Sunday, November 28, 2010

Creating a Castle from Content Building Blocks

There are so many decisions that need to be made when creating content. To make that process efficient and effective, you need a system. Here's one of the easiest tricks I've found for wrestling messy content into shape: Think about all of the content-development decisions as building blocks. If you wanted to create a castle out of building blocks, you'd choose different blocks than if you wanted to build a truck. And if you wanted to build a bridge, you'd put the blocks together in a different way again. And so it is with content. You can pick and choose different elements (or building blocks) to use to create different effects, and to engage different audiences.

Trying to consider all of these elements whenever you create a new piece of content may seem daunting, but it really isn't. Your resources will dictate some choices, your audience some others. As you get used to making content decisions in this way, it builds a repeatable system that's efficient, and results in content that has both variety and consistency. The variety will keep your customers engaged and extend your reach, while the consistency will create a predictability which your customers will appreciate and learn to recognize. This reinforces your brand. You'll see patterns develop, and you'll learn that certain building blocks go together well and get good responses from your customer, and that other ones just don't.

Every company has different content requirements, but here are some of the building blocks that I typically think about. This is just a list. It's certainly not the list. Use it as a basis to brainstorm which building blocks are relevant within your organization and for your customers.

Content Goals
Stick to one primary goal for each piece of content. For example, the primary purpose of your content may be to:
  • Engage
  • Inform
  • Educate
  • Advise 
  • Persuade 
  • Inspire
Content Types
For instance, is your content essentially:
  • An opinion
  • An analysis
  • A description
  • An overview
  • A how-to
  • News
  • A story
  • Tips & tricks
  • Wayfinding
Content Source
Where does, or should, the content come from?
  • A dedicated content team
  • Marketing
  • Key contributors within your company
  • Your executives
  • Your subject matter experts
  • Your staff
  • Your customers
  • The public
Content Voice
The voice of your content should be distinct and recognizable. Even an overall corporate voice is made up of a tapestry of individual voices. So, is a specific piece of content best served by the voice of:
  • A specific individual
  • The "company" voice, and if so does the tone vary based on purpose or different customer segments?
  • Your customers
  • The public
Content Topics
These are completely driven by your business, but you'll likely have different topics that you frequently speak about relating to your areas of expertise, your customers needs and motivations, and your community actions or involvement.
Content Format
This is all about how you're communicating your content. For instance, as a:
  • Blog
  • Video
  • Webinar
  • Article
  • Image
  • Diagram
  • Interactive tool
  • Checklist
  • Interview
  • Call-to-action
  • Presentation
  • Newsletter
Content Placement
Where is this content best published and presented? It could be:

  • On your website. If so, where on your website?
  • Your blog
  • On YouTube, Facebook, or other social networking platform
  • External to your company
Content Promotion
What's the best way or ways to promote your content? Through:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Website links
  • Presentations
If this list seems overwhelming, then trim it down. Just try to think about the key decisions that are part of your content development process, and then create building blocks that you can keep coming back to. That way, you learn how to build a castle, or a truck, or a bridge, whenever you want to and your customers won't have to look at the pile of content on your site and wonder what the heck it's supposed to be.


  1. This is a very useful intro to the building blocks of content. Thanks for posting it.

  2. This phrase suggests a metaphorical journey of constructing something impressive or substantial (symbolized by a "castle") from the foundation of content. Why Crashing Game It may imply the process of developing a robust and substantial body of work, possibly in the context of writing, creativity, or content creation.