C is for Content — Production
So, last time we talked about getting ready to make all your content. This article is about the production process so you can get in to the nitty gritty of helping your audience, and then we’ll talk about how to distribute that content to reach your audience.
Production is the process of creating the content itself. This is the writing, filming, recording and designing of your content and for each production area there is a combination of software, methodology and (occasionally) hardware that you will need to make some decisions about.
Writing (Blogging) Production
Written content is both the easiest and most difficult part of your platform. It’s the easiest because basically you’re just typing things down. It is the hardest because you actually have to think about what you are typing. Also, writing is the only part of the production process that relates to all three platform types — blogging, podcasting and webcasting. They all require you to do a lot of writing, so it is a skill you should spend some time developing.
For myself, I have come up with a specific process for writing that allows me to make behemoth posts like this one (seriously, this is like 20,000+ words!) in just a few days with minimal revision. You should spend the time to come up with the system that works best for you, but I will briefly share mine with you so that you have a starting point.
My blog-writing process takes 4 days and usually goes something like this:
- Day 1: Research and outline my post (This typically takes around an hour, depending on the post topic)
- Day 2: First draft of my post. I just blurt out whatever comes to mind based on the structure of the outline. I intentionally don’t worry about editing it — just focus on getting the words on the page for now. (This takes anywhere from 2 hours to 4 hours — although for this post you’re reading it was more like 20 hours. I average around 1,000 words per hour.)
- Day 3: Refine the post. This is where I go back and edit what I wrote the day before. Having a day to give my brain a rest makes this way easier than if I tried to do it on the day of writing. (This takes around 2 – 4 hours per post)
- Day 4: Publish the post. This is where I get the featured images for the blog post, any video embeds, supporting materials and set up the post on WordPress with the right tags and categories. (This takes around 1 – 2 hours per post)
Using this method I’ve been able to create much higher quality of blog posts than I ever did with any other method. I’m not sure if it’s because I create the outline first, or because I give my brain a rest after writing the first draft, but whatever the reason it really works for me. Hopefully you can use this to find a method that works for you too.
Recording (Podcasting) Production
A lot of folks are really interested in starting up podcasts and there are a lot of really useful tutorials (both free and paid) that will show you a step-by-step method for getting your podcast up and running. For someone like you who is just starting out with no background in podcasting, I’m going to simplify this entire process so that you can get the minimum viable podcast up and running in as short a time as possible.
My personal podcast production method is fairly cut-and-dry. Again, you can mix and match with your own system to do what works for you. For me, I break it down in to 3 steps:
I won’t get in to too much detail here, but I’ll give you brief run-down of each part of the process.
In this phase of the process I record the actual podcast episode. This can be as simple as recording you talking in to your iPhone or using your computer. Many podcasts are interviews and the most popular (and best) way to do this is to set up a Skype call and use a call recorder.
More details and tutorials on how to do that later, but if you aren’t familiar with Skype, it is a free VOIP (for “Voice Over I.P.”) software that allows you to talk to other Skype users for free (or call a phone for a nominal charge). If that makes no sense, then just know that it is a program you download to your computer that lets you talk to other people on their computers for free.
To record your call you’ll need another program that grabs the audio from your call and saves it on your computer. There are a lot of these out there (15 currently listed on the Skype website) but most people use the eCamm Skype Call Recorder on a Mac and Skype Recorder or Pamela for Windows. Once configured it will save the call as a WAV or MP3 file on your computer, which you can import into your audio editor.
You should also prepare your guest with a pre-interview email with sample questions and information about what you’ll be discussing. But again, we’ll get in to more details on that when I go through my specific tutorials on how to podcast.
This phase involves importing the necessary audio files into my audio editor (GarageBand or Audacity) and arranging them in the correct order. This isn’t the time or place to give you specifics on how to use a Non-Linear Audio Editor, so we’ll save that for another time. For now, just know that you can plop your audio files into the program, put them in the order you want, and then export it as an MP3 file.
Publishing involves three steps:
- Adding the ID3 tags: Using iTunes to add the ID3 tags and art work to your audio file
- Uploading the audio file to your media host: Posting the file to Libsyn or Amazon S3
- Creating your show notes post (optional)
I should mention show notes for a moment. Most of the big podcasters have a pretty elaborate show notes post for each episode. On the post they list out a synopsis of the interview or episode, include a list of references and links, and all sorts of other stuff.
There are three reasons I put this as optional.
First, technically show notes are not necessary in order to launch a podcast. Sure, it is super helpful for your audience (depending on your audience), but it isn’t a requirement.
Second, show notes take a lot of time and that is time that could be better spent on other things. Would you rather spend 3 hours putting together killer show notes or 3 hours truly helping your audience solve their problems? Show notes are helpful, but they don’t solve problems. So focus on your core mission instead of busy-work.
And third, I’m not a big reader of show notes. In fact, of the hundreds or thousands of podcasts I’ve listened to, I can count on three fingers the number of times I felt compelled to check out someone’s show notes to get a resource. Most of the time I listen to podcasts away from my computer (while I’m taking a walk or commuting, etc.) so I can’t look things up. If they mention a resource or website on the podcast and I really want to check it out I’ll just go straight to the website, not the show notes.
So, in the end it’s really up to you, but show notes might be something you want to do. If so, you can either do it yourself (free) or have someone do it for you, like a VA (Virtual Assistant) or a service (expensive!).
All you really need for your episode to live on your website is an audio player that pulls your audio file from your media server. And if you are using the Blubrry podcast plugin to feed your episodes from your website to iTunes, then you can just use that.
And there you have it. That is basically everything you need to know in order to start a podcast. The specific how-to information will be covered in later posts, but now you have the overview that will allow you to make the right decisions. Just one more content type to go:
Video (Webcasts) Production
A lot of this will be a repeat from my podcast production methodology, but with a slight twist.
Unlike a podcast, videos can take a lot of different forms. You might be doing travelogues from exotic locations, or a cooking show with closeups on food, or maybe you are just talking about your favorite TV show. The type of show you are producing will determine your production methodology.
For the most part, though, my methodology for producing videos follows a similar pattern as podcasts:
I suppose for some people writing out what they’re going to do with their video seems unnecessary. But as any seasoned filmmaker will tell you (my wife, for example) the more prepared you are with your shot list, script, etc., the better your shoot will go.
Unlike audio recordings, it is much more difficult to go back and add in new video once you have finished your filming. With an audio podcast if you want to add a comment, you can just push the record button, but film, being a visual medium, is location-dependent.
This doesn’t have to be a huge process. We’re not remaking The Godfather here. Just write out your sequence of shots and anything that needs to be said on a single sheet of paper and take it with you when you go to the location where you are filming. It is mainly just a reminder to make sure you don’t forget to get a shot of something or to say something to the camera.
We don’t have the time (and my fingers don’t have the stamina) to get in to how to take good video. But there are a LOT of resources out there that can help you understand the angles, shots, lighting and other elements that help make good video.
I recommend checking out DIYVideoGuy.com for some great free tips, or head over to James Wedmore’s youtube channel where he also has good information. Both of those sites also have products which you can buy if you feel so inclined.
When shooting, one recommendation is to give yourself at least 5 seconds of lead-in time for a shot, as well as 5-seconds at the end. You’ll thank me when it comes to editing your footage and you need some transitional space.
Speaking of editing …
Once you have finished all your shots for the video, it’s time to edit them into something cohesive.
This is where you use your video editing software and import all the footage you created. Again, this isn’t the place to get into the nitty gritty of how to edit footage (and there are lots of tutorials on the subject) but the most important suggestions I could make are as follows:
Have a beginning, middle and end. In other words, tell a story with your video. That means introducing your subject or topic and creating a narrative that will show some sort of growth, process or development. Then, be sure to summarize or bring the video to a conclusion that brings the viewer to a resolution.
You’d be amazed at how much you can change the tone of a film with some editing changes, not to mention overlaying music or narration on your video. Don’t believe me? Check out this trailer for The Shining and let me know whether or not editing is the key to a film’s delivery.
When exporting your finished film, be sure it is in a large enough resolution (again 1080p is best, whenever possible) and in a digital format that agrees with your hosting provider (Youtube or Vimeo). Usually MP4 is the best choice.
Publishing is the process of uploading your video to the hosting service, tagging it with the right title, descriptions, categories and thumbnail images, and then embedding it on your website or social platform.
This process is pretty cut and dry and both Youtube and Vimeo make this super simple. Just follow the prompts when you upload your video and you’ll be able to put in all the right settings and get the embed code for your website.
The same thing applies here as with the Podcast show notes. Don’t go overboard. If you want to provide additional information on the post or page where the video lives, then that’s great. But no need to spend too much time on this.
So, now we’ve covered the Pre-production and Production parts of content development. The third and final step is Distribution.
After going to all the trouble of writing or recording our content and then editing and posting it on our platforms the next and final step is to distribute this content to the people in your audience.
We spoke before (waaaay back in the A is for Audience article) about methods of communicating with your audience, and I recommended three in particular that I almost always use (Newsletters, Twitter and Facebook Pages) so go check that out again if you don’t remember.
With distribution there are three things to keep in mind:
- Scheduling your content
- Sharing your content
- Engaging with your audience
1. Scheduling your content
When you release and/or publish your blog posts, podcast episodes or webcast shows, be aware of when your audience normally wants to consume that information. If you are producing content for active church goers then sending them content releases at 3AM on Sunday morning is probably not going to give you good results.
When releasing content the other thing to be aware of is not to bunch up your releases all at once. Spread things out over the week and be aware of the appropriate frequency for your audience. Some people like to get emails every day on their passion topic, and some only want to hear from you once a week.
2. Sharing your content
Part of sharing your content is using your distribution methods in an effective way, and the other part is making your content for other people to share with their network of friends and associates.
Integration of social sharing tools on your website (Facebook Like buttons, “tweet this” links, etc.) encourages people to support the value-added information which you provide, and gets the word out there beyond those in your immediate circle of influence.
3. Engaging with your audience
The final step of the “dance of distribution” is to be sure to engage with your audience. Whether it is through comments on your blog posts, reviews on Yelp!, likes on Facebook or hashtags on twitter, seek out those talking about the topic for which you have a solution.
And then, beyond that, reach out to others in your space so that you can share exposure with each other’s audiences. The thing about developing your platform online, which is different than developing a physical, brick-and-mortar business, is that the more you collaborate with, and exchange ideas with your “competition”, the more it helps both of you.
In fact, I would almost go so far as to say, if your true mission is to provide the ultimate in value to your audience, you have no competitors at all. Because if someone provides value to your audience, then you are doing them a service to share that information, and as a result your standing with your audience will improve.
Content Creation in Conclusion
And, as far as Content Creation goes, this just about wraps it up. We’ve covered a LOT of ground, and talked about two big pieces of the Content puzzle: the format of presentation of your content, and the creation of that content. Now we’re going to dive into the world of products, which is the third and final part of the equation.