When you create blog content for a living, you can’t wake up each day and say, “ok, how we gonna do this today?” You have to have a process. Just like the process that we teach in Pitch Practice every week, it’s a construct that you start with and then adjust to your own style, pace, and ability. I walk through a similar process for every blog post I write, whether that blog post is for Atlanta Tech Blogs or for a client. Here are the steps I go through.
- Idea – I try to keep a handful of ideas in a simple notes file on my iPhone at all times. For my clients, we collaborate to create a list of possible topics within our content strategy. For my blog, most of the time, though, I just get an idea and decide to write a post about it. My ideas are no different from yours, and include many of the things on this list, which is basically the answers to these three questions:
- What happened yesterday? Sometimes literally yesterday, but most of the time from sometime in the past like the first time you learned the lesson for some challenge that you overcame recently. For example, I recently learned that, if I start off with a solid chunk of someone else’s writing, the end result stinks. I have to start with a clean slate.
- What’s happening today? Current events in your market space or area of expertise on which you have an opinion or that you want to share. For example, today, I’ll be attending the “Creating Content that Converts” lunch seminar today at ATV.
- What are you planning for tomorrow? We all look into the future at least a little bit to make plans, share plans, opine on what we think will be in the next iPhone, or whatever. For example, the Digital Marketing class (DGM4) at General Assembly begins next week! It’s full (25 students!) and we’ll have two Teaching Assistants and at least 4 really great guest speakers who are much smarter than I am.
- Outline – Once I’ve sold myself that I can write a decent piece of content on the idea, I quickly jot down an outline of the major points I want to make. Each major point usually becomes a paragraph, and unless I have at least 2-4 major points, I don’t move on to the next step.
- Write – Everybody’s work style is different here. I prefer to write everything from start to finish, so I maintain my thought process throughout the time that I’m writing. I really don’t like to start, stop, come back, start again, stop again, come back again. Sometimes that’s required for a series like this one, but most of the time, once I start writing, I shut everything out until I’m done.
- Step away – When I finish writing the first draft, I make sure it’s saved in the right place (usually not an issue with Google Docs, but if you’ve ever lost an article before, you always make sure), and then step away from the PC. Maybe not literally, but I will close that doc and do something else – anything else – to clear my head of what I just wrote. In college, I used to do something similar before a test or exam. While my friends were frantically cramming the hour before the test, I’d take a nap to clear my head.
- Review – An hour or so later, I’ll return with a fresh clear mind to read the entire article start to finish as if I am the audience. I’ll notice things I want to change during this step, but I won’t note or change them yet. I want to read it all the way through to see if it flows properly to a solid conclusion.
- Edit – After that thorough read, I go through it again, start to finish, and make any and all edits that I noticed during that first read, as well as some that I did not see that first time around.
- Finalize – By “finalize”, I mean re-read the article (3rd time) start to finish to pick up any errors I may have missed on the first two runs (I still always miss at least one), add a relevant and eye-catching image (always use an image!), create the social post text, and publish (or send to the client).
That’s my process. As I say each week in Pitch Practice, “it’s not the Gospel, so you’re not going to hell if you don’t follow it to the letter, but it works.” There’s always deviations from any process and this one is no exception, but I generally follow all these steps. What’s your content creation process?