The world of content creation is a tricky one. It’s a complex process, and there are many moving parts intermix with a prevalent lack of concrete guidelines, which makes the task of finding great content difficult. What should a company write about, and if a topic is already provided, where does one find that content?
Regardless of the task, finding great content doesn’t need to resort to Googling new technologies or browsing the blogs of other companies, although that can certainly be a part of the data collection process. Finding the right topic or rounding out the facts if a topic already exists is easily done inside the company. Using these three tips, one can get the right information for great content, all within the company.
Use Key Players
This may take a little bit of detective work but is always worth it. Sometimes, the key players are obvious—the head of marketing, for example, or the director of development. High-level executives are great for providing industry updates and new topics, but true key players are more than executives or supervisors at the highest levels. Key players are often subject matter experts (SMEs) who are “in the weeds” or less-senior employees with years of experience. They’ll have ground-level information about industry trends, standards, and the development of new functionality which results in a deeper knowledge and understanding. Finding the right key players takes a bit of detective work because in many cases, those listed as in-charge work in teams that handle different aspects or segments of the information. Ask questions, dig deeper, and find out who really knows the answers. And as always, be sure to get the approval of any content received from these non-traditional sources.
Ask the Right Questions
It’s common knowledge that open-ended questions are the best ones to ask since they can get sources talking. Yet there are even better open-ended questions you can ask to get more accurate, relevant content. In the technical and content writing world, writers call this “asking the right questions.” The right question is often not Tell me about XYZ topic but more I heard about the new blockchain development initiative. How does this relate to customer satisfaction? Ask more specific, targeted questions to get the information you need to write good content. This technique requires two things: 1.) preparation research so you have foundational knowledge (if you already have a topic in mind) and 2.) flexibility. Don’t come to a meeting or a conversation with a set list of questions and then never go off track. Allow the time and flexibility to get into the weeds a little bit. Ask questions that weren’t on the original list. Ask the interviewee to expand on what was said. Information that is mined from living, flowing interviews like this is usually gold.
Make it Easy to Give Good Content
This technique is hardest for writers to grasp. Writers, after all, are not usually the experts—they need facts and content from other sources to craft the blog posts, marketing materials, or press releases necessary. Writers must, therefore, rely on others to provide novel but accurate information, and in most cases, the other individuals are not writers. Their focuses and interests are vastly different from those of a content writer. This can manifest itself in any number of frustrating ways, such as asking for a summary and getting one sentence in return, or have meetings with experts rescheduled several different times, or having them review work for accuracy and provide no feedback (did they even read that?!). A content writer’s job is to make it easy for experts to give the necessary information, making it easy for the writer to write. In many cases, this is a skill that comes over time by learning the style of those regularly interviewed. Some prefer to send bullets via email. Others prefer to be interviewed over the phone while traveling in a car, having a writer write notes as they talk. Still, others like to send large paragraphs of information that must then be edited for hours before its ready. If a writer doesn’t know the style of the person they’re working with, they must ask! Tell the source what is needed and why the information is important, and then ask what can be done to make it easy for the source to help. If a writer gets buy-in from a source up front, they’re accomplishing two things: 1.) allowing the source to work with on their own terms (read: a writer will get better information this way) and 2.) laying a foundation for a great working relationship in the future.
In conclusion, writers and content producers don’t need to look far outside their own companies to garner great content. All that’s needed is a little research and some people skills and get content is easily obtained.