Agile content marketing development

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to crank out content faster and still have it be great quality? We often approach the development of content like software developers used to develop software, in a method called waterfall, or the software development lifecycle. This entailed a long, rigorous process in which you’d spec out requirements, do wireframing of the plan, get sign off, write code, send it out for QA testing, and ultimately ship a software product. The problem with waterfall methods is that more often than not, because the project took a long time, by the time the software shipped, it was either out of date or not what the users wanted.

This might sound a lot like your content marketing process, especially for long-form content like webinars and eBooks. By the time 6 or 12 months have gone by and you’ve written the book, it’s out of date, or it’s not at all what you originally set out to do – and your audience doesn’t want it.

So how do you fix this problem? If you’re not familiar with the agile software development process, it’s a response to waterfall methods that software developers came up with in 2001. In agile development, you have a backlog of feature requests, with two week rapid work cycles in which you do daily quick meetings to check in on the project, iterate, and adapt.

Inside of those two week cycles, code is written that can be deployed (or at least checked in) and products iterate rapidly, often adjusting throughout the development process to changing needs. QA is done in tandem with writing code so that there’s continuous quality checking, rather than letting bugs build up and ultimately create a massive QA hairball at the end of the process. The ultimate goal is to develop software that delivers what the user wants in a timely fashion.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Content marketers strive for the same thing. So how might we adapt this methodology to content marketing? Take an eBook you’re going to write. In the backlog, you’d dump all of the ideas and potential topics that your eBook would cover, every request, all of the stuff. You’d then look through the backlog, find the things that you could effectively write about in the next two weeks, and start writing.

Each day, you’d approach an idea iteratively, researching it, writing it, and editing/proofing in the same short cycle, and at the end of the two weeks, you’d review what you accomplished, what got left behind, and what you still want to work on. Those ideas that are still valid, you’d put back into the idea backlog, clean it up and remove things that were no longer topically relevant, and then select the next batch of ideas that you’re going to write about.

Agile development can easily be ported to other forms of content as well. Think about how you blog. Instead of one big project, you’d use the same methodology to keep blog ideas around, then select the ones you’re going to write about, crank them out in small, fast batches, edit, and at the end of the process you’d have a large pile of content ready to publish. Along the way, if something timely and topical came up, you could simply put it into the daily adjustments, bumping something out of your two week cycle, and still be able to create content at scale without losing too much quality.

The advantage of this sort of process is that you could work on 10 or 20 different posts and have them in varying states of completion, but not necessarily have to linearly write each one to completion before starting the next. You’d approach it more like software in that you’d write a little bit on several posts at a time until the end of the two week cycle, at which point you’d be ready to ship.

Evernote_Premium

This is the methodology that I use on this blog, on my personal blog, because it’s so effective at enabling you to create a large quantity of content quickly. Evernote is my backlog, where I store the ideas as they happen, and then I select the ideas I want to work on, read, write, and edit inside each idea, and ultimately “harvest” the ideas for publication.

Give the agile development process some thought and see if it would work for your content marketing efforts!


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Hidden analytics traps: percent change

Quick, take a look at this performance chart of percent change in your analytics:

Screenshot_11_3_14__6_38_AM

Now tell me, is the person responsible for this getting fired?

Obviously, based on the title of this post, you might be a little more cautious about how you answer that question – but the average manager, director, VP, or C-suite executive might not be.

Okay, second performance chart for you to take a look at:

Screenshot_11_3_14__6_43_AM

So, what do you think? Is the person in charge of revenue here getting fired or promoted?

If you’re a rational business leader, the up-and-to-the-right nature of this graph obviously says that the person in charge of it is doing a good job.

Now…

What_if_I_told_you_They_were_the_same_data__-_What_if_I_told_you___Matrix_Morpheus___Meme_Generator

This is the hidden danger of percentage change calculations. They’re useful for understanding how much something has grown, but they can be skewed significantly if you’re talking about big jumps relative to the size of the data. The difference between 1,000 and 1,001 is the same in absolute terms as the difference between 0 and 1, but the latter is an infinitely bigger jump.

This is why you need to look at absolute data whenever you’re looking at percentage change data. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about Twitter followers, lead generation, ROI, or company revenue – make this a standard rule to practice. If a vendor, supplier, subordinate, or peer comes to you with only percentage change data, ask them with vigor and confidence to also see the underlying data, otherwise you may be getting only part of the story (and likely the part of the story that makes them look good).


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The mobile video rig, 2014 edition

Electronics continue to get smaller and more portable every year. Recently, a few folks have asked what the video gear of choice is these days, especially for road warriors. Here’s my current gearing strategy – and bear in mind, this is subject to change, too!

First, this is what all of the gear looks like, arranged on a desk – you can see how easily it will fit in a backpack or bag.

IMG_1540

This is what it looks like, set up:

IMG_1542

Gear

Camera

Most smartphones these days take good enough video. Your iPhone 5s/6/6+ or Galaxy/HTC/Nexus will do the trick in normal or good lighting. What makes or breaks video with a smartphone is stability. You don’t get stability from holding the phone in your hand.

Stability

Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight Camera Tripod

For conferences, nothing beats a small table-top tripod. I use the Ultrapod; I’ve broken way too many Gorillapod tripods in my time to ever recommend one again. The Ultrapod is good enough, and has a velcro strap so you can always bind it to a pole or chair or something.

Norazza Monopod-lightweight TD140

For moving around, the Norazza TD140 monopod is my choice. Folded up, it’s a 14-inch monopod, which means it fits inside a roller bag with ease, and even in some backpacks. Most other monopods fold to 22 inches or 24 inches, which is a problem.

Professional Mini Ball Head Camera Mount

Almost every monopod will need a ball head if you don’t want to risk damaging the top eventually. A good ball head will also let you walk around with the monopod dangling loosely below it, which in turn allows the weight of the monopod to act as a stabilizer.

Square Jellyfish Smartphone Spring Tripod Mount for Smart Phones 2-1/4 - 3-5/8' Wide (Stand not Included)

For mounting your phone on these units, use a spring clamp. I like the Square Jellyfish, but nearly any will do as long as it doesn’t damage the case of your phone.

Audio

Ampridge MightyMic S iPhone Shotgun Video Microphone MMS

Because we’re using the smartphone as the recorder, you can use any mic accessories that are phone-compatible. I like this little shotgun mic from Ampridge that delivers decent sound, especially for interviews, and plugs right into the phone’s audio jack. Bonus: it’s super lightweight, so you can get decent audio without 20 pounds of mice and cables.

Power

AP® 15600mAh Power Bank Charger Universal External Powered Backup Porable Battery Pack Backup Travel Cell Phone Charger for Mobile Phone, iPhone, iPad, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, LG, BlackBerry, iPod,MP3,MP4,PSP,PDA

This right here is the bane of smartphone video: running out of battery power. Video consumes an inordinate amount of battery, so having an external battery pack is essential – and ideally more than one. A big power bank will let you record all day and only need to sync with a laptop when you have to offload data, not because you run out of juice.

Software

I’m on a Mac, so I use iMovie.

Adobe Creative Cloud

If you’re looking for something a little more robust, you can rent Adobe Creative Cloud for $50/month and get Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Audition to bring some heavier horsepower to your video work.

Process

Great video requires great audio. Use the gear above along with the leveling process I described in this post on how to get iMovie and Levitator to work together. If you’re using Adobe’s suite, you can do the same by roundtripping the audio from Premiere Pro to Audition and back.

Output

Here’s a video I shot with this exact setup at the MarketingProfs B2B forum:

This is the Tufts Beelzebubs at the conference opener, shot from tabletop.

I hope this helps aspiring videographer road warriors streamline some of the gear you’re carrying while not sacrificing a great deal in the quality department! Unsurprisingly, all of the products mentioned here are Amazon affiliate links.


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