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John Jantsch: Producing content’s become a marketer’s primary job. But how do you maximize your reach? How do you make sure that there’s some ROI every time you hit publish? Well this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I speak with Pamela Wilson, author of Master Content Strategy, and that’s what we’re going to talk about. How to make content drive the bottom line.
This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth focused e-commerce brands drive more sales, with super targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, this is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Pamela Wilson. She’s the founder of Big Brand System, and the author of a book we’re going to talk about today, Master Content Strategy: How to maximize your reach, and boost your bottom line every time you hit publish. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Pamela, thanks for joining me.
Pamela Wilson: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. That is definitely the goal, right? To maximize your reach and get your ideas out into the world.
John Jantsch: All right, so let me start with a word that’s in the title. What is content strategy look like? I’m sure a lot of us marketers have been talking about you need a content strategy, but define that for somebody who maybe isn’t a marketer.
Pamela Wilson: You know, it might be easiest to say what it’s not. It is not throwing pasta at the wall to see what sticks. It is approaching your content with some kind of overarching goal for the people you want to reach, and what you want it to accomplish for your business. The way I talk about it in the book is that the needs of your website change during the lifecycle of your website. So, what you need in the early days of your website is very different than what you need if your sight has been live for six, eight, 10 years.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and you know, I actually think that you can take it a step farther, and I mean, one of the strategies might be what can you actually get done? Or, how can you actually do things in a way that allows you to get more done, or to be more efficient in producing your content? Because I think for a lot of my listeners, and a lot of small business owners, this whole need to produce content has become the biggest task of all.
Pamela Wilson: Right. Yeah, and I recognize that, when I talk about the lifecycle in the book, I talk about how one of the big goals in the first year of your site is to just become a better content creator. Just to gain confidence. The way you do that is producing a lot of content. It’s like anything else in life, you get better at it, the more you practice. My recommendation for the first year is to write a new piece of content every single week as your minimum goal. Which sounds really overwhelming, but if you do it on kind of a schedule, and you get yourself into this routine where you’re producing and publishing content on the same day every week, it’s not that bad, and the more you do it, the better you get at it. Plus, as you know, the search engines love that you’re just putting out this nice, fresh content every single week. So, you’re giving your website a chance to get found.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and I think that ultimately you look up after a year, and you’ve built an asset. I think that that’s the part that is so hard when you don’t have a strategy, and you’re just throwing like you said … You use pasta at the wall. I mean, I think if you look at this as this is a long-term game … What will I have at the end of a year? You kind of map it out accordingly, I think you end up building something that’s going to serve you for a long time.
Pamela Wilson: You’ll have 50 pieces of content, plus a lot more confidence and skills that you can then build on. That’s what I talk about in the book, that once you have those basic skills in place, then going forward you can do slightly more sophisticated things with your content, because you have those skills to count on.
John Jantsch: One of the things, and you already alluded to this … I think a whole first section of the book, in fact, is called, “The Lifecycle Approach to Content Marketing,” so you want to unpack that?
Pamela Wilson: Yes. The Lifecycle Approach basically recognizes that your site needs different things at different points in its life. In the first year, what I recommend is what we just talked about which is try to publish a new piece of content every single week. This is going to build your skills, it’s going to build this content asset. As you said on your website, search engines will find you, I mean there are all these positive things that will come out from that really big push that you do in the first year. Then, in the second year, what I call your second through fifth year, this is your growth time. This is where you can kind of build on the skills that you’ve developed that first year. In some cases, if you have managed to publish every week in the first year, you might be able to dial it back to publishing every other week.
But, what I’m asking you to do in the book is to write deep dive content. Write content that goes into more depth, it’s longer, maybe it starts to incorporate things like multimedia, so maybe you start exploring video or audio, or you build some slide shares, and you weave them into the post or you incorporate images. It’s just asking you to take your content quality to a slightly higher level. If that means that you have to publish less often, that’s fine, during those growth years. Years two through five.
Then what happens, and this point was driven home for me when I took over managing the copy blogger blog back in 2015, what happens is, you get to this point, somewhere around year six. If you have kept this up consistently, where you need to start changing your strategy yet again, because you just have a ton of content, and some of the pieces of content that you’ve created over time you want to resurface those for people who never got a chance to see them.
You’re going to be going back and refreshing things, updating them, in some cases putting a new publishing date on them, and republishing them so people see them again, and you may go back for your most popular posts, and you may add again multimedia. Something that was maybe you did it in your first year, and it was very popular, lots of people are still hitting that piece of content, maybe you add a video to it. Maybe you interview a thought leader in your space, and you add that video to it. Or, you create a slide share. You just kind of polish it up, and give it a new life on your website.
John Jantsch: You mentioned video a couple times, and I do think that there is a need for short form, long form, video, images. How do you reconcile giving people advice on … I mean now, I not only have to produce all this content, I have to have it in all these different formats.
Pamela Wilson: Right. Exactly. And that’s where we come back to this concept of a lifecycle. I am not asking you to do all of this in year one. I just want you to develop skills so that you feel confident, and you can build on those skills very organically over time. Just like any new skill that you’re learning. You learn the basics, and then you start to learn the more complex skills as you go along.
The one thing that I tell people when they’re thinking about multi-media is do not try to master everything at once. Find something that builds on your existing skills. Maybe you feel very comfortable working with images. Maybe you just start by adding more images to your longer posts. You break them up with images that maybe every 400, 500 words you add an image, just to break up the page a little bit.
Or, maybe you are somebody, one of those rare unicorns, who feels incredibly comfortable in video. I’ve met a couple, but there aren’t that many of us. You just do a camera … You talking to the camera on video, where you just chat a little bit about the content of the article, or maybe it’s even a podcast episode. That’s the other thing I talk about is when you’re thinking about multi-media, it’s not so much that you’re always adding video, for example. It’s that you are taking the existing piece of content and changing it into something else.
For example, here we are, we’re recording a podcast. We could take this podcast and turn it into an ebook. It’s audio and it becomes something written. That’s the idea is to repurpose it, so that you turn it into something that has a slightly different format, and it’s going to appeal to a different audience that way.
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Let’s talk about topics. You mentioned that you work with a lot of folks starting up an online business. Is there foundational content that you need to produce first, or could you keep talking about year two, and year three, but a lot of times, if I’m starting a business, what content is going to serve me now?
Pamela Wilson: Right. Well, typically people go into creating an online business and they’ve been asked questions about their area of expertise. They’re building a business around some kind of expertise that they have, or passion, or interest. They’ve heard questions. You and I have heard this lots of times. It’s a really solid piece of advice. Think about the questions that people typically ask you about your area of expertise, and start at just answering those. That can provide a really great guide for when you are just starting out.
For example on Big Brand System in the early days, I was talking a lot about design, and branding topics. My first 10 posts were called design 101. It was all questions that I had been asked by clients over the years, and all things that I sort of wish they knew, because it was this foundational knowledge. I always recommend that people go back to what is the foundational knowledge, what are the questions that you get from people who are really beginners with this topic that you want to talk about and that you want to build a site around.
John Jantsch: Yeah, it’s funny. I work with a lot of content producers, and a lot of times people will hire a marketing person say at a technical company and tell them, “Go produce content.” They’re like, “Well, I don’t know this stuff.” It’s amazing how much content is in the sent emails of the technicians, and the engineers, and sometimes that can be a great place to find content.
Pamela Wilson: Customer service. Right? You attack your customer service people and you find out what people are asking. Sometimes if the person writing is kind of a beginner, that actually puts them in a wonderful position to know what the very basic questions are.
John Jantsch: You have a chapter called, “The Four Day Content Creation System,” and that seemed like the closest thing to a magic bullet that everybody is looking for. Why don’t you describe the Four Day Content Creation System.
Pamela Wilson: You know, I came up with this, because when I made this recommendation for people to write a piece of content every week, it sounds so daunting. But this is a way to approach it that it breaks the process down over several days, and what I have found in all creative work that I … I’ve done creative work my entire career, right? So whether it’s design or writing. Any kind of creative work really benefits from being left alone to rest for a little while, and having you come back to it with what I call fresh eyes. You see it with fresh eyes. That’s what this system builds on. It’s this idea that you take a break from your piece of content, and then you come back to it.
Day one, what you’re trying to do is create some kind of a backbone for your piece of content. This could be written content, but it could also be a podcast. Day one what you want to focus on is writing your headline, and your subheads. Once you get your headline written, and this … It could change in your final piece, but you want to have a working headline that you’re pretty happy with, and your basic subheads that sort of lay out the premise of what you’re going to be talking about. It’s basically an outline straight from English class in middle school. But we’re not going to call it an outline, we’ll call it a backbone, because it sounds less daunting.
That’s day one. You do that, and then you walk away. Then on day two what you want to do is write your first draft. Start to finish, I always tell people write forward, don’t write backward. Don’t go back and try to edit, you have a whole day for that. But on day two, just get your first draft written. Once you’ve done that, you come back on day three, and you edit. You polish. You get it all ready to publish on the next day, and then on day four you’re publishing it, and you’re promoting it, and you’re really putting it out there, because it’s fresh new content. You want to get out there, and kind of advocate for it on the fourth day.
John Jantsch: I spent the first maybe 10 years or so of my blogging career writing every day.
Pamela Wilson: Oh wow. Yeah.
John Jantsch: I wrote a post every day, including Sundays. I didn’t have the luxury of doing that, but a lot of times, I wish I did, because another thing that your system does is it probably avoids silly mistakes.
Pamela Wilson: You know, the thing is the mistakes kind of … They jump out at you on the page. Right? You can see them, because you’ve given yourself a break, and you haven’t looked at it for maybe 24 hours, and then when you come back to it, it’s like, “Oh well, clearly this is a grammatical error, or clearly I have not supported my argument here, and I need to just add more information, this part isn’t clear.” I mean, things just really jump out when you give yourself a break.
John Jantsch: Back in 2005, ’06, ’07, ’08, I had the grammar police that would come on and make comments, back when we used to have commenting turned on, on all of our blogs.
Pamela Wilson: Right.
John Jantsch: I would hear from people very loudly. But I had fun with it, because I figured that was part of the format.
Pamela Wilson: Yeah. Absolutely. And that makes people feel useful. What can you do?
John Jantsch: One of the things that I like … I like when books do this, and you’ve done a good job with this. You have all of these checklists in the back of the book that kind of walk people through not only the stages, but then each fit promotions to your content strategy, the body of work approach to content creation. I love those. Pamela, where can people find out more about Big Brand Systems and about where they can find your book?
Pamela Wilson: The best place is go to bigbrandsystem.com. They can find my website there. There’s all sorts of great stuff. I have a page where I’m … I’ll send you a link … Where I have lots of free stuff. I have it all gathered on one page. It’s bigbrandsystem.com/goodies.
John Jantsch: We’ll have that in the show notes, too.
Pamela Wilson: Yes. Absolutely. They can find the book right on the website.
John Jantsch: Well, Pamela, thanks for joining us, and hopefully we’ll run into you someday soon out there on the road.
Pamela Wilson: That sounds great. Thanks John, it was good to chat with you.