Author: Josh Ritchie
“Brands need to be pushing out new content all the time.”
That’s what marketers have been hearing for the past few years—and many of us have bought into this thinking.
In response to this, and to fill the need of an “always on” content operation, there’s been a push for content teams to function as publishers. That push for more content is so intense that some brands are using the 24-hour newsroom approach to create more and more content in an attempt to be relevant.
This is understandable, but it’s not always the most efficient approach. Maintaining high-quality production without a break is hard. And, if the quality of your content starts slipping to the point where it’s not engaging, it’s not worth it. Weaker content brings down the quality of your overall content efforts. According to a 2016 Content Marketing Institute report, 60% of marketers say “creating enough engaging content” is their biggest challenge.
More Content Is Not the Answer
It seems, for some, that “creating enough engaging content” has been wrongly interpreted as “creating tons of content.” This is the core problem: many marketers are overly focused on the word “enough.” Instead, marketers should put a greater emphasis on the word “engaging.”
Good content means creating better and more engaging content. Simply put: Quality > Quantity.
Here are four ways to focus on creating engaging content and not just pumping out content to fill your editorial calendar:
1. Put More of Your Eggs in Fewer Baskets
This may sound counter-intuitive, but I’ve learned over the years that putting more of your eggs in fewer baskets often makes the most sense—at least for our team. Why is that, you may ask?
Well, say you had a plan to produce and buy media for 12 three-minute videos over the course of the year. That’s a lot of videos, and it will be hard to maintain momentum and quality. And this route may not make the most sense.
Instead, consider doing four videos throughout the year—and making each one the best possible video you can produce. Better yet, make each one you put out better than the one before. And then, after the release of each video, make sure that it makes sense to keep producing videos. If it does, then keep making them, and keep making them better. If it doesn’t, then consider stopping or reducing the volume of work you’re planning. Most brands have limited time and resources, and it’s better to allocate these things where they make the most sense.
Also, consider this: people will remember one beautiful video that you spent a lot of time fine-tuning and perfecting. People won’t remember a bunch of video pieces you rushed through production because the editorial calendar ruled supreme, and if they do remember them, it’ll likely be for the wrong reasons.
If, however, producing a lot of video content is a non-negotiable priority for your marketing team, consider the idea of scaling up gradually over time. It’s smarter to increase your investment gradually, and to develop momentum over time, than it is to come out of the gates at a pace that’s difficult to sustain.
Content marketing is a marathon not a sprint. And, there’s no finish line. That can sound daunting, but I personally prefer to be realistic so that I can plan accordingly.
2. Constantly Sanity Check Why You’re Creating the Content You Planned
Are you creating content because you have reason to believe that it will work (based on previous successes)? Or are you creating something simply because you decided to do so months ago?
Content strategy is iterative (everyone’s figuring it out as they go), and you need to make sure that you are always making room for changes in plans that are based on what’s working and not working.
How do you determine whether your content is working? You measure it, regularly. One of the ways that we sanity check our content plan is to talk about it, a lot. We have bi-weekly brainstorms to come up with new ideas and kill ideas that we don’t love (if we can’t make them better). Search plays a big role in our marketing efforts, so we do a comprehensive KPI check-in on a monthly basis. This enables us, on a rolling basis, to determine what type of content works and what doesn’t. This intel then shapes our brainstorming sessions and helps us to determine what to create in the future.
Then, at the end of each quarter, we do a debrief and we discuss a) what worked, b) what didn’t work, and c) what could work if we did things better/differently. This helps us ensure that we’re not spinning our wheels and just creating content because it sounded like a good idea months ago and we have the people and time to do it.
3. Slow Down and Iterate Until You Get Things “Just Right”
There’s a saying that I love: “Doing something right is better than doing something fast.”
Obviously, you don’t want to procrastinate so much that you never actually get anything done. On the contrary, the first draft or version of most things usually needs to be polished. Also, doing things right tends to take more time than you initially thought… this is just the nature of the beast; so, whenever possible, set more conservative timelines for the work that your team produces.
In an ideal scenario, this means giving yourself the time and space to create something great every time you set out to create a piece of content. Not doing this is counter-productive. Why kill yourself to hit a deadline, if what you ultimately put out is not something you’re proud of? You’re going to hate it, and it’ll dilute your brand.
While this can be difficult when you are on a limited timeline, it gets easier when you really pursue a quality over quantity approach with your content, whereby you’ve got more of your eggs in one basket, and you are constantly sanity checking what you’re working on.
4. Do You; Don’t Focus on the Competition
It’s good to be aware of what your competitors are doing, but you can’t let your marketing efforts devolve into a competition with other brands.
IMO, the best brands are the ones that know who they are, what they stand for, and stay true to this. Conversely, weaker brands follow the crowd, constantly looking for the next novel thing to tinker around with.
While it can sometimes be difficult, and it always takes a lot of dedication, you need to do what is right for you and your audience. They are ultimately the most important consideration when it comes to what you’re doing with your content efforts. Also, it’s important that you stay true to your brand because, chances are, people (read: customers) were drawn into it and don’t want it to change.
The best way to know if what you’re doing is working for the people you’re trying to reach? Ask them. Conduct surveys. Email your customers. Take them out to dinner. Whatever feedback mechanism works best for your business, do that.
Focus on the Right Thing
If you remember one thing from this post, I hope that it’s that people don’t care about how often you post, they care about what you post; they crave content that is useful, relevant, and valuable. Keeping this in mind is key to developing a content approach that prioritizes quality over quantity.
What other tips do you have for creating better content, not just more content? Share them below!