90 Minutes a Month to a Radically Valuable Blog
For many agencies and their clients, blogging is both the holy grail and a major bugaboo of online marketing. SEO, conversions, engagement, timeliness, thought leadership–blogging promises it all. But the cost: Every week! Fresh! Valuable! Insightful! Sharable! Engaging! Pictures! Back Links! Guest posts! Whew. Where does anyone find the time?
We’ve already established that syndicated content, as tempting as it may be, is not the answer. But what if you could produce custom weekly blogging that meets all the critical criteria, yields profoundly valuable results, and all with 90 minutes a month in planning? What if the 90 minutes you invest came back to you in radical reduction of actual writing time? Win. Here’s how.
1: Start With a Well-Planned Editorial Calendar
This does not count toward your monthly 90 minutes, sorry. It is crucial to managing this process efficiently, however. Without it, you can easily waste hours just coming up with blog entry topics each week. Trust me, I’ve tried it. Never again.
Instead, invest about 90 minutes every six months, with buyer personas top of mind, brainstorming viable blog topics with the client. Map them to the client’s unique value proposition and seasonal trends. Keep on hand a calendar of holidays & major world events (Olympics, for instance) and/or local events (if the client is targeting the local market) that everyone will be talking about. We’ll cover this in more depth in a later article–this is enough to get you started.
With the editorial calendar in hand, step two is a snap.
2: Choose Six to Eight Topics to Cover in the Next Month
Use the calendar of events and seasonal trends to highlight timely subjects. Also, coordinate with the SEO, inbound, and other marketing teams to focus on current needs they’re discovering in the market. Now it’s time to schedule a call with the client principal. And I do mean a principal. You need the stuff from inside the head of a person who runs this business–this is no time for a hand-off to someone further down the chain.
Actually, you probably want to begin scheduling this more than a month in advance. Because trust me, until they get used to how painless this is, they’re going to procrastinate. Give yourself plenty of time to get them on the calendar at least three weeks prior to the month for which you’re planning. Once you’ve got them, hold them to it: “It’s important to the success of our marketing program that we have this call before such-and-such date.” Lather, rinse, repeat until you’ve got them on the phone at last.
Two words on why you want to do this by phone, even if the client is local: Because typing. In an in-person interview, it’s rude to pull out your computer and take notes then-and-there. You can probably get away with a notepad, but for the interviewee to feel genuinely comfortable you’ll have to bring a recorder… which leaves you with a voice file that later has to be transcribed or at least listened to while taking notes… which adds an extra hour to your process. Skip it. Use the phone (or video chat), and type fast.
Now you’re ready for the magic. Start the clock.
4: The 60-Minute Interview
Master the interview, and those engaging, valuable blog entries will practically write themselves. Botch it, and you’ll be slaving over this content for hours and hating every minute. Here’s how to do it right:
- Skip the small talk. There is a time and a place for building relationships. This isn’t it. Say hello, didja have a great weekend, dive in. Time: 1 minute.
- Narrow the topics to four. Briefly share why you selected each of the six to eight topics, then ask the interviewee to help you narrow them to four. Try to end up with a variety of types of content and, if you have multiple target personas, a little something for everyone. Time: 3 minutes.
- Pick one topic and ask this question: What are the top five things you want (target buyer) to know about this topic? Your interviewee may only come up with three. Or she may name a dozen. It doesn’t matter. Record them. Ask her to elaborate on any that you’re fuzzy on. Take notes, organizing as you go. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar–this is rarefied gold coming out of the client’s mouth. If you’ve got a principal on the line (you DID get a principal on the line, didn’t you?), this is where all that valuable stuff in her brain starts pouring into the vessel you’ve prepared for it. Capture as much of it as you can, in as organized a manner as you can. Time: 10 minutes.
- Ask the interviewee to share a specific example of a time when a prospect had problems because of something on the list. Then an example of how something on the list benefited a client. Or whichever seems most applicable. Time: 3-6 minutes.
- Repeat Steps 3 and 4 with each of the other blog topics.
- Ask: Is there anything you want to add or ask before we close? Record any further thoughts. If it looks like you’ll go over time, let the interviewee know what time it is and that you have about five extra minutes if he needs it. This lets him know you’re flexible and considerate, and that you also have a schedule. He’ll step up. If he wants to add anything after the extra five minutes is up, he can email you.
Total Time So Far: 60 minutes.
5: Bang Out Those Outlines, Tout-Suite
Don’t wait till later. Be sure to schedule time after the interview for this. The process: Take the notes you typed up for each blog topic, and organize them until it makes sense. You may select one of the important items the interviewee covered, or several, or all. Use common sense. Improvise on the topic–if a new angle or direction makes sense, go ahead and pursue it.
Write a brief intro for each. Choose a call to action (CTA): Are we angling for subscribers, contacts, shares, or comments? Go easy on this–blogging is not the place for a hard sell, so focus on low-threshold CTAs here. If the client has some great content like an assessment, quiz, or e-book that you want more engagement on, that’s a great place to take them with the CTA.
You are not striving for perfection at this point–just a general idea from which to work later. If you’ve done step 4 well, you can do this in about 30 minutes, for all four entries. That’s a little under 10 minutes each, so work quickly and don’t agonize.
Bingo: 90 minutes.
6: Write. Post. Push.
So there’s your 90 minutes, once a month. There is still that little thing about writing up the entries, adding links, choosing and uploading images, formatting, publishing, headlining, pushing out to social media… We haven’t figured out yet how to make all this fit into the 90 minutes. We’ll let you know when we do.
We are confident, however, that you’ll find the writing process much faster with those handy, targeted, meaty outlines in hand. And that the resulting product will be some of the most useful marketing content in your toolbox.
Shameless plug: There is a way to do this in even less time, of course: Partner with Scopcity, and we’ll manage the entire process from editorial calendar to timely published content. No fuss no muss.
That was a hard sell, which is what we told you not to do. Scratch that. Just subscribe–upper-ish right hand corner. No obligation–you can unsubscribe any time you like. Do it right now. Good. Now we can send you more great tips (about once a week–we won’t spam your inbox, ever) to make your life easier & your marketing programs more successful. We look forward to connecting with you!
Fen Druadìn Head (formerly Heather Head) is an author, as well as the founder of Scopcity. When she is not writing, running the business, or chasing down bad guys on Twitter, she enjoys hiking, snuggling with her husband and three boys, and avoiding the kitchen.