Laura Petrolino

Content Creation Through Excavation

By: Laura Petrolino | May 23, 2016 | 
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Content Creation through ExcavationBy Laura Petrolino

We all know the drill: Content creation is the foundation to a successful communication strategy.

In our digital marketing world, content is the alpha and omega.

Whether creating (owned media) or distributing (earned, shared, paid media), it’s all content, content, content.

Frequently, the biggest struggle organizations have when it comes to tapping into the power of content, is the content itself.

They look at the task of content creation and their eyes glaze over—in both panic and overwhelm.

How many times have you had a client say, “We don’t have anything interesting to talk about.” Or, “We don’t have any stories to tell.” Or, “Content creation is too big of a task for us to take on.”

This can be frustrating.

While communications pros understand the value of content and it’s a part of what we do daily, imagine if suddenly someone told us to add a completely new task and skill to our already overly busy schedule.

Plus, as any writer knows, often the hardest part of content creation is thinking about the topic.

Long story short—should the roles be reversed—we’d probably panic a bit, too.

Content Excavation vs. Content Creation

This is why, when working with clients, we frame the content creation process as content excavation.

When you excavate, you uncover something that already exists, vs. create something from scratch. Excavation is much easier than creation—and when it comes to digital marketing, much more powerful in many ways.

When you flip through the Spin Sucks workbook you see a large section is devoted to company storytelling.

In both Spin Sucks (the book) and this accompanying workbook, Gini Dietrich walks you through the story excavation process.

We walk every client through the same process, digging deeper as things unfold and create a large working list content that can be used across all media types.

The Content Excavation Process

Follow these steps to excavate content for yourself or your clients:

  1. As explained in Spin Sucks and workbook, excavate through company storytelling. This includes customer stories, employee stories, and founder stories. Remember these don’t always have to be strictly product or service specific. This is sometimes where clients get trapped. They try to confine it to a narrow storyline. Any reader of fiction knows best stories circle around a central theme, but are rich and varied.
  2. Many of our clients find the best results come from the personal stories that bring a human face to who they are and what drives them to do what they do. Because being human always wins. The end.
  3. Look at the content already created. This might be PowerPoint presentations, collateral materials, or emails sent to customers. All companies have content that just might needs some tweaking in one way or another to put it in a form that works for your goals.
  4. Look at customer touch points. Customers tell your story better than anyone. Look at all (ALL) of your customer or vendor touch points and find the stories there. These might be questions, myths, areas of confusion or surprise. The will take many forms, but all customer touchpoint WILL be rich with stories.
  5. Excavate industry stories. Look at the wider industry and the stories taking place there. They tell you the discussions already being had, which you can use for relevant content creation.

Content Excavation Creates Community

Often when an organization only focuses on content creation—instead of content excavation—they end up with content that’s disconnected from their target audience.

This is particularly true in the beginning, prior to finding their voice.

Content excavation prevents that because it connects people immediately through threads of stories. It’s much easier to pull someone along a journey which they already have some part in—or connection to—than it is to introduce a new path to them.

So put on your hard hat, jump in your bulldozer, pull out the shovel, and start your content excavation.

The best content “creation” will always come from the stories that already exist—and you might a dinosaur or discover a few new species along that way.

image credit: pixabay

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.