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A Fast and Flexible Approach to Developing Content

October 9, 2008 

One of my clients has been experimenting with an innovative and efficient approach to content development and I want you to know about it.

The company is in a highly specialized and big-ticket b-to-b industry. Its executives are very busy and very well paid. The VP of marketing wanted to develop some thought leadership white papers, but the prospect of pinning down these executives for hours to develop the content wasn’t practical. Instead, the marketing departing is using podcasts to construct white papers from the ground up

Here’s how it works: We schedule a 30- to 45- minute phone call with these busy executives to capture background information and hot topics in their areas of expertise. I then create a list of questions that are intended to draw out the executives’ thinking (journalists are pretty good at this!).

We record an interview of approximately 30 minutes’ duration. An edited version is posted as a podcast on the company’s website, but the marketing group also has the full interview transcribed via a low-cost outside service. Marketing cleans up and reorganizes the transcript and posts the document as a position paper.

Over a series of interviews, an executive’s observations and experiences can be rolled up in interesting ways. Multiple interviews with one executive can yield an in-depth white paper. Or point interviews with several executives can be combined into a corporate backgrounder. Customers and prospects can also subscribe to the podcast series. For the small transcription fee (services can be had for as little as a dollar a minute) and some inexpensive editing, the VP has a series of byline articles from the most visible people in his company.

Rethinking Research
I’ve recommended this approach to more and more clients lately. New online tools enable us to rethink our approach to assembling complex documents. It used to be the process demanded hours or days of research. Now we can take notes in real-time and assemble them later.

Blogs are ideally structured as collections of thoughts, observations and insights expressed in short bursts. It’s fast and easy to capture these brainstorms online. Got an idea? Twitter it for prosperity. When you go back and look at information assembled in this way, you often see relationships that weren’t obvious at the time. Between search, tags and bookmarks, it’s possible to assemble these building blocks in different ways.

Some thought leaders take this to the limit. Marketing guru Seth Godin, for example, is known for writing entire books based on collections of interesting blog posts. The blog is his notepad for ideas that can be combined into coherent themes.

In some (though certainly not all) cases, this is a more efficient way to research a topic than spending hours mining the Web or library stacks. For my client, it’s also a way to repurpose content across multiple media. Maybe it will work for you. What do you think? Twitter me @paulgillin.

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