Great content writers know how to craft rough ideas into stories that make the audience eager to read or watch more.
Skilled marketers know how to build content into powerful campaigns that compel audiences to act.
Your job requires excellence for both – and everything else marketing and content creation entail. No wonder content marketers report feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
The resources in this article will help you enhance your team’s content capabilities, so they can craft engaging brand stories and smash your brand’s marketing goals.
Follow the expert tips, tricks, and guidance below to make all aspects of marketing content creation easier to manage – and more likely to achieve success.
I’ve organized them to help you answer these three questions:
- Who will create/contribute to the content?
- How will our content creations align with our strategic goals?
- How do we craft compelling stories that our audience will love?
Before you proceed:
If you don’t have the proper foundation to support your creative efforts – or just need a quick refresher on a topic – check out these guides:
1. Establish your content creation model (who will create the content)
You can assemble the brand’s content creation force in multiple ways. Each offers a distinct complement of pros, cons, and practical considerations.
To determine the best creation model, weigh factors like the nature of your business, content competition, expertise required, and team and budget resources.
The options include one or more of the following:
- Hiring writers for an in-house team: If your brand places a high priority on original content creation, produces a high volume, or needs content to fill multiple channels and platforms at once, full-time writing talent makes it easier to control the process.
- Leveraging internal subject matter experts (SMEs): If the brand’s conversations require specialized expertise or technical know-how, involve colleagues in other organizational functions. You can also tap into the insights of executive management, sales personnel, product managers, and other employees. As CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose points out, training your content team to be subject matter experts may be more effective than trying to teach SMEs to excel at writing.
- Outsourcing to freelancers or other specialists: Smaller businesses, startups, nonprofits, and other companies that aren’t ready to invest in full-scale editorial capabilities may prefer to work with freelance writers (including trained former journalists) or partner with a content agency or another creative service provider.
- Soliciting external contributors: A B2B business with a strong, subscribed community may bring in industry thought leaders to write guest blog articles on the brand’s owned media platform. These writers often do it in exchange for valuable backlinks to increase their reach and exposure. If your business has a B2C focus, enable your ardent fans and followers – or relevant influencers – to submit user-generated content on your brand’s behalf.
- Explore AI writing tools: Recent advances like OpenAI’s GPT technology make artificial intelligence content creation more robust and affordable. Skilled (human) creators are still needed to ensure the content’s quality and relevance (and to maintain compliance with Google’s webmaster guidelines). But AI can be a huge time-saver when used to create outlines and first drafts that your staff writers or freelancers can fine-tune.
Shape your talent pool for marketing content creation
Get extra help determining the right creation model and putting your contributors’ know-how to work from some of our top resources:
- Skills Every Content Creator Needs
- The Complete Guide To Outsourcing Content Creators
- How To Fix a Broken Content Team
2. Align content creation with strategic goals
Sharing compelling, useful stories your audience will love is an admirable goal. Of course, a strategic marketing purpose must support that love fest.
By working with the right content formats and types, you can draw the attention of your target audience. It’s also critical to position your content creations to maximize engagement and conversion. Otherwise, you spin the content engine’s wheels without getting any meaningful traction.
Achieving creative and strategic alignment is a top-down endeavor. Let’s start with the practical and tactical decision-making that should come before you write a single word.
Evaluate format and content type options
According to CMI’s Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – Insights for 2023, short articles, videos, case studies, and virtual events reign supreme when it comes to content formats and types.
But just because these content options are popular doesn’t mean they are a good fit for your brand. In many cases, a less popular or more specialized tactic might help your content stand out from the competition
Before you decide, it’s important to become familiar with the strengths and limitations of each option. Here are some starting points for your research efforts:
- Website articles
- Video and visual content
- Case studies
- Virtual, live, and hybrid events
- Social media
- Long-form content
- Interactive content
- Branded content
- Data-driven stories and data visualizations
- Podcasts and other audio content
Find your unique approach
Next, there’s the matter of differentiating your content from your competition. One way to approach this task is to find a content niche (aka a content tilt) – something your brand can cover better than anyone else in your industry. Think of Jay Acunzo’s Unthinkable podcast, which focuses on unconventional thinking, or Orbit Media, which provides website design and optimization advice.
Focusing your creative resources around a specialized topic reduces the paralysis that can come when trying to fill too many content buckets at once. It also ensures that everything created under that theme ties into your strategic purpose in an organic way.
To home in on a valuable niche, ask these three questions:
- Can we own the conversation in this area for our industry?
- Does our audience have a pressing – and unmet – need for this kind of content?
- Do we have the right knowledge and production capabilities to create this content consistently?
Nail down your alignment plan
Need more help creating content that’s distinct, dovetails with your strategy, and delights your audience? Continue your journey of discovery with these key resources:
- If You Want To Create Exceptional Content, Limit Your Options
- 6 Exceptional Content Marketers (and the Traits That Make Them Stand Out)
- 7 Steps to a More Strategic Editorial Calendar
3. Craft compelling stories your audience will love
Successful content creation in marketing takes more than the usual creative considerations – determining topics, generating story ideas, and maintaining high creativity and quality.
Your content needs to serve as a platform for communicating your brand’s unique perspectives, capabilities, and value proposition. It also needs to tell a story that resonates with your target audience and convinces them to act.
Identify worthwhile content topics
Kick off your creative ideation by determining which subjects to write about, then eliminate those that don’t reflect your brand’s identity in the most meaningful and targeted way.
To approach this task, identify primary subject areas your target audience actively searches for information on. Keyword research or topic cluster modeling can deepen your understanding of their challenges – and what content might help solve them
However, as Google’s 2022 helpful content update reminds us, your primary focus should be on delivering a satisfying, user-friendly experience to your audience. Focus on answering your customers’ questions, demonstrating your brand’s utility, and adding value to existing conversations to get the most search impact from the content you create.
Generate creative article ideas
It takes many creative ideas to fuel a content engine and keep it running smoothly. Team brainstorming sessions can help your writers get their creative juices flowing and generate a high volume of powerful, original ideas.
Both free-form word association exercises and more structured approaches like the Trigger, Charrette, or Five Whys methods, as Darren DeMatas describes, are worth exploring as part of your ideation process.
For more creativity-boosting ideas, spend some time with The Creative Show – CMI’s monthly video series dedicated to discussing the issues and artistry of crafting content.
Prioritize the ideas
Not every idea your team generates will fit your business. Some may be fantastic on paper but require more time and attention to produce than your team can spare. Others may be creatively brilliant but not useful for your target audience.
Make sure you have a prioritization process to gauge your content ideas’ comparative value and urgency and help you decide which ones to move forward with.
Transform your ideas into resonant stories
Regardless of your tactical and strategic decisions, content that never makes it off the drawing board won’t help your business. The physical act of writing your content is the true lynchpin for success.
Content creation in marketing requires as much focus, dedication, and craftsmanship as any other type of writing. For assets that strike the right balance of creativity and impact, follow the advice in these top resources.
- How To Take Your Content Idea From Generic to Original
- 7 Neuro Writing Tactics To Get Inside the Minds of Your Audience
- 4 Business Storytelling Examples That Break the Problem-Solution Mold
- Content Marketing Writing Tips You Didn’t Learn in School
To widen the appeal and deepen the resonance of your content, don’t exclude anyone from the conversations. Avoid using terms and language that are gender-biased or fail to reflect the diverse experiences and perspectives of your audience.
Follow accessibility best practices to ensure everyone who discovers your content can consume and benefit from it. For example, write descriptive text to explain what’s shown in videos and visuals. Better yet, include transcripts and alt-text, so consumers who rely on screen readers can benefit from your full content experience.
Strengthen – but don’t strain – your creative muscles
Just because good writing takes work doesn’t mean the process has to be painful. Ann Handley has said that becoming a better writer simply requires showing up every day and practicing.
Still, over time, the rigors of the writing process can wear down even the most talented and dedicated content creators. Look to helpful tech, like headline generators and AI content creation tools, to generate ideas you can develop.
But don’t let the drive to do it all get in the way of your mental health. If you’re feeling burned out, your writing will naturally suffer.
When you experience content fatigue, explore opportunities to rebalance your workload or offload low-performing initiatives. It may free the mind space you need to refresh your creative energy and renew your focus.
Enhance your writing quality
Content riddled with typos, grammatical errors, tech issues, or factual inaccuracies can cost your brand the trust and respect of the audience and, possibly, their patronage.
To avoid being mocked for producing lazy, low-quality assets or labeled as a purveyor of fake news, carefully proof, test, and fact-check every piece of content.
Pay attention to the mechanics of good writing to help you craft powerful headlines, effective leads, intriguing meta descriptions, and engaging endings. These features largely determine whether readers will discover your content and click or just move on to someone else’s offerings.
You can also strengthen or maintain your writing fitness with the exercises in CMI’s Content Marketing Writing Secrets e-book (registration required).
Use your powers of persuasion
Even the best quality content won’t help meet your goals if it doesn’t resonate with your audience or spur them to take impactful actions on behalf of your business. Decide what you’d like them to do, and then use your content powers to convince them to do it. (Just remember to use those powers responsibly.)
Try the ideas in these articles to foster emotional resonance, deepen engagement, and drive conversions:
- How Competitor Analysis Helps You Create Landing Pages That Convert
- The Art and Science of Emotional Engagement
- How To Make Your Content More Human
Master your full creative process
Want to learn more about any of the key components of content creation? Here are some additional tips, insights, and examples to guide your journey:
- Examples To Inspire Your Best Work
- The Essential Content Marketing Glossary
- Write Better Video and Audio Scripts
- Why Taking Time To Do Nothing Can Be Productive
- 5 Lessons From the Content Marketing Awards Project of the Year Finalists
Go forth and create
By following this guide, you can walk the path toward more well-managed creative teams, greater strategic and creative alignment, and better brand storytelling. If you find yourself stuck along the way – or have a content creation tip you’d like to share – please share it in the comments.
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Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
Updated from a September 2019 post.