Six-phase content writing process for faster, more focused writing
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
A robust content writing process helps you write faster, so you can create more content in less time. Even more important though, it helps you write content that’s focussed.
That’s the secret to effective content. That is, content that moves your audience to take action.
And that’s what you’re all about, right? Writing content that achieves your business’ goals more quickly.
Here’s the six-phase content writing process you need to make that happen.
Content Writing Phase 1: Research
This is where you decide what to write. Assuming you don’t already have a content calendar with today’s topic laid out, that is. If you do, skip to phase two.
Otherwise, it all starts here. Coming up with blog ideas.
Rushing phase one is tempting, but it’s a false economy. If you rush, you’ll flounder half-way through some half-arsed topic and have to return to this step anyway.
Choose a topic that sits at the intersection of what you know and care about and what your prospects care about but don’t know.
So your content should address some burning question, need or interest that your prospect has. Turn to any sources that tell you what that is. Like:
Personas – what do you think their big issues are?
Current and past clients – what issues come up?
Competitor reviews – what issues do your competitors’ clients have?
Social media – what are people talking about online?
Quora and Reddit – what can questions and comments tell you?
Keyword research – what are people searching for?
This ties into smart SEO. Content ranks highly when it’s best-suited to a user’s search query. Or put another way, when it’s most likely to solve a user’s problem or answer their question.
Phase one of your content writing process is about discovering what those questions or problems are, so you can address them. That gives you a list of topics.
Then narrow things down.
Should you focus first on top funnel (TOFU) content that raises awareness of the problem you solve? Or do you need more middle funnel (MOFU) content that helps prospects evaluate and compare your offering? (Read this HubSpot guide to aligning content to the buying funnel).
What you’re trying to achieve dictates the type of content you create, and which topics you choose from your list.
For example, an HR tech TOFU piece might be a 750-word blog post like, ’10 reasons your employee engagement is dropping – and how to fix it’. That article might link back to a MOFU eBook that deep dives into employee engagement – and your employee engagement software. Then you could link to a bottom funnel (BOFU) offer like a demo request.
Ultimately your aim is to create a content journey that moves people through your funnel towards sale.
Content Writing Phase 2: Plan
This is where you build the skeleton of your content.
You want a loose sketch of what you’re going to say, and an outline for how you’re going to say it. Your plan has four parts:
A rough title
In phase one you decided a topic. Now you need a rough title, to focus your attention.
This is your main argument. The point you want to make in a nutshell.
I like to summarise my main argument aloud. As if someone next to me had asked, and I was responding. (In the content world, talking to yourself is the first sign of genius)
This is a great tactic because it shortcuts that self-doubt part of your brain that stops you
writing things down. And also because it forces you to distil your idea, quickly and clearly.
This is your structure. How you’re going to convey the argument you just summarised. Like a skeleton – this is the bare bones of your content.
It should include headings, subheads and a few bullets for each. Note here where you need supporting stats or research.
You’re not writing content for shits and giggles. Or at least, not just for shits and giggles.
You’re writing content to be effective. Which means content which drives action. Which means content that gets your reader to do something when they finish reading.
So, what do you want your reader to do? What do you want them to feel? Answer these questions during phase two to tether your writing to a purpose.
Content Writing Phase 3: Write
Uh oh. This is where you stare blindly at a blinking cursor for minutes on end, wishing you had something – anything – else to do.
Except, no. If you’ve done the other two phases, this phase should be easy. I’ve found, the key is to just write. Seriously. Just write, write, write. Fast and furious.
Because this isn’t the end. It’s barely even the beginning. You’ll probably delete almost everything you write now anyway.
It’s more like… fleshing out your outline a bit more. If flair comes to you, use flair. If it doesn’t, don’t stress. Don’t force it. Just say the thing. As if someone had asked you. Remember- this is something you know about and are great at. Don’t overthink it.
PRO TIP. If you start writing and you keep getting stuck because there’s a word you want but can’t remember, just stick ‘XXX’ where the word should go and keep writing. Or ‘STAT’ for a stat you haven’t found yet, or ‘RESEARCH’ or ‘QUOTE’ or ‘EXAMPLE’. Don’t let yourself get out of the swing of writing – you can come back and fill those gaps.
Content Writing Phase 4: Edit
This is where you create something worth reading. It’s the bulk of the content writing process. And why you don’t want to spend hours on phase three – because you’re going to kill all your darlings and rewrite everything here anyway.
But it’s going to be a lot easier, because you have a full page. And a coherent structure.
Everything feels a lot more manageable. Whoa.
Editing is where you put yourself into your reader’s shoes, to check you’ve made your point in the most accurate, most powerful, most compelling and most concise way.
Fresh eyes are important. The bigger the gap you can put between writing and editing, the better your content will be. That’s because you stop thinking as you, the writer, who’s just spent hours on this. And you start thinking like your reader.
Even better, ask someone else to cast an eye. Someone else’s interpretation of your words can be surprisingly different.
If you’re not sure what you’re looking for when you edit, download our free editing checklist here.
Content Writing Phase 5: Promote
This is where you find readers.
The thing is, readers don’t magically turn up. You can spend days creating something genuinely fantastic, and it’ll still wallow in the depths of obscurity unless you promote it.
Then eventually you’ll start to build your organic traffic, and traffic begets traffic, but promotion comes first.
The first promotion channel is social media. The bare minimum is sharing your content on social media, for organic traffic. If you have a social media person (or people) they should help drive engagement by engaging – building an engaged network that wants to read, share and comment on your stuff.
You can also target specific accounts (usually those with large relevant followings) with your content – which only works if a) your content is great and b) you have authentic relationships that go beyond self-promotion.
Then there’s email.
Use content to build your email list, and then feed your email list with content.
And like targeted social, you can also email specific people with your content. That can be time-consuming but drive great engagement.
Then there’s blogger outreach.
A massive time-suck but also a good off-site SEO tactic. Identify influential blogs in your space and build a relationship with the owners, with a view to them sharing or back-linking to your work. This works best for content that’s the best resource out there on its topic.
Content Writing Phase 6: Refine
This is where you learn and improve.
The content writing process is a continuous circle, and phase six should feed back into phase one. What did people love? What did they not love? What could you do better? What didn’t get the love it deserved? What can you build on?
Use analytics and common sense to answer these questions, to help you refine your content approach moving forwards.
A Clear Process is Crucial to More Effective Writing
Behind every effective writer is an effective content writing process. Robust needn’t mean rigid, and planning doesn’t mean you lose creativity. What it does mean, is you have a proven, consistent and repeatable set of steps that can guide your hand.
That’s how you maximise your chances of creating great content that gets read, shared and
ultimately leads to new business.
HR Tech Copy are a communications consultancy specialising in the HR technology space. We help HR tech businesses communicate more clearly, everywhere you use the written word. If you want help with your blogging, give us a call.