Mitch Joel: 9 glorious truths about creating great content

July 12th, 2012

9 glorious truths about creating great content

By Mitch Joel on July 12, 2012

This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of Six Pixels of Separation. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

Marketers don’t like to make mistakes. People don’t like to make mistakes.

Content has become a core ingredient in the marketer’s recipe for success. The challenge is that creating great content is like creating art: it’s not a perfect science and it requires both time and commitment before you start getting good at it (and seeing great results). Like art, some people never get good at it. There are some core lessons to be learned from brands who create great content (and some of them ain’t pretty).

9 Glorious Truths About Creating Great Content:

  1. You are not a machine. While your factory may be able to pump out those widgets, human beings are not machines. Therefore, you will make mistakes. You will have days when your writing is not all that interesting or when you struggle to find your voice.
  2. You may be great but you are not perfect. Think about it this way: even some of the world’s best authors have written some pretty bad stories during their careers. This is going to happen to you and your brand. Your only recourse is to keep at it.
  3. The bad stuff only happens after you start. You’re not going to make a bunch of mistakes and then start pushing your content out there when it’s ready for primetime. Much like writing, when you commit to it and get serious about it, that’s when the crappy work starts coming out. It’s a natural part of the process, you just have to be ready for it.
  4. Expression is important. Arianna Huffington likes to say, “Self-expression is the new entertainment.” It’s true, but know that self-expression is also a huge part of what makes us human. We want to express our thoughts and views with others. When you’re thinking about your company and your content, think about whether or not the content has that true expression coming out of it, or if it’s just thinly veiled marketing blather.
  5. Great content can’t be taught. There is an important distinction here: You can teach anybody how to create content, but you can’t teach someone how to create great content. Meaning: You can teach people a few moves and tactics, but what makes content great is a great imagination and that’s — quite simply — a gift that some have (and others don’t).
  6. Editing content is hard. Creating great content (post imagination) is a series of decisions — the challenge comes in the editing process. People who create great content have the ability to edit out the decisions that were bad — that don’t work.
  7. It’s not the start of the content creation that is hard. Many brands struggle with this: they feel like they just don’t know how to start. They feel that starting is the hardest part. What you learn as you create more and more content is that it’s not starting the work that’s hard, it’s revising it, reworking it and re-editing it that is not only the hard part, but it’s the part you should (learn to) love the most. Great content comes from the reworking of those initial ideas.
  8. Complex is bad. For some reason, brands think that for something to be serious, it needs to look and sound complex. I’m not sure why that is, but the best content is not complex, it’s honest. And, if you think about it, honesty comes through best when it’s kept simple.
  9. Be a part of the culture. When you’re creating content, think about it as your art (because it is art). Always remember that the best art plays some kind of role in our culture — in our humanity. Take the time to think about and figure out what your role is in our culture.

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