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Any good content starts with suitable source materials. The content, after all, has to come from somewhere – especially since an excellent corporate content strategy shouldn’t be an art of fiction writing and should be based on fact and relevancy.
So how do we go about getting functional source materials, and what are source materials anyway?
What are source materials in content strategy?
Source materials can come in various ways in our content creation process. That can include:
- Interviews with subject matter experts
- Podcast/livestream interviews that are turned into other content assets
- Written existing documents and marketing materials
- Other expert articles
- Quotes are gathered from outside experts through services like Help a Reporter Out.
- Consumer studies
- Social media comments
- The writer’s own experience
So those are at least eight examples of where we can get the content for our article or other content assets. For instance, I’m writing this article mostly on my own experience in the content marketing industry. So I’m my source material.
But in reality, in many industries with content teams – even experienced content teams – those teams need to reach outside their knowledge to get the foundation of what they are going to cover. And that means they usually have to find existing content in a company or talk to experts. So I still highly recommend not to use Google for source materials and respin what’s already out there.
How to use source materials for good content?
Before we even go looking for the material, I usually start with the strategy:
- What content do we need to cover next and why? That can include a keyword strategy, relationship building in the form of inviting specific people on my podcast, or editorial decisions to keep topics on my podcast unique.
- Are there topics we can discuss that are unique? What do we have to say that isn’t just parroting what everyone else is saying?
From there, identify what can be used going forward:
- Do we already have whitepapers or other content on the topic that we can repurpose?
- Are there existing marketing materials that haven’t been used digitally yet or not in this format?
- Who are the internal experts to talk about the topic?
- Which external experts might be good to talk to?
- What questions do we have about the topic?
What source materials are the best for unique content?
I find interviews with experts the best way to get unique content. That’s even the case if they have written about related topics before.
When content strategists interview experts, they can bring specific questions to shape a unique story. And depending on the level of questions, you may get slightly different answers or responses that go deeper or touch on different angles from previously published content.
Why do some teams struggle to get suitable source materials?
There are still plenty of content creators out there who have to follow this model, unfortunately:
- Somebody decides content is needed on a specific topic
- “Please go write it.”
- No interviews are allowed.
- And then they complain that it’s not unique enough or maybe even wrong.
I actually had an executive tell me before about an agency that ghostwrote an article for him. He read it and said: “It’s all wrong. I don’t know where they even got this.”
“When did you talk to them?”
Well, that’s the problem right there. How can they write up your thoughts, especially when it’s thought leadership if they aren’t talking to you? It’s close to impossible. Some writers who have worked with an executive over time (likely years) might be able to pull it off. But the writer on their first project or hired for one article likely can’t without that interview.
Creating useful and impactful content can happen for companies, but it does start with a good strategy, and the right team and that team needs to be given access to the best source materials to set that content up to succeed.