Content Marketing

Open Letter: So, You Think Creating Content Is Too Much Work

Liz Murphy

Director of Web & Interactive Content, Speaker, Host of 'Content Lab' Podcast

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Open Letter: So, You Think Creating Content Is Too Much Work Blog Feature

Published on August 9th, 2017

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As someone who wheels and deals in creating content professionally, I often find myself trapped between a rock and a hard place.

On one hand, my job is immensely rewarding. I spend my days coaching clients and consultants on how to share ideas in ways that click with the right prospects, and crafting compelling content (blogs, webinars, case studies, whitepapers, etc.) for brands. 

On the other hand, I feel like a parent who has to remind her children that, yes, you need to brush your teeth. No, once a week doesn’t count. No, I don’t care that you brushed your teeth for a whole 30 seconds this morning --  you still need to do it again.

Right now.

Like brushing your teeth, creating content is something you have to do thoroughly and consistently.

You can’t do it once or occasionally. You can’t take a selfie from the one time you blogged a month ago, put it on the mantle like a trophy, and then later point to it anytime someone challenges your blogging prowess.

And yet, there are still a lot of you out there who are trying to avoid creating content at all costs. I see you.

Where Things Start to Go Wrong

Unfortunately, even though I know you guys get that content is the fuel in the engine of your marketing strategy, I still feel like some of you are putting me in the role of being the mom.

I have to drag clients -- or sometimes even other agency pros -- kicking and screaming when they actually have to roll up their sleeves and do the work.

It's infuriating since we're in an industry where we all supposedly agree that mediocre content no longer cuts it; it has to be great. Sadly, in practice, content is perpetually treated as an afterthought -- or worse, a nuisance that gets in the way of "real work."

Of course, it doesn’t begin that way.

At first, clients or teammates will nod along enthusiastically as we educate them about the importance of content. They’ll get on board and commit to creating content at a particular cadence, to ensure we’re driving the best results possible.

Heck, they might even do a great job at being my partner in content crime for a little while. Then, enthusiasm begins to wane.

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My “just checking in” emails are opened, but ignored. Drafts I’ve worked on languish for weeks on end. Hollow refrains of, “I promise it’s next on my list,” turn me into that girl waiting by the phone for the guy who never calls after a night out on the town and a fancy steak dinner.

I do not like being that girl. Not one bit.

So, why does this happen?

“But, It’s Like… a Time Commitment and Stuff”

Before I try to answer this question, I think we all need to address the elephant in the room -- even for people like me who enjoy it, creating content is hard.

This fact seems to surprise a lot of people.

Maybe they thought the "pain" of content creation would vanish eventually. Or, for clients, maybe they underestimated how much they would need to be involved, and overestimated how much they would want to be involved over time.

It's similar to how I still vainly hope one day it will just click with exercising  -- and I will morph into one of those enlightened people who bounces out of bed with enthusiasm to go to the gym early in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong: I know going to the gym in the morning is good for me, and I always feel like a rockstar afterward. That said, I am also a huge fan of staying in bed, using my dogs as pillows, and doing absolutely nothing.

Fig. 1: Me. Four days a week.

So, while working out does get somewhat easier and more enjoyable with time, not being a total schlub requires some grudging discipline on my part to get up at the crack of dawn, four times a week.

There’s always a constant push and pull, when it comes to doing things that you know are good for you and make you feel accomplished -- because you don’t want to have to put in the effort in order to get your reward.

If this is how you feel about creating content, here is what I have to say: Suck it up.

It’s time to put on your big girl or boy pants, stop complaining, and do the freaking work. Because if you're not investing the time and effort required to create killer content, you shouldn't be surprised when you see lackluster results.

You're Wasting Time and Money

As someone whose passion is creating amazing content, I know I should probably have a more inspiring message for those who find content creation to be a burden.

The reality is if you’re investing in the marketing resources to develop and execute engaging content-driven strategies and campaigns  -- either internally or with an agency  -- all you’re doing is flushing your money down the toilet when you undermine your content activities by ignoring them.

Because if I  --  or others like me --  have to spend more time chasing you down just so we can produce the bare minimum of content, rather than flexing my chops to get creative and think outside of the box, you’re wasting my billable hours and yours.

Most of all, every missed deadline, every case study that doesn’t get written, every blog that doesn’t get approved, every blog interview appointment you miss is a squandered opportunity to bring in a potential prospect and grow your business.

In short, ducking out of content creation responsibilities in the moment might feel great and bring some much-needed relief to your schedule, but you’re only hurting yourself.

So, What Do You Do About It?

If you're looking for me to provide a silver bullet solution or a shortcut in this section, you've come to the wrong blog post. Today, it's all about truth bombs and tough love from this weary content strategist.

Content creation is always going to require some level of commitment, investment, and self-discipline. That’s not something I  --  or anyone else, for that matter  --  can change. (If an agency promises that they can, they're either lying, or they don't realize the content they're producing is awful.)

But you can't commit and invest yourself here and there with content. You have to be consistent and stick to your schedule.

As Seth Godin once said:

“If you can make a decision once, then the question isn’t should I do it? It’s what will I do?

If you make the decision once to be a vegan, then you don’t need to have a discussion with yourself every single night about whether or not to have a hamburger.

If you make the decision to blog every single day, then the only discussion I have to have with myself is what’s the best blog post I can write — not should I write a post.

As (Saturday Night Live Producer) Lorne Michaels has said, ‘Saturday Night Live doesn’t go on because it’s ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30.’”

There is good news. If you are feeling pain around content creation, there are three things you can do.

1. Be Honest

First, you need to have a heart-to-heart with yourself and determine whether or not the burden of content creation is a real one, where intervention is required, or a problem you’ve created because you simply “don’t wanna.”

Fig. 2: Is this you? It might be you.

If it’s the latter, then you have a decision to make. You’re either going to fix it and go all-in, or you need to evaluate whether or not you want to stay on the content train.

Obviously, I would never recommend abandoning a content strategy all together. (Check out how great blogging alone is for your brand.) But I’d rather you at least commit one way or the other, rather than waffle due to underlying commitment issues. 

Committing to content is like a relationship -- it'll never work if you always have one foot out the door.

2. "If You See Something, Say Something"

Often clients will make me chase them, because they don’t want to hurt my feelings by telling me something needs to change  -- either with the process or the actual content itself.

First, I’m an adult, so I can take it. Second, avoiding the real issue is the worst thing you can do. I don’t know about the people you may or may not be working with, but my goal is to empower my clients and others around me to produce great work.

Unfortunately, if you’re not telling me something is wrong, I can’t help you. I’m not a mindreader.

For instance, maybe you thought you wanted to write your own blogs. A lot of clients make this choice at the start of an engagement, especially if they are in technical fields. Understandably, they feel they are the only ones with the necessary expertise and perspective to create content that will reach their target audience.

As time goes on, however, you may realize (as many do), that the pace of content production required is too much of a strain on your resources.

That’s totally okay  --  that doesn’t mean you’re a failure at content creation. If you’re one of our clients, that just means we may want to shift to what some find to be a more efficient interview-based blogging process.

But if you don't say anything, instead choosing to suffer in silence, you'll stall, and everyone will become frustrated.

So, ask for help as soon as something doesn’t feel right  -- even if you're only reaching out to say you hate creating content, and something's gotta give. It’s rare that your content creators won’t have a solution. (If they don't, again, you're probably working with the wrong agency.)

3. Have Fun With It

Finally, content creation can be really fun, if you let it.

Take blogging for example. A blog can be as flat and one-dimensional as you want it to be, with all the personality of a Wikipedia page about cardboard.

But it can also be a platform for compelling ideas and thoughts that challenge convention. It can be a place where your voice can rise above the noise and help people solve their problems. It can be a marketing laboratory where you can test drive big, audacious ideas.

You can tell stories, share mistakes you’ve made, spotlight your big wins and successes, or even get real about what pisses you off within your industry.

Fig. 3: Did something make you feel this way? Tell the world!

I know it sounds hokey, but one of the biggest roadblocks I see with those I coach about content is that they are afraid to be themselves  -- instead they play it safe, creating content that sounds “professional” or “polished.”

The result? They never really connect with their work or take pride in it.

Every byline bearing their name feels empty and insincere, providing zero motivation to put in the effort with their content.

If your brand gives you that freedom to be yourself, take it. You’ll find it’ll be much easier to create content when you give yourself the permission to write in a way that is authentic to you and how you sound.

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