Forget Creativity at Your Own Risk – Creating Content

When it comes to content marketing — the hot new world of social media, blogging and whatnot — there are basically two steps.

  1. Create content
  2. Distribute content

Within those steps, you have a dozen other things going on, to be sure. Planning, design, measurement, etc. But at its heart, you have these two steps.

As a content marketer, I sign up for tons of emails and spend time scouring the web for ways to increase my knowledge and improve my skills. I’ve come to a few conclusions about the general push of marketing blogs, emails, webinars and conferences.

More than 95 percent of them focus on step two. It’s true because I even made a pie chart that says so.

joel-pie-chart-0414

For example, I just spent my lunch hour in a webinar boasting hints and tricks about using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter with top people from those organizations. Twenty minutes was spent discussing how to make a page for your business.

Worse yet are the decoys like, “Creating Compelling Content Using Social Media: 4 Steps,” from the Content Marketing Institute. You think for one brief instant that you may learn something about creating content. But then you click on it, and 3 of the 4 steps are about distribution. And the one step that is about creation mostly just says, “create something.”

I wonder if it feels much the same way for AV blogs. Is there something you wish you’d find every time you open a new article, only to be disappointed once again with focus on the same old things?

When it comes to content marketing, it’s way easier to tell people they are doing it wrong in step two. There are actionable steps that can be laid out in a clear path with that step. There are services that you can sell people regarding that step — emailing, tracking, measurement, data collection, etc. You can make them believe that the key to great marketing is just a mathematical act of solving distribution and approval problems — like last year’s Oreo Super Bowl Tweet that shows up as the defining example in half the articles and presentations out there on content marketing. That tweet has 13 people listed as getting credit for it, including one that quit because how ridiculous the marketing industry has become for giving awards for a getting an otherwise normal ad out in a timely fashion.

joel-MorpheusPic-0414Problem is, if you have nothing but junky content to distribute, what’s the point? We need more content about creating content!

I don’t want to be a complainy-pants without offering some sort of modest solution to the issue I raised. So consider the rest of this my own version of the content creation advice I hope to see whenever I’m duped into viewing another marketing blog post under false pretenses.

If you find yourself joining the content marketing revolution with your AV business, a problem you may run into is generating creative content at a regular pace. Finding the creative energy, the wellspring of ideas for content, the ability to write a lot and often, can be incredibly difficult for newcomers and seasoned pros alike.

Finding good tips and tricks on creating content is a needle in a haystack proposition. Part of this might be due to the variables — every business is different, so it is incredibly difficult to write advice that can apply to a large swath of people. One way to tackle this problem is look at how creative writers approach their work.

There are ways to grow your creative side to help provide the ability to generate large amounts of compelling content. Here are some basic tips for replenishing your inner storyteller with fresh energy. They vary in degree of difficulty or level of time investment, so use them or modify as you wish depending on how depleted your store of creativity has become over time.

Five tips on increasing your creativity so you can write better content:

  1. Check out conferences and classes on actual creative processes. Marketers talk a lot about the return to story, but they don’t do very well explaining how to do that. I’d suggest checking out a narrative journalism conference like this one in Boston, or creative nonfiction and fiction courses. All of them have more potential to teach storytelling technique and the discipline required for creative practice.
  2. Work on creative endeavors outside of your normal area of work. It’s amazing how what we do outside of work influences and feeds what we do at work. Write in a journal, write a song, write about something you don’t ordinarily write about (like food) to the best of your ability. Understand that they probably, and rightfully, will never see the light of day. That’s not the point. Keeping the internal creative engine/muscle moving is the best way I’ve found to produce great work. There’s a reason several AV bloggers also write about other passions.
  3. Devour creativity whenever you can. Art exhibits, concerts, plays — the more interactive the better. TV and headphones don’t work as well, in my opinion (but find what works for you). You need to feel the music vibrating your neck hairs, to touch the weathered pages of a book, to experience art in person. You’ll be surprised how something you experienced years ago can inform or influence a piece you are doing for work.
  4. Remember Ernest Hemmingway: “In order to write about life first you must live it.” Stuck in your writing? Give your unconscious mind a chance to solve the creative problems you are trying to solve by letting them roll around in the back of your head while you do other things.
  5. Fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail fail. Then fail some more. Learn from each failure. Learn mostly that being afraid of failing is the surest way to create bland garbage.

Hope that helps. I’d love to hear what other content creators in the field do to keep their creativity going.