Glimpse inside the boardrooms and notebooks of most creative strategy brainstorms and you'll find a common theme: content creation.

There's a lot of noise centered around content: how to produce it, how to keep it consistent, and how to properly disseminate it to great effect. To be successful, content creation must be woven into the lifeblood of any successful brand, from creative agency to financial services scions and beyond. If executed well, content acts as a catalyst to build empathy and encourage engagement, ultimately strengthening a disposition to buy what you're selling.

However, it's easy to get it wrong, and many brands chase content creation without thinking about the fundamental aim of what the content is supposed to accomplish. I'm fortunate to have worked on myriad content campaigns across various platforms at Black Tomato, and have learned some lessons along the way. Here are five hacks to consider for entering and mastering the minefield of creative content.

1. Focus on winning customers, not awards.

On an almost daily basis I consume content that appears produced with the aim of winning awards. Often esoteric and indulgent, this content is geared more towards the filmmaker, or the egos of the internal creative team, than the actual customer they are trying to reach. Content must put audience first, so question if what you're producing adds value, provokes inspiration and delivers a logical call to action.

My company recently spent months deliberating, conceptualizing and shooting a brand video with the intent to communicate what we stand for (and what we don't). We hyper-focused on removing any concepts that only served to embellish our own image internally and cut anything that wouldn't resonate with our client base. We were inspired by a raft of confident brand positioning we've consumed over the years, most notably a beautifully shot and scripted piece of content from Jeep which emotively wraps up feelings of ambition and meaningfulness to create a stylized and convincing piece of content. Harnessing this understanding of your own target customer will ensure that what you're creating won't appear as an ego massage but instead resonates with who you're trying to reach.

2. Tell stories.

"The best story wins" is a phrase our teams hear me say time and time again whenever we brainstorm a new content concept. I'm a firm believer that consumers of great content, love (and need) structure. So, shoot with a clear beginning, middle and end, regardless of where you're hosting, whether it lives on Vimeo, YouTube, social or even your own brand website. When done well, structure breathes life into your content to no end. It may sound obvious, but so often video content is produced without a clear narrative, making it impossible for the customer to engage or remember the nature and purpose. Visual endorphins alone aren't enough if you don't have a story to tell, and premium cooler brand YETI are a prime example of a brand that wholly believes this. They always put the story first, allowing their content to paint a visual picture without being driven by overbearing promotion of their product, which often cloud creative direction.

3. Look internally for creation and inspiration.

The reality is everyone in your team can serve as a potential content creator. It's never been easier to capture content, so celebrate your employees' curiosity and encourage your team to get out and capture it, whether it's shooting with an iPhone or a Leica. We're lucky at Black Tomato as travel lends itself well to this but daily life and inspirations can be found everywhere. And though it's true that you no longer need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a piece of content, one area I would invest heavily in is quality editing. The people who hold the keys to the kingdom of content invest in great editors for storyboarding and flow. Fuse this with your team's untapped skills and ideas and you will create the perfect platform on which to create compelling content.

4. Be consistent.

Be consistent in the quality and frequency with which you are outputting content. Often brands release a ton of content and let it get buried, rendering it ineffective and indulgent. Others may produce something exceptional but lack an apt follow-up. Content should build on content. Strategize on what you want, and be consistent with your style and the frequency that you are releasing it. Cinematic storytelling company, Great Big Story, nail this by releasing sub-categories of video content on a weekly basis that cover everything from ocean wine aging in 'Flavors' to extreme unicycling in 'Frontiers'. This blend of diverse content and consistency ensure they organically amass a relevant following, build brand recognition and encourage brand loyalty.

5. Turn it inwards.

Finally, think about yourself and how you personally consume content; what gets you excited, what makes you reflect and most importantly what makes you want to learn more. Combine these thoughts with how you physically view the content (is it on mobile, desktop or tablet?) and shape your content output around this. Everyday I see long form videos on social media that are beautiful, but fail to strike the right chord with me as they are hosted on the least effective platform. To avoid this, consider using tools such as layering well-timed text over the video to help tell the story in a compelling way. Business Insider's Facebook video content employs this tool perfectly, meaning you can consume their content in any scenario. Above all, if what you produce is something you and your colleagues would consume (and can do so without formatting frustration) then you're headed in the right direction.

Published on: Aug 27, 2018