More content, less writer’s block

Do you hate writing?

Well, I have bad news and I have good news. The bad news first.

Done right, content marketing begins to attract clients to you, lowering your cost of new client acquisition.

But, content marketing requires that you create… content. Most folks automatically think writing when they think about creating educational content.

If you want to do more content marketing, I can’t eliminate the need to create your own content (though I can do it for you). And your content still has to be good, meaning it must be appealing, accessible and drop-dead useful.

In this article I’d like to show you an alternate workflow for content creation that keeps you from having to write very much at all. This is the good news that I promised you. It’s called an audio-first workflow.

An audio-first workflow largely takes writing out of the content creation process. You’ll still end up with a lot of textual content for search engines to rank and for people to read. The bonus with an audio-first workflow is that you’ll almost never be staring at a blank page, wondering what to write this week.

An Audio-First Workflow

Let’s walk through an audio-first workflow.

1) Do a Little Bit of Planning

Start with some planning that answers these questions:

  • What are the top 3 business results your company creates for your clients?
  • What are the top 3 problems your clients ask you to solve again and again?
  • What are the top 3 areas of interest in your specialty that clients like to hear about?
  • What are the top 3 broader issues affecting your clients in their industry in the next 12 to 24 months?
  • What issues or changes in your specialty are your clients concerned about or interested in?

If you come up with three answers for each of those questions, you will have a fantastic list of topics to create content marketing around.

The main point in your planning is that your content should not be random; instead, it should be focused around what your clients find interesting, compelling, or valuable.

2) Record Interesting Conversations

Even if you don’t think your voice sounds great, even if your microphone skills are weak, you can use an audio-first workflow to kick off the content creation process. After all, you don’t have to turn your audio recordings into a public-facing podcast, you can instead use them to drive the creation of text content. Here’s how to do that.

Expand your topic list from the previous step into short outlines. So for example, if one of your topics is “Client concern: how will the prevalence of mobile web access affect my e-commerce business now and in the next 3 to 5 years?” then you might expand that into an outline that looks like this:

Getting Your E-Commerce Business Ready For the Mobile Web

  • The mobile web is coming, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Head in sand is not an option.
  • If you don’t take action, here’s the dire consequences you can expect.
  • The good news: it’s pretty easy to start adapting to the mobile landscape now.
  • Three simple changes you can make to get ready: A, B, C
  • Conclusion/CTA: Hope this is helpful. BTW, we have been solving this problem for clients now for 5 years. We can help you…

Next, figure out who in your company could have the most interesting or most educational conversation about this topic? Maybe it’s:

  • The company founder and the lead developer
  • The project manager and the lead developer
  • The company founder and the salesperson who has closed the most business in this area
  • The lead designer and a client who just finished a successful project in this area

You get the picture. One person having a monologue can be interesting, but probably won’t be unless they’re a great speaker. But two people who have been deeply involved in the topic at hand almost certainly will have an interesting conversation.

Next, record those people having that conversation for about an hour. Do your best with the recording (quiet area with no background noise, decent equipment, etc.) but don’t obsess about it. Obsession begets more obsession, but it rarely moves a needle that’s been stuck on zero.

If the audio sounds good and you want to have a podcast for your company, then release your recordings as a podcast!

Podcasting Protip #1: Get about 4 or 5 episodes recorded, edited, and finished before you release your podcast to the world. This will validate that you can consistently follow through on your podcasting schedule and hopefully keep you out of the embarrassing graveyard of 5-episode, abandoned podcasts.

Podcasting Protip #2: Unless you are a budding audio engineer or have lot of time to kill, just pay someone to edit the dang podcast for you. Devreps and podcastmotor are excellent, and I’m sure Fiverr and Odesk are rife with other options too. After you get certain one-time items like opening music, intro voiceover, and general workflow issues sorted, a budget of about $120 per podcast is about enough to turn a raw 60-minute recording into a finished podcast.

3) Transcribe the Recording

Send the recording to a transcription service. Both Rev.com and Castingwords.com are excellent and affordable options. Rev is both cheaper and faster ($1/minute, 24-hour turnaround) but Castingwords is probably slightly higher quality but slower and more expensive ($1.50/minute last I checked).

4) Maximize That Transcription

Take the transcription for your podcast episode and turn it into one or more articles! Either do so internally (risky because I guarantee that you will back-burner it and probably never get it done, especially if you have a deadline or are busy with client work), or just pay a writer or editor to do it for you.

A budget of $200 per article should be more than enough to cover having a competent writer turn your hour of conversation–which will be around 6,000 to 8,000 jumbled words of unrefined gold–into pure gold. In fact, you may get 2 or 3 articles out of one 1-hour conversation. Need a writer or editor? I can refer you–just let me know.

Either publish these articles to your blog (making sure you remove the publication date and call it something other than a blog) or publish them in your Resource Center.

Send the articles to your list (you are building a list, aren’t you?) and make sure the best ones are part of your “list welcome experience” (the email sequence someone gets when they join your list).

Repurpose articles into SlideShare decks. I use a tool called DeckSet to make this easy and keep me out of my personal hell of Microsoft Office.

Take your articles and turn them into spiffy-looking PDFs. I use Remarq for this, but other tools will also work. When you are having sales conversations with clients, email them relevant PDFs to help them see how you’ve thought through issues of importance to them. Use the PDFs to spice up your press kit if you have one.

BOOM! The $520/mo Content Marketing Program

There you have it! For around $520–and let’s say about 6 to 8 hours of staff time per month– you can have a content marketing program that involves almost no writing! That doesn’t even cover the low hanging fruit offshoots from this audio-first workflow, which could easily include screencasts, speaking engagements, and podcast guest appearances.

Some Educational Resource Center Examples

Previously, I mentioned that you should kill your blog, take any on-topic blog content you have, and then integrate it into an educational resource center on your site. I’ve gotten a few questions about exactly how to do this, and I thought it would be helpful to show two examples of what an educational resource center looks like.

Check out this quick 11-minute screencast where I walk you through those examples and show you a live example of the results of an audio-first workflow:

What an Educational Resource Center Looks Like, and An Audio-First Workflow Example

Finally, on Reach

In terms of reaching your audience, it’s interesting to think about where and how they can engage with content that’s been produced using an audio-first approach.

Setting Content Types That Work Well Notes
At a desk, in front of a computer Written, Audio This modality has the most flexibility, but it has the most competition from other stuff like work, YouTube, the whole rest of the Internet, etc.
Away from desk, in front of a desktop or laptop computer Written, Audio Again, lots of flexibility, but potentially lots of competition from other stuff.
Away from desk, mobile device, filling idle time Written, Audio In this context, attention spans are shorter and so interesting audio content and shorter form content–even micro content like tweets, Facebook posts, and Tumblr content–play best.
Away from desk, mobile device, doing something else like exercise, driving, etc. Audio In this context, only audio works. For some people, this is a lot of time you could gain access to!

Keep these differences in reach in mind as you are thinking about how to use your limited time and energy to produce educational content marketing. An audio-first approach may be a very efficient, effective way to get it done while also capitalizing on the wide reach of audio content.


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