Once upon a time publishing was a specialist activity requiring significant resources and infrastructure. Now, anybody can publish content and reach an audience of millions. This is hugely valuable for businesses – from solo freelancers, through growing ventures, to the biggest corporations. But how can you avoid spamming your audience, wasting your time and resources, or producing sub-standard output?
Here are a few tips that Alan Rutter has culled from working at some of the world’s leading publishers (including Time Out and Condé Nast), and working with businesses on their own content strategies.
This may sound obvious, but do you have a clear idea of what your content is supposed to do? Are you demonstrating your abilities in writing, photography, videography, animation or audio? Are you trying to directly sell products? Are you shouting about your expertise so that people hire you as a consultant? Unless you’re producing a personal blog just for the fun of it, your content needs to have a purpose. Check out our content strategy resource to explore this idea further.
Know when to use experts
If you have a decent budget set aside, you can engage professionals to produce your content for you – but first it’s worth looking at what you can do yourself. Images can be sourced cheaply through picture libraries, or you can learn to shoot good hi-res photos on a smartphone. The ability to write concisely and accurately is always a good skill to hone. Simple audio and video can be produced without expensive kit, providing you research the steps required. But if you do find that you need a specialist for a particular job (copywriting for your homepage, logo design, high-quality video), then don’t be afraid to spend the money. It’s an investment in your brand.
Know your rights
If you’re going to publish any kind of content, you need to have the right to do so. Make sure you understand who owns the content. Pulling pictures off the web and using them without attribution is a bad idea, as is copy-and-pasting somebody else’s words. Embedding media (eg. YouTube clips) is perfectly fine, as is using a small quote from somebody and linking to the original source.
Plan ahead, and think ‘360 degree content’
Content doesn’t just have to be digital. You may want to produce printed material (a flyer, brochure or fully-fledged magazine), or put on an event (a pop-up, launch party or mini-conference). Once you start thinking across live, digital and print, you should be able to see opportunities to capture content as you go along. Can you film vox pop interviews at an event and publish them online? Can you set up an online vote to choose the speakers at your next event? It takes a little planning, but it’s worth it.
Edit, proof, check
A critical eye can improve any piece of content. Make sure everything you’re planning to publish is checked thoroughly, with a view to making it better. If you can, get somebody else to look at it. And build in enough time to do this. Inevitably, mistakes will be made – the best you can do is apologise if you need to, and correct things as soon as possible. This particularly goes for any question over rights (see above), and any legal queries.
Clever Boxer runs training workshops and offers consultancy for businesses of all sizes who are trying to tell stories with data. Find out more here.