Big Ideas

(aka our blog)

The 5 Stage Process of Content Creation

A few weeks ago, my team asked me to clarify their roles and how they interact. First, let me stop immediately and tell you how honored I am to have a team that cares to work well with each other and believes they have the freedom to speak up and say bold things like this. How cool is it that they are thinking as a team, for the team?!

My response was to meet as a group and run over some key aspects of our business. We met, it was good, but I had some of my own marching orders as a result. The team needs documents – which at the time of this writing are handwritten – that they can use as a guide in their workflows. And this is where it gets exciting for us and for you: What we realized was that we have uncovered a system for content creation that has GREAT clarity on content workflows. 

Have you ever wondered how teams turn out good, high-frequency content? Have you ever wondered how agencies do this for clients? Well, if you haven’t, stop reading because this is going to bore the snot out of you. 

A Dual Party System:

First, we need to acknowledge that there are two parties involved in content creation at C47 Films. We have the Subject and the Machine. 

Subject: This is our celebrity. Our guru. This is the company and/or person who is the expert brand that we feature in content. This is the person who, using their expertise, is featured in such a way that we build brand awareness and tribal following for them. This also could be a business that has a non-expert brand that is being amplified but they have a team of people at that business who are there to be a part of the content process (marketing department and maybe sales team).  

Machine: C47 is the machine but we need to talk about why I choose the term machine, and I hope this is as liberating for you as it was for me. 

Video production, meme creation, and all other creative content for high-frequency marketing is tantamount to a MANUFACTURING PROCESS. I realized this when I was consulting on a reality TV show with some newer producers, and I happened to tell a story to them during a budget conversation. They were worried about taxes, and I asked them to talk to a tax accountant or attorney because in most cases a salable film is not taxable until it is consumed by an end user. This means that if you film a movie ALL of the expenses that go into it are considered a cost of goods sold. COGS are in most cases untaxed because the taxable final sale is at the point of consumption. When a car is manufactured the raw metals, the seats, the airbags – all of the parts – are untaxed because the final sale of the car is what is taxed.

It hit me as I told this story to help them avoid overspending during production that all of what we do for clients is just like manufacturing. We start with an idea, add labor and materials in a pre-designed process, and then we output a consumable product of some content. We are literally manufacturing content for our clients. Yes, we use creativity – especially as we modify the elements that we use within the machine – but we are manufacturing nonetheless. 

To recap: They are Subject, We are Machine.  

Subject Behaviors:

If you have ever been to one of my public talks you’ve likely either heard me talk about the 5 Keys To Owning Your Influence Online Using Video. In that talk, we distill the self-behaviors required to create content for yourself. Essentially, we’re helping people be Subject and Machine. Let’s recap the 5-keys (you can always go watch my talk here ______________ or read up in previous blogs here ________________ if you want the full story). 

1.     GTFOYS: Get the F Over Yourself

2.     Zen Cellphone: Embrace Low Tech

3.     Batch Your Work Like Betty Crocker

4.     Schedule It. 

5.     Listen

In short, you need to get over your Self-Limiting Beliefs about yourself and the typically overblown imaginations of the consequences of exposing your brand to the masses online. It won’t hurt, it can only help. Then, embrace the tools you own and understand. Don’t go invest in gear and force a learning curve you don’t have time for.  

Then, and this is VERY important: Batch your work as if you were baking cookies. Rarely would you bake COOKIE (singular). No, you’d bake COOKIES (plural). I have toured countless manufacturing facilities in three countries and about 20 US states. In nearly every facility they would run batches of parts. For the sake of efficiency, they would make 50 or 5000 or 500,000 of an item in one run and then use it until parts on-hand stock fell to a predetermined level at which point it was time to run more parts. The Point: NEVER make a video when you have the ability to make VIDEOS (PLURAL).  

Schedule it. This is part of batching work, too. If you make 10 videos, don’t undo that momentum by hand posting them each time you want to release them (meaning 10 upload efforts separated by time). No, you should be uploading ALL at once and using scheduling features to release the videos at times you think are right for your content. One session to upload, many release times. 

Lastly, listen to your audience. They will give you tell signs as to what would help them, and you should be there to serve them. So serve. 

That’s the gist of the 5 Keys – and it’s a great foundation for a solo act or small marketing department that wants to try to go it alone.  

At C47 Films we want to operate for and with our clients at a higher level, so we’ve worked hard to build a machine and we now – thanks to my team asking great questions and offering outstanding input – have a machine to reveal.  

This machine has 5 sections, and they directly mirror the film production process from blogs One through eight in this series. The film production process follows this workflow: 

  1. Development (the time to take an idea and work it out, make some deals, book some investors)
  2. Pre-production (the time to get people places and things scheduled and planned out)
  3. Production (lights camera action)
  4. Post-production (editing)
  5. Distribution (showing your work for a fee)

Content Creation is strikingly similar. Let’s look at the sections: 

  1. Ideation 
  2. Creation
  3. Revision
  4. Distribution
  5. Evaluation

IDEATION: 

At C47 Films, ideation with clients takes place during our consulting meetings. We work with clients to mine for their expertise and learn what the immediate needs of clients are and then we merge the two in order to create a list of content that ought to be created. We are here at this step largely because we are not only the guide who knows what best practices in the industry are needed but also, we have a way of avoiding the dreaded, “I’ve run out of content” moment.  

Too many people try to create content and fail, not for lack of energy but lack of clarity. They don’t know what about their expertise has value. They don’t see how to segment their skills and abilities into small, digestible, power content for clients. They miss how unique they actually are and how unaware their audience actually happens to be. We help uncover and document that information so we can plan content with them.  

CREATION: 

Recall in the 5 Keys We Empower Creators to Film with Low Tech and Batch Their Work. The first half of Creation is our clients filming themselves, per the content plans from our ideation phase, and doing that filming on “low tech”. In most cases this means cellphones but some of my clients already have some gear and love their toys. We encourage fun and so some go above and beyond for themselves.  

Once our clients get their content filmed, they FTP it to us (often that just means Dropbox) so we can finish the work.  

We batch edit their videos using best practices and what we call an “Editor’s Toolkit”. We create this toolkit of logo animations, lower thirds, custom transitions, and the like in month one of a relationship with a client and then we reuse it in EVERY edit so that we have both consistency of look AND ease of editing.  

Now, we think in video but that’s for two key reasons. Firstly, C47 began as and will likely always be a Video 1st company. Conveniently, the reality is that video is the most powerful communication tool on the planet right now and appears to be on track to maintain that foothold for a long time. That’s a great second reason. But, even so, we know that creation of creative content can be photos, audio and/or text-based as well.  

The workflow within creative is, that the client creates raw assets – our materials – and we refine the raw into something more. Let’s look at 2 very different creative works and see how they each run through a creative process.  

Idea 1: During an idea session we discover that a guest blogger will be creating a powerful blog for a client. We ask them to supply that as raw material and we will output content based on that powerful blog.  

In this case, we have a reader review the blog and find “best quotes” that help a person get a sense of the power statements from that blog. We will assemble three to six of these together and we’ll get a loose summary of the blog. With that, we can create the following: 

  1. A Blog Summary video using stock footage and images with overlays of the text we pulled out
  2. 3 to 6 stills with text (each quote overlaid over good images – likely screenshots from the video). 
  3. 3-6 tweets 

We’ll get to what happens with each item in a moment but, let’s now look at a traditional set of video assets. 

Idea 2: A client has the idea to interview their Employee of the Year about their new service offering. We coach them to film 5 minutes of the employee at work doing things related to that service AND to interview the employee with 5 pre-determined questions.  

Those files are Dropboxed to us and we do the following: 

  1. The editor lines up all quotes for transcription and sends them for AI transcription. 
  2. A reader reviews these and pulls out the best quotes for future photo posts and text posts
  3. The editor edits a video using the footage and b-roll provided (using our Editor’s Toolkit as well) 
  4. The short edit is now transcribed, too. It becomes an asset to use.  
  5. A reader uses the mass of content to create as many as 10 posts from this one video creation – video, photos, text.  

In both cases, we’ve used text assets either to generate video from seemingly nothing or we’ve gathered the text from a video using transcription tools. Every video needs photos and text to pair with it for a robust release experience. Every blog needs video where there is often nothing. We do the work to create the missing pieces or refine the existing pieces.  

REVISION: 

You know what sucks? Typoz and Missspellings. You know what double super sucks? Off-brand crap like sucks and crap. Most brands don’t say that and if some do, you’d know it. Who catches all of these problems? The reviewers. The proofreaders.  

This is a critical phase, and you MUST have someone do it. At the simplest we have someone read all the text and catch the glaring problems (spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and occasionally syntax). That same person might look for edit errors as well as if they have gotten to know the brand they can help re-guide any off-brand failings. And when they find these failings, it goes back to the editor for revisions and then BACK AGAIN to the reviewer to recheck.

Then, if a client wants, they get to review it, too. We try to get to a point where the client trusts us because we have 1 – planned the content together and 2 – they filmed it themselves or perhaps wrote it. 

DISTRIBUTION: 

In the film world, this means movie theaters, TV, pay-per-view, DVD sales, etc. It’s getting the movie to the audience. In content creation, we don’t charge for access, but we still have an audience that our product goes to. In order to distribute via our content flow, we have to do a few things:

  1. Preparation of Visual Add-on Assets
  2. Preparation of Text Assets
  3. Scheduling of Assets

An “Add-On” asset is essentially the thumbnail or cover that a video may need when uploaded. Social media has a bad habit of picking the worst shot in a video to be the featured image. We must control that, and an in-house graphic artist will take a video and create what must become the cover image. 

Text assets include a variety of things that must be either scheduled or shared. Transcriptions are made of every video that warrants them. These transcripts may be used as text in YouTube descriptions or shared with a client to be repurposed as blogs. These must be appropriately stored and distributed to team members. We also use the best quotes found in blogs or in transcripts to become the text that accompanies memes or videos that get posted. All of this is organized in a spreadsheet that allows us to review content prior to posting it.  

From there the spreadsheet is used more or less as a dashboard to copy/paste from as we schedule posts for time-delayed release online in the proper social media channels.  

Remember, this is content creation which is a strikingly “social media” activity. If you find yourself wondering about other channels like TV, OTT Ads, Billboards, and the like – we only use those during campaigns that are custom-built to serve a specific purpose. And yes, they are considered part of a potential marketing mix BUT, sans enormous budgets, they are not sustainable for a long duration, high-frequency content delivery.  

Finally, Evaluation. 

Every effort either wins, loses, or has a mixture of both. The guaranteed loss is when we refuse to learn from the outcomes of our prior efforts. Wanna be a loser in business and in life? Choose to ignore self-evaluation. Here at C47 Films, we must evaluate, and we do. Ask any successful businessperson and you’ll see that this is absolutely a part of their routine.  

The Dual Party: Amplification (A reminder/caution)

When we work with clients, the majority of the clients are expert brands. They are good at something specific – a service or a B2B product delivery of some kind that is niche and special. As such, we demand that they participate in their content creation. We CANNOT do done-for-you marketing services for our ideal client. We are not the expert in their field, we’re experts at AMPLIFYING their expertise. We must have them express their expertise to us so we can craft it into messaging that goes beyond their four walls and into the places where their ideal clients devote attention.  

We tried to create content without our clients a few times. We’ve hired researchers to go find content ideas and then we’ve created for our clients in a moment of Done-For-You myopia. While the result got us by for a few weeks it was unsustainable because it was not from the client’s voice and devoid of the nuance they can bring to their version of their expertise. Go talk to two different realtors, or two different estate attorneys, or maybe two different financial planners. You’ll see that while they do the same thing with likely the same promise of similar results for their clients, they have completely different approaches to their work. They are different not by skill, or ability, or know-how or education (though that may be a real difference). From a marketer’s perspective, they are different because they are different humans who will appeal to different subsets of their potential market. They will tell different stories, apply different creativity, and likely see themselves uniquely in ways that create notably different unique selling propositions (USP’s).  

It is for that reason that in a dual-party content system, we MUST do this together. Expert has the expertise, the creator/creative AMPLIFIES the Expert. Remember to be careful to honor who the expert is in the equation with demanding they continue to be the expert. Also, remember to honor the amplifier, for they are the expert in amplification. 

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