Determined to make 2019 the year you finally create a content marketing habit that sticks?
Are you as fed up of the anti-New Year Resolution crowd as I am?
Admittedly most resolutions are bullshit (giving up all sugar/alcohol/gluten/food with flavour? We know that’s not gonna last) and you’ll have abandoned the gym or your new 5.00am ‘ritual’ by the 23rd of Jan. Guaranteed!
But…I still freakin’ love a New Year’s resolution. January is miserable. We have about 5 hours of daylight, tops — and that’s only on a day that it’s not raining. The kids are whingeing about being back at school. And all you want to do is crawl under the duvet with Netflix and a Toblerone.
If you’re anything like me you NEED a project, something to get fired up about and something to plan. It’s the only thing that’ll keep you away from that effin’ Toblerone.
This year, for me, it’s to spend more time on my own content creation.
I’m the total cliché of the content writer who doesn’t produce much content of her own. But I see the results of consistent content creation month after month. I see my clients making sales, gaining new clients and growing their numbers because they constantly put themselves out there in their newsletters, their blogs and their email sequences.
And it works because we have a plan. We know in advance how they’re going to reach their people, how often they’re going to do it, and the type of info they want to share.
Throwing random content out into the ether and hoping it sticks doesn’t work.
Blogging now and again when you can be arsed doesn’t work.
Consistently creating and sharing content in a strategic way Does.
Creating content has to become a habit so that it doesn’t fall by the wayside as soon as you get too ‘busy’ or whenever coming up with a new topic starts to feel like too much of a struggle.
how do you make content creation a habit? The same way you stick to any New Year’s resolution…
You decide what you want to achieve.
Thousands of people take up running every January; very few of them are still pounding the track come March. What does turn a dabbler into a runner? A clear goal.
Instead of saying “I want to take up running this year”, they decide they want to run a 5k, a 10k, a marathon. They want to fit into those skinny jeans they bought 5 years ago or run 3 miles a day.
Because they know what they want to achieve, they can break it down into manageable chunks and they know exactly why they’re doing it. So it is with content creation.
So why do you want to produce content? Are you launching a new webinar this year and you want to get more eyeballs to your sales page? Is this the year that you become a well-known name in your industry? Determined to push your website rankings higher up the Google charts?
If you know the purpose behind your content you’ll be able to reverse engineer your content (more on that in a post coming later this year) so that it accomplishes the goal you’ve set. For example, if you’ve decided that you want to improve your SEO you might want to create a blog post full of actionable advice from others in your industry, which would give you a great reason to include lots of lovely backlinks. If your focus is on working with more blog clients, you’ll write a post that includes tips on how to make content creation a habit — and include a section on how hiring a professional blog writer can help (keep reading to see what I mean! 😉 ).
you monitor your progress.
Those skinny jeans you’ve resolved to fit into? You’ll try them on every few weeks to check on the progress you’re making. You’ll time your next 5k run to try and beat your last PB.
And seeing steady progress — those little wins –is what helps keep you going when the going gets tough — when the weather is crap, and your hamstrings are burning. Or when you’ve run out of inspiration and your inbox is overflowing.
When you check your marketing stats and realise that your sales/subscribers/comments are increasing, or that you’ve jumped a page on Google, you’ll suddenly find your motivation again, even if sometimes you have to dig deep to keep at it.
You use the right resources.
It’s minus 2 outside, you’ve done no exercise for 6 months and it’s pitch black for most of the day. The last thing you’re going to do is just grab your old trainers and hit the pavement.
No, you’ll use your lovely Christmas pennies to buy some new gear: proper running shoes that’ll give you the right support, a reflective band or two so you don’t get run over before you’ve finished your first run.
To do anything right, you need the right resources.
For me, to help keep my blogging on track, I’m using three things: Asana, constant access to note-taking supplies and Janet Murray’s media diary.
Asana — this is a great task management tool. You can use it to set yourself an editorial calendar where you specify what you’re going to publish and when. Set yourself a deadline to complete each task and make it official. It’s also handy if you have other people working on your content with you, whether that’s a writer helping you produce the content, or a designer or VA working on the layout, on-page SEO and other back-end techy stuff.
Note-taking supplies — the more time you spend working on your content creation the more you’ll find your brain is automatically wired to come up with ideas. You’ll find things that pop up on your social media feeds, your interactions with customers or even aspects of your daily routine will suddenly fire up those creative little neurons and become fodder for your content.
You want to make sure that when an idea leaps out at you when you’re getting ready for bed or on the train heading to a meeting, you’re ready to capture it. I mostly use the notes app on my phone but I like to keep a small notebook and pen in every room of the house for those eureka moments!
Janet Murray’s Media Diary — this is the first year I’ve used this so it’s too early to give a full review but so far I like it. It contains lots of key dates and awareness days that you can use as a springboard for ideas and space to plan your content for the quarter, the month and the week. I’ll save a more comprehensive review for the end of the year 😊
These are the tools that work for me as a blog writer. If you’ve decided that a podcast or vlog is the best way for you to build your audience, you might want to invest in a decent microphone or phone stand. Whether you’re running a 10k or producing content, working without the right tools will make it a total slog and you won’t go the distance.
You schedule it in.
But you need to do this strategically. A note in your diary isn’t going to work unless you’ve discovered your ideal time of the day to work on your content. This will take some experimentation. Just as some runners are full of beans first thing in the morning and don’t mind jogging on an empty stomach, others will find that post-work, post-healthy snack is the moment they’ll have the energy they need to hit their target.
In the past, I always turned my attention to my blog AFTER I’d completed my client work for the day. Yeah, I hear ya, what a ridiculous plan.
After a full day of writing, the odds of me sitting down to do ‘optional’ writing are less than the odds of making it through an episode of Games of Thrones without a traumatic death.
Instead I’ve decided to dedicate the first 30 minutes of every workday to my blog. I’m typing this at 7.25am. I scheduled it in my diary to make it uber official and fired up the laptop before getting dressed or having breakfast. I’ve set my timer and I’ll stay here and write until the beep. Tomorrow I’ll do the same but the 30 minutes will be spent editing, uploading and optimising the post. The following day I’ll promote this one and start taking notes for my next post.
The feeling of accomplishment I get from a 30-minute writing session first thing gets me into that creative zone even more quickly so I’m champing at the bit to get to my client work afterwards.
Plus it’s becoming a habit, something I do automatically without thinking about it, which takes that pesky, flaky guy, Will Power — out of the equation.
If you’re sat here shaking your head and thinking, ‘hell no, I’m busy getting the kids ready for school/sleeping in/going to the gym first thing in the morning’, no worries! There will be a time in your schedule that’s right for creating, you just gotta find what works for you. But be consistent if you want to make it a habit.
You get help when you need it.
We’ve come this far with our running comparison so let’s stick with it. Studies consistently show that you’re more likely to stick to an exercise-based resolution if you rope in a pal.
Gretchen Rubin, author of “Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives” agrees. During her research, she identified four different types of people who, when it comes to creating habits, are motivated by different factors.
She believes most of us fall into the ‘Obligers’ category meaning we struggle to meet inner expectations, those resolutions we set for ourselves. But we find external accountability harder to ignore. We’ll let ourselves down a million times but we’d rather give up chocolate for a year than let down someone who’s relying on us.
If an Obliger has an early-morning run marked in their schedule they may well hit the snooze button and go straight back to sleep. If they know their friend will be outside waiting for them, they’ll follow through. And once you’re outside and running, it’s lovely to have someone there to motivate you. Someone to give you a gentle nudge and to push you on when your legs are burning and you just want to collapse into the nearest Starbucks with a blueberry muffin.
So how do we relate this to our content creation?
Get a content buddy.
I’m betting you know other business owners, right? And if you don’t, then sack this resolution, you’ve just found an even better one!
So find a fellow entrepreneur who’s equally determined to conquer their content this year and buddy up. You can brainstorm ideas with each other if your content well starts to run dry and you can kick each other’s butts if you’re starting to lose motivation.
Use a business coach.
Alternatively, you could try hiring a business coach. Not only will a business coach help you devise a business goal roadmap, but they’ll also give you a good dose of tough love when you most need it.
Hire a content pro.
A pro content creator will help you with every stage of the process, from developing a content strategy to the final creation, publication and promotion of each piece. It takes a lot of pressure off your back and it can be great to have someone who can take the bare bones of your ideas and turn it into something that’ll really engage your audience.
My current packages are here but I’m teaming up with Fiona Robertson Graphics so I can offer more than writing services. Together we’ll take care of the whole blog process, including graphics, backlinks, on-page SEO and all the other bits and bobs you need to make your blog work. We’re offering 4 packages a month so if you want to be first on the list, drop me an email here.
You manage your expectations.
This is the bit that frustrates so many people when they start any New Year’s resolution. On a diet? You knew it would take a while to see a difference but when you’ve only lost 2lbs after four weeks of eating nothing but kale and sadness, it’s no wonder you faceplant the first pizza you see.
Two months into the running habit and you STILL struggle to complete your weekly Park Run. You start to wonder if it’s worth all of the hassle and planning.
And three months into a run of consistent content creation you still haven’t gone viral/had a £5k month/been able to take early retirement in the Seychelles.
Are you failing? Doing something wrong?
Nope. You’ve just fallen prey to unrealistic expectations.
If running a marathon/fitting into your old jeans/smashing content marketing were easy, you’d have done it already. You wouldn’t have had to add it to your list of resolutions.
So do yourself a favour and give yourself a pep talk right now. Tell yourself that it won’t be easy, results won’t be immediate and commit yourself to a long-term creation habit.
You pick something you enjoy.
If you want to get fit you don’t decide to take up swimming if you can’t stand getting wet, or rambling if you hate the great outdoors. Your running habit will only take root if you actually enjoy running.
So if you can’t stand writing, maybe a blog isn’t the best form of content marketing for you. If you fancy getting in front of the camera, a vlog might be a better option. Or if you’re the king or queen of chat, consider starting a podcast instead. You’ll still have to do some writing, of course, planning topics, deciding on an angle, working out the bullet point of what you’re going to cover…but the excitement of getting in front of the camera or mic should be enough to spur you on.
If none of the usual forms of content marketing appeal, then it really is time to call for help. If you can’t find a way to enjoy creating content, it’ll be next to impossible to turn it into a sustainable habit. Bring a pro content creator on board and then you can forget about your content and set yourself a resolution you’ll actually enjoy.
Like spending more time with Netflix and a Toblerone!
Content marketing is such a powerful tool for growing your business, helping you build your authority, establish your brand and even (or especially!) make sales. But only if you do it consistently. If you vow every January to work harder on your content only to have given up by Easter, why not give some of these tips a try?
And if you’re super busy or you just hate writing but you really want to get on top of your blogging, I’d love to work with you on one of my blog packages.