Talk It Out Tuesday: Coffee Chat
Create Less Content
with Guest Host, Brittany Berger, the Content Marketing Unicorn
Grab your dark roast + join guest host, Brittany Berger, as she gives you a behind the scenes look at becoming a content marketing unicorn. You'll learn how to go beyond editorial calendars + use a content planning process that saves time, keeps your content focused, and takes the overwhelm out of writing.
Episode 21 Coffee Chat Replay
Episode 21 Podcast
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Lauren Dragon-Cook: Hello! Happy Tuesday! We are here today with Miss Brittany Berger. She is my favorite Brittany ever. Even more so than Brittney Spears. That is a mic drop and a half!
Brittany Berger: Oh I can’t even say that I’m my favorite Brittney amongst Brittney Spears.
Lauren: I just did! Love you, mean it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Brittany and what she does… she is a fabulous content marketer. Where did you get your start, Brittany?
Brittany: I just sort of fell into content marketing. I studied PR and journalism. I also loved as a teenager Live Journal and stuff like that. And when I was in college that was when social media and blogging was sort of getting big for businesses and I was like “wait… I know how to do that”. So I just graduated and started my career at a perfect time for content marketing. My first internship as a full time person was content marketing and I have done that ever since. About 8 or 9 years now.
Lauren: That is amazing. That is a really long time to write stuff.
Brittany: It is a lot of writing! When I think about how many blog posts I’ve written over the course of my career, I don’t think I can count that.
Lauren: I don’t think I would even want to attempt that, to be honest.
Brittany: And my crazy old ones are awful!
Lauren: Well you have to start somewhere! Just like with anything else. I’m stoked you are here today because I feel like we have a fabulous group of wedding pros and bloggers and other creatives that could use the help that only someone like yourself, doing what you do can provide. So without further ado…
I have to tell people how we met. Its kind of hilarious. I pretty much stalked her website for a solid week and then I finally have enough courage to write to her and say “ok I’m pretty sure you are my long lost twin just in the way you speak… your Golden Girls references and Beyoncé and pop culture…” It was how it kicked off!
Brittany: I still have it. Its in my folder of favorite emails. We LIVE streamed together at the beginning.
Lauren: It was a match made in heaven. FUN FACT about that email I wrote you… I lost the whole thing, so then I had to re-write it and I’m trying so hard to remember everything I said because I knew it was gold. It was a rough day.
Enough about that. I’m just going to let you take the stage Brittany and run with it. All you girl.
Let’s Get Started
Brittany: So today we are talking about planning content that writes itself because I write all day everyday and that gets difficult even for a writer. I need to make it a really systemized process so on days I am not feeling it at all its easy. I like to say I trust the system more than I trust myself. That way on days where I’m writing something I don’t know a lot about, I can at least say well I know this process works if I just follow the steps I can put something out that isn’t awful.
It is just something I’ve learned to do over the years, based off of some pretty awful posts that turned into better posts over the years. Really I did not know what I was doing when I started because it was all very new and we were figuring things out as we went along. I wasn’t concerned with frameworks or having calls to action or making content matter at all to the business. This system is what kind of got me out of my bad habits and make sure I get everything done perfectly or as perfectly as it can be. Perfection is overrated.
So today we are specifically talking about my version of content outlines. I like to call them content skeletons. They are amazing. They involve two levels of outlines. I love to jot down on my planner, so the more notes the better. BUT I like to say this makes your content write itself because when you don’t feel you are a natural born writer, going straight form your editorial or content strategy straight into a word document and going straight form a title to words on a page, can still be really overwhelming. If you know how long you’ve starred ta a black word doc before starting content, you know that having some middle step to break it down and make things easier could help you.
Get a lot of the writing out of the way before the writing starts. So by the time you go to write down the actual document, you already have the whole structure and layout of the post decided on. You already know what you are talking about. You can then get creative and get loose with things to have fun with it! That way you don’t stare at a blank word doc and try to figure out what to say, how to say it, what order, what examples to use… it breaks it all down into different processes.
I break it down over several different days. So today I am outlining and planning a post I will write tomorrow. It makes the writing process so much more manageable.
Lauren: I know nothing about this so I am ready! Give it to me! What does an outline look like?
Brittany: It is three steps. Assuming up to this point you know what you are creating content for. You know you are writing blog posts. You know you are sending weekly emails. This works for any content! Whether its am email, blog post, sales pitch…
First step: Content Skeleton. Narrowing in on your goals. I break that up into three parts: mission statement, description, and CTA (call to action).
- Mission statement is a summary of what the point of this blog post is. For both you and the reader. For example, the mission statement for this live stream is you are learning how to go beyond editorial planners and use a content planning process that saves time, keeps your content focused, and takes the challenge out of writing. This is for the reader, so as I’m going on and planning everything else, I can keep this end goal in mind. That way I don’t go off on any tangents. Ideally! It keeps me asking “Is this accomplishing the goal?” “Am I being successful in this process?” It creates an end goal for your reader. Focus on the prize.
- The description and CTA are a little bit more of a focused mission statement. This is more of the goal for YOU. Where does this content fit into my overall business strategy? That might be what are you linking to or promoting in this email? Or what content upgrade are you prompting in this blog post? For example, for this one would be to drive downloads to that content planning worksheet I gave you the link to before.
By having the goals for the reader, the goals for you, and the place this has in your business it helps you align providing value for your reader with actually doing something that moves your business forward. It is really easy to fall into the trap of proving a lot of free content, but it doesn’t do anything for your business because it isn’t aligned to anything in your business strategy.
You can define in the content goal, “this promotes this service I offer or this aligns with this content upgrade or sale that I have”. You have to ask yourself, what is this content doing for my business? It forces you to think about something you may not think about before you begin writing. It helps you to keep your content focused and goal orientated.
Lauren: The thing that popped up for me is the simple fact that you are going to have to put a call to action into your blog post or email anyway. You are going to have to know the link to that thing you are promoting You have to know what the intention is for that post to begin with. You already have to know those things, but if you have it in one central location it will make it that much easier to write.
Brittany: A lot of people don’t think about it early enough. If you don’t you are in a position where you realize “well this doesn’t relate to anything”. It is easier to stray from your goal when it isn’t in front of your face. I am a big fan of having things in front of your face! That’s why I plan on paper. There Is so much power in having a physical reminder you can read.
Lauren: One question I do have before we keep going is… how does this strategy help people as a wedding professional? I know blogging and writing isn’t something the wedding industry thinks of at the forefront. How does it pertain to them?
Brittany: I like to look at content as a new way to communicate with your customers and potential customers. We are all online more and more and not having as many of those face to face interactions. Phone conversations and face to face conversations are moving to online. We are getting to a point in business and business communication where everybody writes. It is part of the job now. You might as well get good at it. Its not even about having perfect grammar, it is about being able to communicate your own ideas clearly to your ideal customers in a way they understand.
When it comes to editing content (which I’ll talk more about later), I like to say perfection is about clarity not grammar. That is what marketing is about.
Lauren: Case in point, I stalked you for probably a week just reading your content… never having a face to face conversation with you… I just stumbled upon your website sand said “ this is my person. That is the power of having well written content.
Brittany: It is not grammatically correct, it is a perfect portrayal of who I am and who I am looking for. We are a perfect match. Most people will see the stuff on my website and be unsure.. and that is fine! Content is how we show our fabulous online. It is how we make money. It is how we communicate with our customers. We have to get good at it.
When you write a good email, you close deals.
Lauren: This is true. For a wedding professional, that could look like setting up a consult call. That could be a 30 minute free complimentary whatever with somebody. Maybe you have a better close rate by having a phone call with someone than via email. There are so many different avenues I see wedding pros not taking advantage of when it comes to content. I see the same articles over and over again. Or the same emails going out. I just want people to have a fresh perspective. But it is hard!
Brittany: I think a lot of people don’t write in a voice, they just write word son a page. They aren’t breaking down what they want to say, they are just pushing it all out there and winging it. They don’t have room to showcase their personality or voice. It looks like a lot of the same blog posts. I just did a thread on social media about how yesterday I shared something on my Insta stories that I almost didn’t share because I thought it wasn’t new advice, but it was one of the most helpful things I ever shared based on the number of replies and re-posts.
So when you have your own voice and way of communicating, you can say things that other people have already touched on, but it is original! That is a lesson I keep learning. I was so insecure about that post yesterday.
Lauren: The key piece I want to reference back to is… it is really hard to know how to speak to your audience in a way that will capture them when you don’t know who your audience is. That is one thing we talked about last week and we are talking about again… I want to come up with the challenge to help people nail down who their ideal clients are. I think that is almost half the battle.
Brittany: It’s a lot of trial and error. I feel my ideal customer has shifted several times over the past year as I keep fine tuning. I like to say, especially when you are thinking about who you are writing to… think about you are writing a letter to your most recent customer you loved. How would you talk and communicate with them? Think about that person and finding other people like them. That can also lend a really personal feel to your content too.
I like actually talking out content and saying it out loud and taking note of how I phrase things and then putting it on paper. I like to call it editing out loud.
Lauren: How do you transcribe it?
Brittany: I don’t record a whole blog post as a time. I do know people that do that and I have clients who do that. They will send me the voice notes. That can be a lot of editing time. I write, but if there is ever anything I can’t figure out how I want to say something… I figure it out out loud. I don’t really speak out entire blog posts, but a paragraph or sentence that I can’t figure out… the easiest way to figure out the most natural way to say it is explaining it verbally.
Lauren: That seems so silly because it is so not complicated.
Brittany: If you don’t know what to write... say it. Then write down what you say!
Lauren: Sorry I totally diverted this conversation and put you on a different mission… so please continue!
The Architecture & Brain Dumping
Brittany: The content skeleton is an amazing starting point. You might be able to even just look at that and be totally clear on writing an email or something. If it’s a longer piece of content and you’re still looking at that and thinking writing will still be overwhelming, you can break it down further. I always do that. I like to call it the architecture. It just always seems fancy.
This is laying out the actual structure of the blog post. First, I summarize what I want to do the for intro. Intros can be really hard just starting from scratch. I like to decide ahead of time whether I will start with a story, or if I will ask questions. What approach will I take?
I then layout what each section or subheading will be. I write a quick description of what that will cover. That is the skeleton of the blog post. That way you can go in and fill in the details once you start writing. That is adding in the meat on top of the skeleton and fleshing it out.
The last step I like to take before starting my rough draft is a brain dump of everything I want to say about the topic. Because I have the skelton there and the structure laid out, I can brain dump in whatever order the ideas come to me and add it into the relevant sections. I can think and let loose, but write it down in a way that has some organization. That way when I look and start writing, all the details are in the right section they need to be. Go on a creative spree! This is where I plan out everything important I will write before I make the complete sentences.
I even plan examples that I will site, jokes, and pop culture references. But I plan out everything I will say so that way when it is time to actually write it is just about the words and I don’t need to do anything thinking anymore. I have the entire architecture of the post finished. The writing process becomes such a tiny thing when you take this extra planning step. Just taking 30 minutes to do a good outline can save you 2 hours of writing.
Lauren: I’m looking at this and thinking of this… it is so freakin’ true! I could go in and look at rough drafts of blog posts I started over a year ago and I’ve never finished, because the task of trying to fill in the gaps seems too daunting. This makes so much sense. It’s a different approach to it.
Brittany: It might be more work upfront, but it is less work overall. The really fun thing about skeletons is once you start looking at that as the first step, when you do get an amazing idea on a creative rush one day, you can then go back to that skeleton months later and the structure and important stuff is already laid out. I can pick up a content skeleton I created ages ago and still understand it enough so I could go back and recreate it. Versus just brain dumping ideas and information and going back to it a day later and forgetting what you were doing.
Apps and More
Lauren: Where do you store everything? Do you use Google drive? Before meting you I thought I was the app Queen, finder of the new things… NO. You took that torch from me and sprinted a mile down the road. You know all the apps! How do you do this? What apps do you use?
Brittany: I like to keep it classic with Trello. Another app I hear a lot of people are replacing Trello with is Notion. You can use it for regular note taking, but you can also build tables and databases too. It is pretty fancy. Fancier than I personally need. It can be fun to get geeky though! One thing people might like it is more of a drop down layout, one continuous page where you can expand and collapse things, versus having separate files.
Lauren: You use Air Table too, right?
Brittany: I use that as a second set of spreadsheets. I can have it in a different view and form.
Lauren: I love the concept of Air Table.
Brittany: It is a database tool more powerful than just spreadsheets. It looks like a regular spreadsheet, but its power underneath and the technology driving it is much fancier. It is a whole data base. You can link to other spreadsheets and do easier formulas. You can also change the view. You don’t have to view it as a spread sheet. I change the view so it is a board. It’s less overwhelming for me.
Lauren: Air Table is great for referencing what opt in you used in what blog post.
Brittany: Yes. One thing I use it for content that is very helpful is a list of all previously published stuff. I’m a big fan of repurposing. So it is great at keeping track of all of that.
Lauren: Brittany is how I learned about Alfred. Love my Alfred! I didn’t think it would be something I would get really excited about, but I love it!
Brittany: I love to use Alfred to keep track of commonly used HTML and phrases and links. It’s a great way for me to add snippets and keep all my documentation in one place.
Summing It Up
So back to the process… by you laying out the goals and the structure… half of the writing is done! You can save up to 2 hours of writing in some cases. It makes the content so much better too.
Lauren: There is an actual flow to it.
Brittany: It is more cohesive, less tangents. I have a workshop that I did and one of the testimonials I received from it was from someone who already had a great process but she added that mission and she stopped going on random tangents in her clients’ blog posts.
Lauren: There is some power behind the structure of this. When people are so scared of writing or blogging then… here you go! Take the anxiety away and use this as your base model. It is brilliant! I don’t know why I haven’t done it.
Brittany: Going straight form your editorial calendar to a blank page is so overwhelming, even to someone who does it all day.
Lauren: It is so simple, but so powerful. I feel it is a game changer for how to break down content.
Brittany: I felt like Beyoncé when I figured this out!
Lauren: How long does it take you, start to finish to write a blog post?
Brittany: A lot of my client blog posts are about 1,000 words and they take me (including the planning process and editing) 4 or 5 hours. That is spread out over the course of a week. This is because I’m writing for pretty enterprising companies and there is some approval processes. For my own brand I write shorter stuff. I mostly do emails and those are usual only 400-500 words each.
Lauren: Thank you so so so much! I feel a lot of people have had their mind blown. It is so simple, but writing content has become this unattainable difficult unicorn. No one knows how to even go about it anymore or they look at it as something they need to add to their list. But the reality is you don’t know how many people are actually looking at your content and then they finally reach out. You have to think of it that way. If you don’t provide content then… you aren’t doing a very good job of marketing yourself. It all ties in.
Any last words of advice for people?
Brittany: Always break it down. If you are ever stuck somewhere, break it down further. Don’t try to accomplish the entire task at once. That has been the solution to most of my problems. Just make ti a smaller problem. If it feels too big, make it smaller.
Lauren: That should be a freakin’ bumper sticker! Yes!
Brittany: I have a workshop that you can watch. It is an on-demand training that walks people through this process. A lot more detail! It also takes it further and helps you writing and editing your rough draft and content. So if you want to start blogging or email consistently, it is great to give you a workbook you can turn to every week.
I am always happy to give free help! Contact me like Lauren did!
Lauren: You are a breath of fresh air and it is much needed. Thank you so much and we will be chatting again next Tuesday. Next week we will be talking about free marketing ideas. Maybe you haven’t thought about them yourself or you haven’t pursued because you have been caught up in the HOWs. I hope everyone has a fabulous rest of the week and as always reach out if you have any questions!
Q + A
Q: How do you think about topics?
A: I always do chunks of topics at a time. It goes back to cohesiveness. You don’t want a random post that isn’t related to anything else. I pick a goal or a theme. So if I have a launch coming up, I will tie that launch in to each topic. If it is untimed, I might just pick a theme. Right now I am picking topics for productivity and a theme around energy management. That was based around responses I’ve gotten recently, what I’ve been thinking about… its pulled out based on a combination of what people want and what I am interested in.
I like to start with covering basic questions. The 5 W’s. Who, what, when, where, and why. So if you take energy management for example… what is energy management, who should care about it, why should they care… these are all different things I can explore more. Maybe I’m doing something for a month… the first week can be an introduction and explaining what it is. Then as the month goes on you could explore related things. I like to brainstorm content in chunks is because as your mind wanders you tend to spin off and get related ideas and it gets easier to come up with a series.