As more marketers invest more resources in content, it becomes increasingly important to carefully consider the best ways to connect with your potential customers.

Anyone can slap a video or blog together, post it and call it a day, but the chances of that content leading to anything good are slim. Trying to take shortcuts will only lead to negative returns and creates the risk of alienating would-be prospects.

To avoid creating content no one wants, follow our 5-step process to creating great content.

Note: Equally important to creating great content is getting that content in front of the people who will find it valuable. Today we’ll focus on content generation; check back soon for our tips on which creative promotion tactics can most effectively expand the reach of your content.

1. Picking a Format and Sketching an Idea

This first step is often the most important one, so let’s spend some time here.

So you have an idea for a message or information you’d like to present. That’s great, but before you jump to any conclusions on which format you’d like your message to be in (video, text, audio), take the time to consider which is best for communicating your idea.

Now, this can be difficult to do, especially when you have pressures from within your business to create one type of content over another. You’ve probably heard things like, “We need to do video,” or “We need more infographics,” which can both be true. But you have to be sure that the content you’re developing isn’t just being shoehorned into a format for arbitrary reasons. This can kill your message and may scare you away from trying the format again. 

To avoid this, take your time to really think through your idea. How does it fit in with your larger strategy, and what message must get across for the content to move your strategy forward? How many people need to engage with it, and what will success look like?

With this is mind, outline the various points you’d like to make, listing as many shorthand notes as you can and maybe sketching out a draft of your content. This should help you make a decision on what format would be best.

If you have a ton of information, for example, this will probably be best presented as an article, blog post, white paper or in an audio format, like a podcast. Your readers and listeners have a built in expectation of needing to spend some time to get the most out of this piece of content, which will affect the level of research you do and how you craft the piece. Basically, your content will be more thorough.

On the other hand, if you have less information that doesn’t require a ton of explanation, you might be better off creating an infographic or a short video if your idea has suitable imagery (for more on developing video, click here). You can also consider breaking this information up into a social media campaign where you share a bit of content once every couple days or once a week, maybe connecting them all together with a hashtag your audience can follow along and interact with.

Once you have an idea in place, consider if the format you’d like to develop it in will resonate with your audience. Use what you know about them and their content consumption preferences to target them where they’re looking. You won’t want to come up with a great article idea when your audience clearly prefers short, entertaining videos, for example.

Now, if you’re working with a team or reporting to someone else, communicate the plan with your colleagues and agree upon what format will be used to hit what benchmarks so that there is buy-in across the board for this project.

And if you do find that your idea is really better suited for one format than another, yet you are feeling the pressure to create something in a different format, then don’t stress; just file that idea away for a later time and get started brainstorming again.

2. Time and Resources 

Now that you have an idea settled on, you’ll want to consider how much time and how many resources you’ll need to dedicate to make it a reality. A lot of this will come down to what format you decide to go with.

For example, if you decide to write an article or blog, you’ll have to factor your own time spent developing this. This will include any research, interviews and writing you’ll do.

If you are developing a piece of content that requires more time commitment from multiple people, then you’ll need to plan accordingly. For example:

  • For an infographic, work with your designer to figure out how long it will take them to produce a draft.
  • For a video, begin by assessing internal capabilities for developing it yourself, or consult an outside video firm to develop a timeline for completion.

3. Timeline

After you’ve worked out the logistics for your content development, it’s time to put together a timeline for seeing your project through to completion. Using a calendar tool like teamup, you can plot out the various steps in your project, from how long you think it will take for creation and editing, to a period for planning your marketing and promotion of the content.

This should also be shared with all relevant parties and agreed upon to ensure your content will be prioritized appropriately.

4. Production

Now you get to move on to actually creating the content. Your preparation up to this point should greatly help with this, as you’ll have a firm understanding of what you want your project to look like, who you’re targeting, what it needs to accomplish and how much time you have to create it.

5. Evaluation

The final step in any process of developing content is to take stock of your process and outcome. Take a look at how it performed, check to make sure it met the benchmarks you set, and most importantly, learn from the process.

There is always room for refinement when it comes to developing content. This is a great period where you can take note of what went and what you’d like to improve.

Maybe you’ll find you need to get copy to your designer a little bit earlier next time, or you could have come up with a great message that really resonates with your audience, which may lead to more opportunities to repurpose your message and make life a little bit easier.

Whatever you take from the content development experience, by following these steps, you’ll ensure that your content is well thought out, properly positioned and poised to make a strong impression with your audience.