Win Without Pitching®: Thinking

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Content Marketing for Those Who Can’t Quite Bring Themselves to Write

Experts write. I’ve been saying this for years and until recently I’ve never seen any way around it. If you want to be positioned as an expert on a topic and you want to drive inbound enquiries then you have to engage in content marketing on that topic, which means writing.

While most creative professionals, and knowledge workers in general, understand the importance of content marketing, many can’t find the time to write, haven’t developed the habit of writing or just can’t get their thoughts out through their fingers. The good news for them is, there's a way to cheat.

Why Write

Allow me to briefly recap an earlier article, Four Reasons to Write. We write to validate our expertise. We write to deepen our expertise. We write to test our positioning. And finally and most pertinently to this article we write to get found.

Our friends at Newfangled build lead development ecosystems for creative firms and as a result they have access to some impressive data on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to content marketing in the creative professions. According to CEO Mark O’Brien, Newfangled’s data shows that firms that demonstrate success in content marketing have a few things in common and one is “they add a minimum of three thousand words per month of unique, expert, indexible content.”

That’s content on your area of expertise, that doesn’t already exist elsewhere and that can be found and indexed by Google. Indexible means written words, among other things. There’s lots of lead generation value in other mediums like audio and video but nothing beats a steady stream of written content added to your site to give momentum to your organic search traffic.

And this is the problem. Most firms have a hard time producing meaningful content at that volume. Writing takes time. Writing is hard. Some people, for reasons of personality or neuro-physiology, can speak their ideas but have a hard time transferring them through their fingertips to a keyboard.

That’s okay, because there’s another way.

The Big Hack: Transcription

The path around writing is speaking. You could speak your content into dictation software like Dragon but my observation has been that few people I know have been able to overcome writer’s block by simply dictating rather than typing. Writing requires structure and discipline and speaking requires the same.

The key is to construct your content in outline form and then perform it for an audience, even an audience of one, rather than merely dictating it.

I’ll explore two ways you can do this below but first let’s do some math. The average person speaks at a rate of 150 words per minute. If you could be fully engaged in a topic within your area of expertise for a full hour then you would generate 9,000 words of content. That’s three months of content generated in 60 minutes. Twenty minutes will generate O’Brien’s minimum monthly amount of 3,000 words.

High-quality, affordable transcription is now readily available to turn your spoken words into Google-friendly keystrokes. I’ve been using recently to get transcripts of some of my recorded speeches and some videos where I was working from an outline and not a script. Simply upload your recording and for $1 per minute of recorded material you get a complete transcript of your recording, with the umms, ahhs and pauses taken out. The quality is high – remarkably so, and the turnaround is less than 24 hours. That's $60 to transcribe one hour of recorded content, or 9,000 words.

I have almost 80 hours of webcast recordings that, transcribed, would probably yield 850,000 words of content. (I speak faster than 150 words a minute.) I have no plans to do this – I already produce 3,000 – 5,000 written words a month, but if I wanted to take some time off from content creation, I could go more than 23 years before I would have to start writing again.

Preparing & Performing

The key to speaking and not writing your content is proper preparation and then performing for an audience. The best way to do the former is to commit to the latter.

I’m a huge fan of using webinars in your marketing mix. We consider them a requirement in any firm’s lead generation program for a variety of reasons. (See the webcast, Generating Leads Through Webinars for why.) Webinars require time to prepare but not the detailed, block-inducing writing that most people struggle with. Instead, they’re a great medium that forces you to organize your ideas and then allows you to free-form a little bit, riffing off of images or bullet points while staying on a pre-determined course. Doing this for an audience forces you to be “on” and concise.

If you committed to just one webinar a quarter, your four webinars in a year would yield 36,000 transcribed words of content – Newfangled’s minimum annual requirement. Every firm should be doing one webinar a quarter, again, for a variety of reasons.

Interview: The Killer Format

Over the last couple of months I’ve taken an hour out of each week and spent it with my friend and occasional collaborator David C. Baker from ReCourses. We’ve been recording podcasts, two at a time. The format is simple. For the first 30 minutes I interview him on a topic. Then for the next 30 minutes he interviews me. We tell each other the topic we’ve selected a few days in advance, and each of us can prepare as much or as little as we like. Then on Friday we just talk and record. One person provides the structure and the other the bulk of the content. Then we switch.

It’s fun. It takes a total of 90 minutes of my week. I spend less than 30 minutes preparing for both roles of interviewer or interviewee, and I suspect David’s investment is about the same. And, if transcribed it would yield 9,000 words of content every week. That’s 13 years of content generated in one year, at a pace of one enjoyable phone call a week. If there is an easier, funner way to produce a large amount of quality content, I don’t know what it is.

You don’t have to commit to doing a podcast (although you should consider it, as the format has finally arrived as a medium of critical mass and it provides a lead generation avenue separate from the transcript) – simply adopting the interview format will provide the audience, with the interviewer providing the structure.

You could have someone in your firm interview you. You could interview others in your firm. You could even interview outside experts or a combination of the above.

Webinars and podcasts/interviews are just two ways of using speaking to create valuable, indexible written content. You can also record speeches, conversations among co-workers and even client discussions. The possibilities are almost limitless. The keys, I believe, are to make sure there is both a structure and an audience for your speaking. Get both in place and you’ll blast through your writer’s block and start creating good content in large volume in no time.


PS: As of this writing, David and I haven’t released or even edited our podcast recordings, and we may not – right now it’s a fun experiment that’s an excuse for two busy friends to spend some time together. If we do decide to unleash Between Two Bobs on the world, we’ll let you know where you can find it.

Blair Enns
Blair Enns is the Win Without Pitching founder and CEO and the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto and Pricing Creativity: A guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour.
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