Estimated read time: 3 minutes
I create outlines for my content of all different types but how formal or informal they are can vary. Having an outline can help us make our content better, structure it more efficiently and make it easier to consume for our audience.
Let’s get started with the basics.
What is an outline for content?
At the most basic level, it gives you an overview of what the content is about and will include. It’s created before diving into the actual full-fledge content creation. It doesn’t dive into all the details that will actually be included in the final piece. Think bullet points – not sentences.
For example, an outline could look like this:
- Main headline – what’s the over arching topic?
- Intro – what main points will be made here?
- Section 1 – here are the main points that will be discussed here.
- Section 2 – another topic… and more sections as necessary
- Conclusion– I actually see a lot of content creators overlook this. Make conclusions count add more value.
When to use an outline?
I think most content deserves some type of outline. But it doesn’t always have to be super formal. And sometimes depending on how long it is we might just have an outline in our heads and move sections around as we work on the content.
But it’s useful to have an idea of what needs to be included and in what order before starting:
- the actual writing
Outlines can be used for these very different content types. I create outlines for my podcast interviews all the time. Usually, in the forms of questions I will ask my guests.
Outline for content examples
The casual one
In my days as a journalist, it was not uncommon that reporters would step away quickly and make an outline mentally for the content they’re about to write. They know what information they have available and now they just have to put it in a sequence and a story that was worth consuming.
The scratch paper scribble
I do keyword research and often scribble down questions that I think I should be answering in the content. This works well for me because writing things down with a pen also helps us remember them easier. And the questions remain in front of me on my desk and are not hiding in one of my many open tabs.
Read next: How long does it take to write a blog post?
The Google Drive or Microsoft Word outline
Some content creators prefer to create their outline in Google Drive, Microsoft Word, or a similar program.
Those programs work well because you can easily move sections around and collaborate with others.
The in-CMS outline
I create my blog posts on here directly in the WordPress platform. There’s no copying and pasting. I just find easier to create it in one place. If you follow that model, it is quite advantageous of just creating the outline in the WordPress blog post where you will then be filling in the gaps and creating the content.
The super formal outline
I’ve actually worked with teams where the outline approval process is quite extensive. In those cases, somebody reviews and approves the outline. I’m not a super big fan of that model but in some industries it’s necessary because of regulations, for example.
In that case, make sure you use the right format and process to still be efficient.
Outlines as a collaboration tool
Outlines can also be used as a collaboration tool. For example, you can use them to brainstorm and add additional content ideas that you may not have thought of on your own.
Read next: How to be creative [includes podcasts]
In general, outlines can help us answer the questions that matter and can make our content better. And better content has a better chance to perform.