We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Content is King’ and yet all of us, businesses and individuals alike, seem to struggle creating more content. Is there a better way to generate content ideas so you can consistently produce more content? In this episode, Chris Casale and Ryan Smith talk with Melanie Deziel where she lays out a structured process to generate content faster with tips and tricks to get you started and keep you moving!
Melanie Deziel is a keynote speaker, award-winning branded content creator, and lifelong storyteller, on a mission to share the power of compelling and credible content with others.
Melanie is the founder and Chief Content Officer of StoryFuel, which teaches marketers, creators and organizations how to tell better brand stories, and the author of The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas.
Here are some podcast episode highlights:
How has the changes in the world with the coronavirus and a global pandemic impacted content, and the work that you’re doing?
Melanie Deziel: [00:06:06] How it’s affected content is it’s been really interesting. So one thing that was super fun for me is when all this was starting, my wheels started turning and saying, ‘OK, what’s going to change about the content?’
Like I was trying to predict and analyze how our content patterns would change. However, like the type of content we create, and so for myself, I kind of made a few predictions. I thought that we might see a drop in podcast consumption because a lot of people, it’s very commute tied and it’s also very tied to being in the car or, you know, doing sort of mindless work. And we don’t have as much of that anymore.
I don’t necessarily have the data to back up whether that came to fruition, but that was my hunch. And the other one, I thought we were gonna see a lot of instructional content. So tutorials, recipes, DIY like walkthrough is step by step content because, you know, we were gonna suddenly have to start doing things that we normally would hire someone else to do, you know, give your partner a haircut or like fix the dishwasher.
You know, you can’t get somebody to come do that for you. At that point, you know, recipes without ingredients because the stores were all out of stock for certain things that make your own mask. How to sanitize a phone. You know, I don’t know.
There were gonna be a lot of ‘how-to’ questions that we all had. And so a little bit I mean, this is nerdy, but it was a little exciting for me during like the second week of March, I actually was looking at the Google search trends data and words like ‘instruction’, ‘how to’ and ‘DIY’ started a steady increase.
And so we’ve seen that, you know, stay pretty steady for the last few months, that we’re still learning how to live in this air quotes new normal, you know, and figure out how to compensate for the fact that we just don’t have access to the people, the places, the products, you know, other resources that we normally do.
What pivot in your business did you make during the pandemic?
Melanie Deziel: [00:08:29] I mean, the first thing is I was sharing that piece of information about instructional content with as many people as I could because I knew that that was gonna be something that especially so many businesses and small businesses especially were struggling during this time. So wanted to give them as much advice as I could to to weather the storm.
You know, in the book, I talk about process focused content, and that’s exactly what I’m talking about here, that this kind of stuff where you’re helping your audience do something. So I created some, I created a blog post. You know, I did a couple of guest posts here and there. I went on a few podcasts just talking about how to make this kind of stuff, why it’s helpful giving more examples. You know, I’m just trying to hopefully share it with as many people as possible.
What advice would you give businesses today that are really kind of struggling with coming with new content ideas?
Melanie Deziel: [00:10:15] I think one of the things that, I don’t know why this is, but this happens to be my superpower, like coming up with content ideas is it’s not something I’ve really struggled with. I mean, with rare exception as all of us have, when you’re sick or you’ve got something tragic happening in your life, you know, sure, it’s it’s hard to focus.
But for the most part, I know that when I sit down to come up with content ideas, it’s going to work. You know, I say the same thing as a speaker, I’m blessed that usually when I open my mouth, I’ll start a sentence. I know it’s going to come to an end and makes sense.
But I think that what I try to do with the book honestly, was like teach people exactly how I’m doing that. And a big part of it comes from studying. As a journalist, we are taught that there is always a new way to tell a story. There’s always another perspective that hasn’t been considered. You know, there’s always a new approach or a new way to bring that story to life.
So I just reject the belief that you don’t have stories to tell or there aren’t any stories to tell or you’re not capable of finding those stories. And I think a big reason that we feel that is because we’re not taught how to find them. And so, you know, a big part of the book was trying to say, look, this is it’s not something reserved for like the elite few creative people in your life.
You know, it’s not something that you can’t figure out. It’s just no one’s ever showed you a process for how to do it. And so, of course, if you just sit down in front of a blank document or a whiteboard and you’re like ideas, I need ideas, like come to me ideas, like that’s not gonna work for you.
So you have some sort of process then hopefully you run into a lot less of that sort of feeling and a lot less writer’s block.
What questions do you ask yourself when developing content?
Melanie Deziel: [00:13:24] I knew that I was asking these two questions:
1) What’s the lens through which I’m going to tell this story? You know, is it through people, through data, through history? And then once I know that,
2) What’s the best way to bring it to life? And that’s the format, right? That’s. Is it video, audio, timeline, math or something else?
And so once I realized those are the two questions I ask myself, then I just thought, well, what are the list of possible answers or the most likely possible answers for my audience.
What was the initial feedback when you first presented this content framework process?
Melanie Deziel: [00:18:52] So I remember that first conference when I had just, you know, sort of pulled this together and shared it for the first time that I was getting a lot of emails, which I don’t always get after a conference. You know, you put up your emails, you hope you get a lead for a client or something.
But I was getting a lot of direct questions. People were saying, hey, so when you talked about, you know, this plus this with this example, makes sense. Does that work for that?
So people were really trying to crystallize their knowledge. Right. They were trying to test their understanding of it, which meant two things to me. One, this is resonating here. They are days or weeks later, still thinking about it, still looking at their content through that lens, but also that there’s some clarity lacking that there’s still certain parts that aren’t making as much sense because they’re only asking about this and not that. Right.
So that kind of feedback where they were asking clarifying questions was really helpful for knowing where I needed to spend more attention or craft better examples. But the other thing is they were asking me for resources, like someone straight up asked me, do you have a book of this? Do you have a workbook of this? You have printouts. Do you have cheatsheets, workbooks.
And that was the moment where I realized, like, they’re hungry for more. They sat there and listened to me talk about this for 60 Minutes and they want more. And so that was my realization I have to do something. And the first thing I did was actually make a PDF print out.
So it was not the slides, but it was sort of the whole system. And I figured it wouldn’t make sense really, if you hadn’t been in the talk and known how to use it. So I just put it up for free as a download on my website. And I figured anyone who saw me speak could download this, and that would be a bonus.
But what that gave me, too, was a list of people who had expressed interest in the concept, and that allowed me to turn around and say, hey, I finally did write a book on this. And, you know, you had the one the one page version. And here’s the 200 page version.
Chris Casale: [00:25:30] What advice do you give businesses that are struggling with that? When we had we mentioned having Neal Schaffer on the podcast and he talked about the three pillars of digital marketing being search, social and email. Well, the one common thread across all of those is content.
It’s always continent, always comes back to content, and yet we find businesses struggle to create content even though they know their business so well. Why do you think that is and what tips do you give them with how?
Melanie Deziel: [00:26:32] So my first piece of advice is always mind your day, your everyday life for content, like you’re already doing things that could be content. You don’t have to change your entire life, like set up a camera, take video of you doing whatever it is you normally do. And now you’ve got a time lapse of you doing that. There’s a piece of content, right?
You’re gonna go and create something, fix something, set up a camera. Take some photos or video of you doing that. Now you’ve got a tutorial like just look for those things that you’re doing anyway, that that would be valuable that people would be curious about and find a way to take what you’re already doing and turn that into content.
What advice do you give to individuals about how to overcome vulnerability with publishing content?
Melanie Deziel: [00:31:27] I mean, there’s always vulnerability, right? And especially if you’re a business owner, my guess is you didn’t get there because you’re lazy and don’t care about standards. Right. Like, you have high standards for yourself, for those around you, for your brand. That can be difficult to get over.
I don’t know that I have a secret weapon. I deal with that myself sometimes, you know, wanting to make sure that things are up to the standards that I like before I share them with the world. I think the biggest thing to know is that right now especially, audiences are so understanding.
No one is in an ideal scenario right now. No one is, you know, creating their best work, again, having access to all the resources they normally do. So if there was ever a time for you to have the freedom and the leeway and your audience’s patience and understanding to try something new. Now is the time and the blessing for us.
If you’re in a small business (SMB) or you’re an entrepreneur, you know, you have the ability to try that and see if it works and go from there. A lot of times we envy the resources that some of these larger corporations have. And what you don’t realize is that an idea sometimes goes to those big companies to die because there’s 46 layers of legal approval and three weeks of waiting and three presentations and a quarterly data review before you can send out a tweet that you thought of, you know. And so we have this flexibility.
So, you know, I think I know it’s scary. It’s hard, but think of it as a blessing is like you have the freedom to try things and experiment. Your audience will let you know.
Ryan Smith: [00:33:24] And you know what? Winston Churchill said it best, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”
Melanie Deziel: [00:35:38] You guys mentioned that your data guys, we think about the other parts of our business. You know, if you’re controlling inventory on your site, for example, or in your store, you would never make a massive decision based on one day’s worth of sales because that day could be Black Friday that you’re going to have insane numbers, or that day could be a day you were closed and you made nothing right, or it could be the first day of lockdown when nobody ordered anything.
Right. So I think it’s really important to see your content in the same way. You know, a lot of people have this this feeling that it’s a short term thing. And I published one blog post and no one read it. So I’m not blogging anymore.
Or we put on our first podcast and we only got six downloads. And so, you know, podcasting doesn’t work. You know, it’s important that you give yourself enough data points, enough posts, enough episodes, whatever the case may be, to actually draw meaningful conclusions from that.
So if you’re holding yourself to I’m only going to post on LinkedIn once a week. Think about it. It’s going to take you years to get enough data points to understand what works. You know, it’s worth putting more out there and experimenting, especially early on, to gather data so that you can make better choices as you move forward.
Does it matter if you choose format before focus or vice versa?
Melanie Deziel: [00:38:10] One hundred percent need to choose your focus before the format. So when you choose the format first and you say, like, I need a video idea, what you often end up with is something that absolutely should not have been a video. But you had already decided it before you knew what you were going say.
Right. I mean, you wouldn’t decide what to have for dinner before you look at what the ingredients are. Right. And so, you know, knowing what you have in your fridge is important before you start cooking. And so you want to know what it is that you’re trying to say before you decide what the final product is going to look like, because the ingredients should determine that outcome right in the way it comes to life. So once you know what you want to say, then the question to ask yourself is, what’s the best way to bring this to life?
How can a business show that they can make revenue for their company off of content?
Melanie Deziel: [00:45:59] I mean, this is one of the biggest questions, right, we often are asked that ROI question, what’s the return on investment of investing in content? But as we touched on earlier, everything we do is content. Everything we’re putting out for our audience, every communication we have with them is content.
So the question becomes, can you really afford to have ineffective content? How much more time does this take? Your sales seem to close a deal because people have to go searching for answers to things that you could create content that answers a question.
How much more time, you know, how many customers do you lose because those customers are trying to make calculations for things and they don’t properly understand what those costs are or what the variables are. And you could create educational content that helps them understand how the estimates happen.
You know, how many people count themselves out because they think it’s not a fit because you haven’t created content that explains, you know, which product or service is right for them. So there’s a lot of ways you could use this content on the sales front to save time to increase your conversions and just, you know, overall to enable your sales team to do better work.
So I think if you are having trouble getting buy-in focusing on some of that more conversion-centric, you know, sales enablement content is generally a good way to get some buy-in. And the question I always ask upfront is, what are the questions that your sales (receives), ask your sales team:
- What are the questions you spend too much time asking?
- What are the answers you have to give over and over again?
Because that’s a really good indication that this shouldn’t be answered by a human every single time. That there’s clearly a myth or a misunderstanding that we can dispel with a piece of content that they get further up in the funnel.
If there was one takeaway from this interview what would it be?
Melanie Deziel: [00:50:56] I never want to hear any of you say that you are not creative or you can’t think creatively. And if you still doubt me, think about the last time you worried about something going wrong in all the creative ways you imagined things could go wrong. You are unbelievably creative. You just need the right prompts. And so if you have a system of prompts, you will no longer have that feeling and I reject that claim. You are 100% creative and capable of creative thinking.
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