A friend of mine once said, "I don’t work hard. I work smart." Why did the quote stick with me (as mused by Steve Kimball, entrepreneurial advisor and CEO of Inc. Magazine’s Navigator)? Because I'm lazy, of course.
But for real (though I can be super lazy), it’s because working hard doesn’t always mean you’re going to be successful. You have to be smart about your time. One of my favorite things to do is to visibly roll my eyes when I hear someone make the audible claim that they work 16 hour days only to wake up at 4:30 the next morning and do it all over again. Hardcore, bro. Hardcore.
Another friend of mine said, “If you have to say it, it ain’t true.” Plus, if those folks – liars or not – were a bit smarter with their time, they could work less and achieve better results.
I share this concept as I present a few pointers for creating content, particularly in the online space where an organization is short on time but always in need of more words, images, graphics or video.
As a content producer and writer, I could easily spend 16 hours a day pulling together words and images for on- or offline articles, reports, proposals or blog posts. But that would be a horrible way to live. Plus, I need some of that time to be lazy.
Over the years I’ve developed a so-called “content discovery” system that keeps me working smart, allowing me to cut time without cutting corners, create good content, and move on to other projects. And be home in time for dinner and staring at electronics.
When you’re creating content, it’s important to not attempt to reinvent the wheel every time you are required to make stuff.
If you’re new to your role at the company – for instance, the appointed/anointed social media manager, a PR director, or a marketing specialist – take some time up front to sift through what your organization already has on file. Don’t listen to “we don’t have anything.” They do. If the place has been around a while, there are many, many things. Find them, uncover them, bribe people if you have to get your hands on this stuff. Then use it as a starting-off point. Store this information somewhere and use it as your content library.
When it comes to creating content, how do you work smart – and not hard? You’ll be creating content in no time.
Don’t waste time thinking up totally original stuff. Broaden pieces you’ve seen before (and give credit where due). Expand on ideas that you or the company have written about before. Repackage old articles you’ve done into new variations. Think tiny. Bursts of information. Easier to read.
New news? Share it.
Get research. Nothing better than uncovering huge chunks of research reports that can be plugged into an article, expanded upon, and shipped around your distribution outlets.
Got a white paper? Presentation? Use those copy/paste hotkeys and turn them into usable articles. Challenge yourself to turn a single slide into a 100-word article.
Study cases. If your company has case studies sitting around, use them to your advantage as a starting-off point. If you don’t have case studies anywhere, what are you waiting for? Start reaching out to clients past and present, get their permissions, and pull some examples of your company’s work together.
Speechre-writer. Has your CEO made a speech? Done a roundtable? If so, there are scripts, audio or video laying around somewhere. Find them, expand them, and publish them anew.
Past articles. Sure, you don’t want the same article on different websites, but there’s nothing that says you can’t chop up an article, shuffle things around, add or subtract components, and post a fresher version.
If you read it, share it. Goes hand-in-hand with not stressing over dreaming up original content. Should you read an interesting article, throw it onto the company blog and provide some analysis from your business’ perspective. If you share an article on Twitter, expand upon it on a blog.
Think small. Why write a paragraph-heavy article when you can package it into list form, like this piece?