marketing content. If you jump into content creation without an outline or overview of what you want to achieve, you’ll probably have to do much more revision work on the back end, including more time-consuming rewrites. You need a plan first. Exactly where are you headed with this, and how do you plan to get there? If your creative juices really start to flow once you get going, you can, of course, choose to follow them and deviate from your plan somewhat. But the truth of the matter is you can always deviate from a plan, but it’s well-nigh impossible to deviate to a plan that you didn’t have in the first place. Make sense? Save yourself a lot of effort and frustration by taking the time to make a plan and make an outline before you start writing in earnest. When you know where you’re headed and which points you want to cover, you’ll be able to produce that content much more effectively, with much less back-end cleanup to do.
3. Use daily to-do lists
I’m a big believer in this one. I like to use Evernote (available as a web-based app or downloadable smartphone app – I use both), but the tool you use (pen and paperwork too) isn’t as important as simply making the decision to be consistent with daily to-do lists. They’re helpful for organizing your priorities and seeing at a glance what you still have to do. Being able to look and see what you’ve already checked off can be its own form of reward, too. (Yes! I did get something done today!)
Be realistic with your to-do lists, though. It’s fine to set the bar reasonably high enough to challenge yourself, but if you try and cram too many things on your list it can actually be de-motivating when you don’t even get half of them done. Shooting for about three main tasks to complete in a day is more realistic, and is something you can consistently achieve with excellence. From time to time, also take a step back to assess your to-do list from a higher perspective. If you find something on your to-do list that isn’t actually helping you to move toward your goals, you might need to reconsider whether it belongs on your to-do list at all.
Now Write! But Write Smarter, and Use Your Time Better
Following some good productivity and time management tips will also help to make your content writing much more effective and efficient. Here are a few short tips that will pay great dividends if you follow them:
4. Write when you’re most creative and effective
Know thyself. If you’re a morning person, for example, block off time every morning just for content generation, and save other tasks like returning calls or responding to emails for later in the day. Work to your strengths, and you’ll do better work!
5. Multitasking doesn’t work
Multitasking – despite those who try and tout its benefits – really isn’t effective, especially when it comes to generating content. You may artificially “feel” more productive if you’re trying to juggle 12 things at a time, but in truth, you’re probably little more than a frazzled juggler. Neuroscience teaches us that multitasking isn’t literally possible – your brain can only give effective focus to one thing at a time. Trying to turn yourself into a “multitasker” just tends to leave you more distracted and frustrated. No matter how full your to-do list is, you really shouldn’t try to do more than one thing at a time, if you hope to do any of those things well. Better to just focus on checking off one to-do list item at a time.
6. Grouping similar tasks is smart
You may not be able to multitask, but you can work smarter by tackling similar tasks together in groups. Tying to spread similar tasks out among other unrelated tasks usually isn’t as effective or efficient. Once you hit a groove in doing similar tasks, you can click through those tasks easier and faster. For instance, if you need to write several emails (or social media posts, or whatever), block off time to roll through all of them in one sitting, if possible. Then move on to the next thing!
7. Take breaks
Speaking of your daily work schedule … you’re not a machine. You’re a human, and even the best-performing humans get tired and lose focus at some point. Try as you might, you can’t just crank out amazing content all day long. When you sense that you’re fading, step away from the computer! Better still, be proactive and build some breaks into your daily schedule. Take a walk. Do some pushups. Go outside (The Sun! It’s so bright!) and get some fresh air. Don’t just work through lunch and eat a sandwich over your keyboard. Do something besides trying to crunch words and concepts all day; it’s counterproductive and unhealthy and will sap your energy and motivation. Every hour or two, get up, stretch, make a cup of coffee, read a few pages of a book, even scroll through some mindless social media if that’s what it takes to refresh yourself. If you tend to forget to take breaks, remind yourself by setting alarms on your phone or on your computer.
8. Delegate when appropriate
Know which tasks you need to own yourself, and which ones you could empower somebody else to do. This doesn’t mean you should just look to dump the stuff you don’t like to do or want to do onto someone else (not the best recipe for building office morale or culture!), but there may be some items on your to-do list that would actually be a better fit in someone else’s wheelhouse. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and learn those of your coworkers as well. Your goal in delegation shouldn’t be simply to take something off your plate but should also be to play to others’ strengths. If you can find a task to hand off that will actually give your colleague a chance to shine (a win-win!), then you’re approaching delegation with the right mindset.
9. Major on the majors
Even if you’ve been able to delegate some things, you’ve still no doubt got plenty of stuff on your to-do list. It’s essential to realize that not everything is urgent, much less important. ROI is what drives business investments, and the ROI of how you spend your time and focus your energy is something you need to assess from time to time, as well. Use the classic Eisenhower Principle to prioritize your workload tasks, and then put more of your energy into the things that are truly urgent and important. And we’ve alluded to this before, but if you notice that you aren’t getting much return from something into which you’re having to put forth time and effort on a regular basis … maybe you need to stop doing it. Keep the main thing, the main thing!
10. Reuse your best stuff
Great content is hard to create, so why not get all the mileage out of it you can? No need to reinvent the wheel, when you’ve already invented several perfectly good wheels! Look for ways to repurpose and reuse your best stuff, and let it keep working for you. For instance, you can convert an awesome how-to blog post into a great slide deck, or a visually-appealing infographic. It’s not plagiarism if you’re borrowing your own ideas!
How to Keep the Creative Juices Flowing
11. Don’t waste a great idea
Creative blocks suck, and they happen to the best of us. One way to prevent writer’s block from stopping you is to keep a notebook (physical or digital) for jotting down random good ideas when they occur to you. If it crosses your mind and seems like something that could be useable at some point, write it down (or type it out) before you lose it! You never know which of these gold nuggets may be just the ticket you need for a future content assignment.
12. Always be curating content
It’s not realistic to expect to be able to stay ahead of your content posting schedule at all times. However, you can give yourself a leg up when you’ve got to crank out something quickly by having a go-to stash of content. If you write a lot of content around leadership strategies, for example, then, by all means, subscribe to multiple leadership blogs and email lists. The goal here is not to plagiarize, but to help stoke your fire of creativity with some great starting blocks for your own content.
Often, some of the best ideas for what content to write come from your audience themselves, if you’re simply willing to listen. Every so often, take a quick survey of your readership (or whoever your target audience is) on which topics they’d like to see covered.
This is a lesson I learned well from my time as a youth pastor, and subsequently as a high school teacher. Whenever I would driving a bus full of teenagers on a church or school trip, I found that if I would just shut up and listen, the teenagers would tell me everything. Even if they weren’t specifically talking to me, I found that if just paid attention to what they talked to each other about, I could learn what was important to them. Then, if I used what I heard out of their own mouths as the jumping-off point for my next youth talk or high school lesson, it would land every time!
Now, you may not necessarily have the opportunity to drive your client or customer base on a long bus trip, but the principle is the same. Take the time to listen to what they have to say. If you’ll use what you learn from them and about them as you generate content, your next email, blog, or other marketing campaign will have a much better chance of landing and connecting with its intended audience.
14. Stay connected with your team
This may be the last tip on this list, but it’s also one of the most important. Unless you’re a one-person writing team (bless your heart if that’s the case!), you probably work collaboratively with others to some degree. If you do work with others, make sure that all parties (SMEs, writers, digital designers, etc.) have a clearly-communicated set of expectations and a clearly-defined schedule. In a word, communicate, and communicate often. Sometimes the one limiting factor that holds a content marketing organization (or any organization!) back is lack of good communication. Proactive communication can prevent a multitude of unexpected snags or frustrations in the workplace, and in your life at work.
The Last Word
If you’ve been in content marketing longer than a few days, you know by now that it can indeed be a busy and often stressful job. If you’re not careful, your work can eat up your time, suck all your energy, and even intrude into the non-work parts of your life, to the point that you feel like you no longer have a life. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Following good productivity and time management strategies can go a long way towards making you a better generator of quality content, and towards allowing you to have a better quality of life in the process. Use these tips as a starting point, and never stop learning and growing in finding what works best for you! If you have any question, feel free to contact us.