Two major things happened last year that changed the way I plan and create content. First, Fleet Equipment, a long-standing B2B print publication serving the heavy-duty trucking market, retired its print publication and went all-in on digital (websites, newsletters, video). Second, I bought a rowing machine.
Clearly the first makes sense, but there are striking similarities in setting and achieving goals in both boosting Fleet Equipment’s website traffic by 42% to deliver more than 1.3 million pageviews in 2021 and rowing more than 1 million meters. Since January is the official season to make lofty, wide-eyed resolutions about how we’ll better ourselves in the new year, come along on a look back at how I set content goals and made big gains last year and a look at what goals come next.
Get ready to get consistent
Whether you’re mapping out your content plan or your workout goals, you have to have a “big picture” goal in mind. In my case, I wanted to row 1 million meters last year. It gave me my starting point. There are 52 weeks in a year–put that up against 1 million meters and it’s roughly 19,300 meters a week–that was my baseline.
Baseline in content will be determined by your own marketing strategy. Fleet Equipment’s focus is always on our exclusive content–the stories, videos, podcasts and other creations you can only find at www.FleetEquipmentMag.com. Because we upped our newsletter sends to seven email newsletters that needed to lead with exclusive content that meant that we needed one exclusive piece of content per day. (Props to Senior Editor David Sickels for pointing that out early on.)
With those baseline goals, we have tasks that are approachable. It’s not a nebulous conversation about “how much content?” or “more content”. It’s a starting point, but it’s important to keep in mind that the tactics you use to achieve the goal are going to change. And the first thing that will need to change is…
You have to get over yourself
I have a love/hate relationship with my rowing machine. For my money, it’s the best full-body workout that you can get done quickly. On the other hand, it does not care how you feel. It doesn’t care if you’re tired. It doesn’t care if you’re sore. It doesn’t care if you “don’t feel like it,” and you say it aloud in a whiney voice. The only way to start racking up the meters is to sit down and start rowing.
It’s just like creating content.
Those of us that are made for content creation know the exciting adrenaline rush that happens when we hit on a fun, engaging story angle. (It’s happening to me right now!) We’re also the best at hemming and hawing and doing everything we can other than sitting down and getting started. (I waited three days to write this story!)
It doesn’t help that there’s a stigma around content creation that it’s some sort of magical process where a heavenly muse descends from the Great Beyond of Content Ideas and bestows upon the creator the idea in its perfect form, and that perfect thing flows from the creator’s hands and into the tactile tapping of a keyboard. It’s the stuff of movie montages. It’s also bullshit. The only thing you actually need to do is get to work. Writing, like rowing, never gets easier. You just get better at doing it.
If you’re the type of person that likes to turn to fun quotes to help inspire you, here’s a favorite of mine from W. Somerset Maugham:
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
Time to get to work.
Watch your pace to avoid burnout
I don’t subscribe to writer’s block, but I do subscribe to burnout. The feeling of falling off the rower’s seat because your muscles just gave up and you’re about to empty your stomach on your bedroom floor is also pretty close to the feeling of going all out on content creation.
Sometimes it’s good to go all out–you have to push yourself and it’s fun to flex the content creation muscles and set new personal records for content created in a day, content length, etc. But it’s not sustainable day to day. Remember, we’re playing the long game here. A million meters aren’t rowed in a day or a month or a week. I chipped away at it over time. The “marathon not a sprint” cliche applies here.
So, pace yourself and manage your content accordingly. For example, if I have more than seven exclusive content pieces in a week and I don’t have to post them that week, I hold on to them. The benefit of stepping up your pace is you’re ahead of the game and can afford a relative rest day to take care of other business (that is constant and just as time-consuming when working in the corporate world). Always hit your baseline goal, but step it up when you can and take your content creation rest days when you need them.
It also helps to change up your content creation form. Internet posts count, video scripts count, social posts count. Anything you create can count. Write a long story, write a couple of quick hit stories, or take a swing at writing for your company’s blog just to take a break from writing about trucks, for example.
The important thing is that you always meet your baseline goal. How you do it is up to you.
Here’s to the next million meters, pageviews
Here’s the fun part! While I get to wax intellectual about all this, the reality is I’m sitting in the same row boat as you. The amount of content you can create or the number of meters you can row is infinite. Every day it comes back to sitting down and getting started. It helps if you have a team that you can bounce ideas off and work with to make your content better.
The other thing that helps me is data. Every morning I hop on Google Analytics to see what content our audience is engaging with. The “I created that thing someone is enjoying and finds valuable!” feeling never fades. It’s the endless validation loop that creatives crave. It keeps me motivated to see if I can score a higher pageview count tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.
This works for workouts too:
This year I’m aiming for another million meters and better PRs in the 2,000-, 5,000- and 10,000-meter categories. When it comes to content creation, FE’s next act will evolve into broadcast-level content that covers the industry. Below is an example of how we’re starting, check back next year to see where we went.