Go Frack Yourself for Content

I may have a right to call myself a storyteller in business terms. I've written a mountain of blogs, white papers, brochures and ads, as well as producing them in some online, interactive, video or print form. That seldom means a one-man effort.

I've encountered a lot of peers in my time who are brilliant developers, wickedly effective field engineers, or very creative designers, but for some reason they don't seem to think they are able to write or create useful content. Maybe they don't think they are good writers -- or maybe they don't think they have the time -- but get them in front of customers or a team of peers and they sound quite passionate and articulate.

Realize that every time we talk to a customer to offer a solution, or talk to a peer to solve a problem, we're all actually generating great content that could be "fracked" and captured.

If you know me, you know I'm not a huge fan of actual fracking, or the environmental impacts resulting from pumping chemicals into the earth (seen the Gasland documentaries anyone?). But I do think the metaphor applies quite nicely for getting story angles from subject matter experts who are reluctant to make material we can publish and use for content marketing purposes.

Finding time to go into your cave, perhaps sniff a brandy and write a well-worded piece, while managing customers/projects/budgets at the same time seems impossible. To resolve this, an expert might try passing on the task to a writer, but that won't solve the ongoing content crisis if the writer is left to their own devices to figure out what your real conversations are like.

I'm constantly trying to get experts to self-contribute something to the process. More often than not, I have to corner them and "frack" that wisdom out of them. Don't worry, it's not as painful as it sounds. In fact, we're just having the same real-world conversation you would have in a client visit or project meeting. If a writer like me is forced to do this on his own, it may take a while before the content meets your need if there's no spirit of collaboration going on.

Content fracking is not a big-bang one-time event. Like software development, it is far more agile and likely to be effective if you do it on an iterative, ongoing basis. The temptation to say everything perfectly, and cover a 360-degree view of your business is the primary reason why companies fail to publish interesting messages on a regular basis. It's far more plausible and interesting if your messages tell a smaller piece of a bitter story that evolves over time.

So even if you're not a content-oriented professional accustomed to writing, let me encourage you to at least capture your thoughts and conversations. For instance, try keeping a running log of any conversation topics of the day, and categorize them later. Or carry a voice recorder around and articulate what you are working on, or post-mortem the task you just finished. Even if the stories you frack out of yourself aren't ready for prime time and require plenty of wordsmithing down the road, they're a perfect start.