Do you dream of something intriguing, spicy and with just enough of an edge to keep you interested? Do you wish you could find something that got better and better and kept you coming back for more?
I can tell you right now, you need a hot mess! We’re talking about creating great content – and cooking collard greens!
Bring on The Greens
Here in the Southern United States, collard greens season is during the winter after the first frost. When I grew up, we’d sit in the kitchen with newspapers covering the floor to strip down a bushel sack of fresh greens. That’s a sack about the size of a big yard bag you put leaves in. Collard greens are a flat, leafy vegetable like kale and spring greens. You can call it couve, kovi, berza … it’s eaten all over the world and, friends and neighbors, it is good stuff. Cooking collards is a process, and it takes some attention, discipline and patience – just like creating great content. So let’s cook up a batch of both.
You Start with A Mess
It’s called cooking a “mess o’ greens.” A “mess” is a lot of something that doesn’t have much of a purpose until you make something out of it.
Content Recipe – With content, you start with a mess of ideas – the more the better. Some of them fit together, and others are just tangled up with all the rest.
The first thing you do to collards is strip them. You pull away the leaves and strip them of the parts that are hard to swallow. (That’s about 70% of what you started with!)
Content Recipe – Take a hard look at your content and you’ll see that often a good 70% is old news, opinion, biased or tied to hidden agendas. It’s just too hard for most people to swallow. So strip away anything the audience doesn’t need to understand and value immediately in order to do what you want them to do.
Wash Out the Dirt
Now you have a stripped mess that’s starting to have a direction. But before you do anything else with greens, you have to wash them about a dozen times to get all the dirt and grit off. If you don’t, they won’t feel right.
Content Recipe – Clean up your information and rinse away all the things the audience already knows or doesn’t need to know. If you don’t, they won’t like the way it feels, either.
Boil Them Down
Next, you boil them down. Slowly drop them into the pot, leaf by leaf, until they’re all stewing away. The more you boil them down, the smaller they get, and the better they taste.
Content Recipe – Cut all the extraneous words, data, concepts and terms away. Boil the content down to the least information people need and not one word more. If 95% of the audience doesn’t need some content, don’t give it to them. Focus on the majority and not the exceptions. Remember, the more you boil messages down, the better they taste and the easier they’ll be to swallow.
Spice It Up Last
I realize that if you are someone born in the some other part of the world and naive to the “ways of the collard,” you might be tempted to take out the greens and drain the liquid in the pot. That’s tantamount to defacing the Mona Lisa!
That amazing juice that surrounds the greens is called “potlikker.” All the best, the most flavorful and nutritious taste is concentrated right there. Without the potlikker, it’s a waste of time. Just before serving greens, you taste the potlikker and add some hot pepper sauce, vinegar – whatever pleases you. The point is you don’t spice up a pot of collard greens until you’ve boiled them down.
Content Recipe – It’s the same idea for your content. You don’t jump into creative, graphics and media until you’ve boiled down your messages to the ones that count. The ones that will get results. Wait until you have the communication equivalent of potlikker. Then select the best creative tools to communicate them.
Make a Hot Mess
So now you know how to “cook” the great content your audience is hungry for. All it requires is a little work and the patience to take things in order. I guess you might summarize the entire process this way: “Keep things simple.” It’s an idea endorsed by the famous Southern mathematician Albert Einstein, who said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Make your content fresh, tasty, simple and easy to swallow, and your audience will always come back for more.
Hey, this was fun. Now, for some reason, I’m hungry.
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