Q&A: How do you decide what to write?

Q&A: How do you decide what to write?

Given that we’ve invested so heavily in content over the years, we’re often asked about what this looks like day-to-day.

This week, we were asked:

How do you decide what gets published and what doesn’t? And where do these ideas come from?

Firstly, start with your high level editorial policy – who are you targeting, with what kind of content, how often will you publish, etc. A really common mistake I see startups making is simply writing articles that attract a lot of readers with no clear sense of whether that audience is a fit for their product. Or if they are potential customers, whether the content they are creating will make them more likely to buy it over a competitor’s.

Your product and the problem it is trying to solve should be at the core of your content strategy.

It’s a great ego boost to get on the front page of Hacker News, included in Medium’s Daily Digest or retweeted by your favourite startup guru with 100k followers, but will it move the needle for your business?

Consider publishing evergreen content rather than trying to hijack traffic from current events or news. For much the same effort, an article on your favourite product management tools will pay off better than your take on Apple’s latest event, even if the latter gets more traffic on day one. Tomasz Tunguz has run the numbers that prove this.

Your product and the problem it is trying to solve should be at the core of your content strategy. That doesn’t mean you just write about you and your product. To be brutally honest, no one cares about you or your product when you’re starting out. But they do care about how you can make their life better, help them impress their boss, take some drudgery out of their working day or whatever.

It’s branding 101 but the promise of your content needs to be delivered by your product. You do that by viewing the world through the lens of your product. So we don’t write posts about how to send auto messages with Intercom (although our product education team do a great job of that in our help center). But we do talk about 5 simple messages to engage your customers – it’s informed by our core product philosophy and any reader can get value out of it, regardless of the messaging product they use.

So on a day-to-day basis how do you come up with article ideas? Here are five actionable tips for any business.

1. Recycle content

Your blog or podcast is not something that sits in its own silo. Research, conference talks, emails to your team – these are just a few examples of “content” you are already creating that can be repurposed for public consumption.

2. Expose your data

If you have a product that people are using you’ve potentially got a deep well of stories to draw from. If you’re unsure what that might look like, read the Priceonomics Content Marketing Handbook. They’ve mastered the art of data-driven stories.

3. Share your work

The emphasis here is on sharing, not boasting about, your work. What have you learned or done that will help potential customers do their jobs better or quicker?

4. Move the conversation on

Be aware of what people are writing and reading about in your sector and add something to the debate. Don’t waste your potential customers’ time by simply rehashing old arguments. Remember the idea is to produce something evergreen that has value for longer than a week.

5. Read widely

While we love Hacker News (really, we do) you’ll get fewer ideas for quality content if you only read about the tech and startup world. We’ve found as much inspiration in the writings of advertising guru David Ogilvy as we have in Paul Graham’s startup essays.