Reflecting on Content Creation: Keeping it Simple

Written by: Mary McCusker

If there’s anything I learned from #SMDayPHL 2022, it’s to take a step back and reevaluate how I go about my work as a Content Account Manager. In my role, I create content for clients – blogs, social media posts, surveys, ebooks, you name it. Churning out content is something I’m used to doing for clients day in and day out, and most of the time, it comes naturally. But am I really going about it the right way? Are there ways I can improve?

At SMDayPHL 2022, one speaker proposed a “test” of sorts to determine if we are truly being effective with the content we are creating. This “test” requires us to examine our content with just one question: can we explain it to a five-year-old? It may sound easy, but I would challenge you to try it! For example, we can look at an abstract painting and label it “abstract”. But can we articulate to a child what makes it abstract, and what is appealing about its abstract quality?

This is not to suggest a need to “talk down” to your target audience. Rather, to strive for simple, not simplistic, language; to communicate ideas, brands, and services in creative, yet uncomplicated ways that pique curiosity through visual storytelling. In short, communicating the way one would introduce new, perhaps somewhat abstract or complex concepts to young learners.

I put myself to the test as I tried to explain, out loud, some of the “whats” and the “whys” of each of my clients:

One of my clients is a nonprofit that carries out amazing work for marginalized populations in Philadelphia. But what makes this nonprofit different from the hundreds of other nonprofits in

Philadelphia carrying out similar work? Can I explain that in a way that a five-year-old would understand? If not, do I really understand the heart of the work that my client carries out every day in order for me to best convey this organization’s unique and important efforts?

Another client is a leader in the telecommunications industry. Beyond giving a textbook definition of “telecommunications” – that is, the transmission of information by various types of technologies – how well could I describe what exactly this company is selling? I must continually challenge myself to know my client’s products well enough to create content for them that not only conveys the “cut-above” quality of their products, but also communicates, using that “simple, uncomplicated, visual, story-telling” standard.

You might be surprised by the impact of applying this standard to your work. When I researched “Telecommunications”, I learned that there was a “World Telecommunications Day” (there really is a holiday for everything!). So instead of creating another product post for this client, I made a simple graphic about this day of recognition. It was one of the top posts for the quarter, and it drove traffic to the client’s website – which is exactly what we want!

I’d recommend using this “can you explain it to a five-year-old” approach in other ways as well – even applying it to your own company. Explain in simplest terms – who are we, what do we do, why do we do it, what is our mission, what makes us different? If you can explain this to a five-year-old, would your colleagues be able to do the same, and would your answers align? Sometimes, the best way to learn is to take a step back, see how well we break down complex (or not so complex) concepts and see how well we can put it all back together.

Another great presentation from Social Media Day came from Marissa Bruette, Content Strategist at Slice Communications, who underscored the “know thy clients” rule and the importance of investing the time to research their goods or services in order to distill information into simple, interesting marketing materials for them. For me, that seemed somewhat opposite of what I’m trying to do, which is create, create, create. But to create, we truly need to understand – and really understand. So while it may seem counterintuitive to our goal of creating content, listening and learning, first, is absolutely necessary if we want to develop material that is so impactful, effective, and engagingly clear that it can be grasped by targeted groups with childlike interest.

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