Content Creation: Even “Non-Creatives” Can Help!

You have your funnel defined, your personas identified and your content map in place. Now what’s your strategy for content creation? According to the Content Marketing Institute, more than half of marketers say they don’t have time for B2B content marketing, and nearly as many say content creation challenges are what’s holding them back. These are familiar challenges, but ones we’re solving for clients and ourselves by making the creative process more inclusive.

As an agency, we have a dynamic team of creative professionals, and we’re fortunate to have robust teams of marketing technology experts and digital developers, too. Though the general assumption is that content creation is best handled by creatives, the fact is non-creatives offer a much different — and much needed — type of expertise. Their unique perspectives can reveal new ways to better connect with your buyers.

We’ve started treating content brainstorming as a meeting of the minds, and the results have been amazing. Through collaboration with other departments, we’ve not only expanded our available resources; we’ve also enriched our content with highly relevant insight. You can, too.

Start by identifying what you need

Your content map will help point you toward which topics are most relevant to your buyers, but the resources you share have to be valuable, too.

This means creating rich content that goes beyond selling your product or service — it has to sell them on the idea and the concepts behind what you want them to buy.

Types of rich content to consider:

These types of objective content give buyers the information they need to make confident decisions at every part of their journey.

Personas provide a strong framework for your messaging, but adding in perspectives by non-creatives will give you additional angles to consider! For example, when we brought in our digital development department for a brainstorming session, they volunteered to develop a behind-the-scenes video series that would help demonstrate the value they bring to our clients’ projects. That’s a trust builder we hadn’t considered before.

Don’t make them start from scratch

When you start brainstorming, an excellent aspect to consider is building on the value of the content you already have and pulling directly from it. I’m not talking about reading a white paper on-camera and calling it a video; I’m talking about taking that white paper and creating a case study to demonstrate its validity.

And then making a testimonial video with the subject of the case study.

And then writing a blog post about the strategy behind all of it.

See how much richer each of these pieces of content becomes as each facet builds on the next? And, in each case, the groundwork is already laid, giving non-creatives a jumping-off point for suggestions. As they look at your existing content, they might see opportunities you missed — or validate ideas you’d been toying with.

Remember, these folks are subject matter experts. They know what’s most relevant to that segment of your audience. So this isn’t just resourcefulness we’re talking about; it’s added value.

To help break the ice, give them examples of how they might approach a content brainstorming exercise:

  • Transform a white paper into a webinar or a series of blog posts.
  • Take the results from your case studies and create an interactive calculator.
  • Create a blog post around an interactive tool or a case study.
  • Take the ideas from a webinar and turn them into a how-to video.

This gives them something to critique and build on. You might also find ways to update old material with newer information, and that, in and of itself, is valuable.

But brainstorming can be intimidating — even for creatives

You know how traditional brainstorming goes: Everyone sits in a room and shouts out ideas as they come to mind. The problem is this doesn’t always yield the best ideas, because the loudest voices tend to dominate. Meanwhile, many participants remain silent because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.

Plus, there’s little mental vetting going on. Everyone is so desperate to contribute that you wind up with a lot of impractical ideas. Quantity is great, but only if the quality is there, too.

Fortunately, there’s a way to make brainstorming content painless — and productive — even for those who are completely new to it. Using this approach, we’ve generated hundreds of ideas across a half-dozen content brainstorming sessions with everyone from programmers to telemarketers.

Here’s how we approach content brainstorming

We start by gathering 3–6 people in the same room. It’s usually a mix of marketing folks and people from another department.

Rather than making it a primarily vocal exercise, we give everyone a pen and sticky notes. We set time limits for each stage to give it structure and urgency. As many of you know, a blank sheet of paper can be paralyzing … but a sticky note is small. It begs for the distillation of thought, and it encourages the rapid development of ideas.

The general process:

  1. Start by giving context: Explain what the goal of the session is, give participants a piece of pre-existing content to review, and provide examples of the types of content you want to create.
  2. Let everyone review the piece of content in front of them and ask questions about the process as needed.
  3. Have participants write down ideas for new content that could be developed out of the pre-existing piece.. They can also flag opportunities to update existing content.
  4. Now it gets interesting — have everyone pass both the existing content and their ideas to the person on their left. Then, everyone skims the new content in front of them and adds their ideas to the existing ones or expands on previous suggestions.
  5. Pass materials one more time. During this last stage, everyone has the chance to prioritize the others’ ideas and select those with the greatest value. Then they pitch their favorites to the group.

One reason this approach is successful is because the only pressure is the time limit for each stage. Plus, the physical act of writing is a creative catalyst because it takes more time and engages more of the brain, allowing for greater focus and critical thinking.

Another reason it’s successful is because no idea is louder than another, allowing everything to be weighed equally. And with each pass, the ideas are seen by fresh eyes — like they will be by your buyers.

Finally, each person is pitching someone else’s suggestions, so they don’t have to feel self-conscious. They get to think critically about what paths would be the most effective, which means they’re more likely to pick the best ideas, not the ones they feel are least likely to get shot down.

Results everyone can appreciate

We’ve gotten great feedback from our self-described non-creatives. One of our technical architects said he not only felt surprisingly comfortable during the exercise, but he also enjoyed being able to participate in that side of our business. Our director of application development said he appreciated having a defined structure for the process and was glad to be able to highlight previously unexplored themes in our marketing content.

What do you think? Is this a process you could see your non-creatives getting comfortable with? Let us know in the comments!

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01/24/2018

About Emily Slayton

Emily was a senior copywriter at The Mx Group from 2013-2018, creating content for leading B2B brands such as Siemens, Wonderlic and Atlas Copco. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from University of Missouri-Columbia.

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