An Insider Look at Content Creation
with Ashley Winter
We sat down with Ashley Winter, CEL Content Marketing Coordinator, to discuss the ins and outs of content creation, digital marketing, and the ever-evolving world of PR. As an invaluable contributor behind successful content campaigns for a variety of clients, Ashley shares valuable insights on how to create compelling content. She offers practical tips and strategies for companies looking to elevate their brand presence and drive results.
What is Content Marketing?
When you need a strategic marketing approach that attracts and retains your audience that compels and drives action, “It’s all about interpretation and understanding,” says Ashley. “Everybody has a story to tell, everybody has a voice. I hear many people say ‘I’m not doing anything special’ but everybody has a passion and a purpose. We want to understand the heart of their story.”
“We try to be authentic in our communications,” says Ashley when talking about capturing the different voices of different leaders and organizations we support. “We know what’s effective, what works, and how to write. We share strategies and tactics to help our clients explore their own personal and organizational communications strategies. But we’re a partner and the key is making sure our client’s authentic voice comes through. Our goal is to elevate and strategize, not take over.”
Part of strategizing means ensuring communications are effective. The sheer volume of information coming from your organization can be overwhelming to your audience. “There are times when a client will say, ‘Here are the 15 different things we’re doing, but people say we still don’t communicate enough!’ It can be really difficult to find out that the strategy you’ve been using isn’t cutting it. People are ignoring your words because it’s too much overload.”
The key to successful content marketing can take many forms:
- blog posts
- social media posts
- white papers
Content should be designed to inform, educate, or entertain your audience. Creating a healthy balance of information and connection, without overwhelming, means understanding your audience.
Understanding Your Audience
An essential element of any strategy is understanding your audience. “We go out and meet community members. We do focus groups and surveys,” Ashley tells us, “because many organizations make the mistake of assuming they know their audience, without taking the time to truly understand their needs, preferences, and behaviors.”
For more than 35 years CEL has partnered with schools. “Many of us worked in schools before we came to CEL and having that firsthand knowledge is helpful. There is power in having worked with schools and understanding that experience.”
Ashley also has a 5-year-old son and tells us “As a parent, I have learned things that surprised me. I get parent communications now and realize how often and in how many ways schools communicate!”
“I’ll just give you a recent story. My husband called me yesterday and said, ‘Hey, you mentioned that our son has upcoming parent-teacher conferences. What day is that?’ And I searched through probably 20 school emails from different senders, I looked at the website, I checked the newsletter from our teacher, but I couldn’t find the information, I have no idea where I saw that. I later found it on a printed piece of paper they sent home, which I stuck on the fridge and promptly forgot about.”
What’s the takeaway? “We need to be aware of how people consume information,” Ashley reminds us. “Sharing information is good, but if your audience doesn’t know where to find it when they need it, it becomes meaningless.” A deeper understanding of your audience can guide your strategy allowing you to focus on the technicalities of your content to help you stand out in the crowded digital landscape.
Incorporate the Technical Aspects
There’s more to writing content for your community than putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as is more likely). “Before you begin a piece, have a goal in mind,” Ashley explains. “If I’m writing a blog for the web, it’s going to be very different from a printed postcard.”
Making content simple for a busy and diverse community means simplifying key messages. “I’m naturally wordy. So, I focus on the audience. Cut down on word count. Make sure I’m not using idioms that translate poorly. Focus on equity by making sure our words can be translated and understood. Write at an easy reading level to make it easy for our audience, paying attention to readability scores.”
Beyond easy-to-understand content, break up content into distinct sections to guide the reader through your content. And follow best practices for sharing on social media and optimizing for SEO.
Creating marketing content is as much science as it is art. “I am both a creative writer and a technical writer at heart,” says Ashley. “I do love data and analytics. I love to look at dashboards and understand who is using our work, and what’s the impact? What’s the reach? What’s the engagement? How can it be more effective?”
What is something you have learned from your 5-year-old son?
It’s often said that children are our greatest teachers. Ashley reminds us of the many lessons to be learned from our children. “My son teaches me every single day to appreciate the smallest things, things that I would never have noticed on my own. The other day we drove home, and he made me stop to look at the clouds because they were amazing. He has this sort of wonder and excitement about the small things that sort of brings me back down to earth.”
Children can help us see the world in a different light. They possess a unique ability to find joy and excitement in the smallest things, which can be an invaluable lesson for adults to learn.
“My favorite story is when we took my son to the zoo when he was about 2 ½ years old. He got to feed a giraffe, which is a pretty cool thing to do. He held the lettuce and the giraffe leaned down and ate the lettuce right out of his hand! That kid didn’t even crack a smile. But then we walked into the part of the zoo with all of the plants. He lost his mind. He saw a fern with leaves that were bigger than him, and he thought, that’s the best thing he’s ever seen. We spent an hour looking at every single plant. He would see a flower, and it just blew his mind. There is wonder and amazement and beauty in everything, and it is so fun to watch him explore. It reminds me to be open because there’s something amazing to see in everything if you just let yourself see it.”
Want to learn more about how Ashley can help shape your content to market to your audiences, or to hear more hilarious stories about her son? Give her a shout to have a virtual cup of coffee!
Published on: April 17, 2023