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The term story is used all the time with content marketing. “Find your story,” they say. “Tell your unique story.”
Well, sometimes your story can be so big, it can be hard to know where to start.
Do you have a ton of ideas for blog posts but struggle to find the topics your audience would care about the most? Is it hard to understand the connection from one blog post to another?
Creating content that connects one blog post with the next can seem like a complex process. But it doesn’t have to be.
Defining your story about a specific topic—and breaking down that huge concept with story flows—will help you create better content.
Story flows are just a small group of ideas you can use to create content. They are parts—or chapters—of your story that can help you manage your process much easier while making sure your content is connected.
If you have a ton of ideas—or even none at all—the process of defining your story and subsequent flows will help you:
Essentially, the process of defining your story and story flows will help you plan your work to help you create blog posts faster and more strategically.
Give this a try in the morning, and you’ll be creating better content by the afternoon. Here’s how it works.
Whether you’re a product or service company, you probably have a million things you could talk about. For this process to work, it’s essential to narrow your topic to just one thing.
That’s not to say that you could create content for multiple topics—just concentrate on one at a time while planning this stuff so your head doesn’t explode.
Topics are typically high-level niches your company is well-known for—or wants to become well-known for. We’re not looking for broad, sweeping industry terms here—this can’t cover everything your business does.
Instead, focus on something truly unique to your company that makes you stand out from your competition. That’s your topic.
Knowing the topic you want to talk about is one thing. In order for your content marketing to be successful, you need to make sure your audience actually cares about that topic.
At this point, you need to have an understanding of your customer base—your content marketing’s audience. For this practice to work, understand that everyone is not a good answer for who your audience is!
You may have heard of reader personas before to help you think of your audience while you write blog posts. That may be exactly what you need to connect your topic with your audience.
I’ve seen marketers create content that only talks about their products or services (what they’ve defined as their topic) without figuring out what their audience really wants from their business. It’s a huge waste of effort to create content without understanding your audience’s needs.
You have things you want to talk about. There are people who want to hear about those things.
But they may not want to hear the features of your product or service, but learn about a way to do something different—better, faster or easier—as related to your topic. As an example, CoSchedule provides an editorial calendar as a product and service, but a topic we concentrate on is helping our customers enhance their own content marketing.
Now it’s time to explore the details of your topic and the things your audience cares about. This is when you define your content core—your content marketing story.
In this step, you need to find your topic expert (whether it’s you or someone else in your company) and gather some information from them.
If you think of this like an interview, you need to ask about this stuff:
So when you start gathering that information, keep these three things in mind:
When you discover your story, you’ll find a ton of ideas you could create blog posts about. Don’t let this overwhelm you—this is when your story flows will help you strategically plan your blog posts.
Organize all those ideas from awareness level messages to the ones that help your audience make big decisions. One way to think about this is with a traditional marketing funnel.
The funnel can help you visualize which ideas your prospects might be interested in—people just discovering your topic—versus people who are nearly ready to use your product or service.
You should categorize your discovery ideas at the top of the funnel, whereas the big decision-making ideas are probably at the bottom of the funnel.
Organize your ideas in an ideal chronological order. So think of it this way: If someone were to read every single blog post you write, which posts would come first, second, third and so on.
Once you have your ideas in order, look for patterns from the beginning of the list to the end.
For example, you might see a pattern on how your audience could do something faster, which would be helpful for them to save time they could use on other projects. There will be ideas from the top of the funnel all the way to the bottom that could come together as a story flow for these ideas.
It’s important for your story flows to have ideas from awareness to decision-making.
As you laid out in your ideal chronological order, you want to funnel your audience to the end ideas to help them make a decision. You can’t do that if you don’t have a story flow with ideas ranging from the top of the funnel all the way to the bottom.
When you looked through the ideas that make up your story, you were probably able to come up with a number of story flows. This is helpful because you can manage your blog posts as projects—pick a small group of ideas to tackle at a time.
For example, if you had 10 ideas that came together in a story flow, that has the potential to be 10 or more blog posts. Now you can manage those posts with your editorial calendar and assign them as projects with specific due dates.
At this time, you may want to spread out a single story flow throughout the year—and work on several story flows at the same time. That gives you time to create minimum viable content and measure the success of a given story flow—piece by piece—while consistently creating strategic content.
Though this approach involves working on several projects (story flows) at a time, it’s very manageable by planning your work for the upcoming weeks, month or year (depending on the size of your story flows) using an editorial calendar.
Your story flows give you the opportunity to plan your work and help you move faster while strategically connecting all of the content you create.
When you’re done with your blog posts for a specific story flow, you now have so much connected content that you can create larger pieces from those posts.
Imagine your blog posts coming together as chapters in an e-book. After you have an e-book, couldn’t you use that same content for discussion points in a webinar? And after that webinar is over, couldn’t you share that recorded webinar as a training video? And maybe you could even write a few more blog posts to share that video of the webinar.
Being able to reuse your blog posts for larger forms of content is one of the biggest benefits of strategically planning your story flows.
I meant it when I said a lot of this can be done in a single day. The beauty of the process is that it can be as extensive or relaxed as you need it to be.
How could you plan and execute your content marketing using story flows?
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