Do this before you start a content series

We recently had a call with a prospective client who wanted to engage our services.

They wanted help with researching audiences, developing some show concepts for audio and video, and then launching the content series, but they weren’t sure if they should engage us…

  1. Now as they begin to kick off the show
  2. Or when the show has been in the market for a while and they’ve collected feedback to then invest in making the show professionally

Their latter consideration takes an iterative approach, which is great. It’s not putting too much weight on the kickoff (a lot of people make that mistake). It’s saying, “Let’s put something out now, and then we’ll make it better over time.” That’s a great idea, BUT…

There are a few preliminary steps.

They’re not overwhelming. You don’t have to spend a bunch of time, money, or effort to do them but—with us or without us—in general, if you’re going to launch a content series of any kind, you need to go through at least five skeleton steps.

#1 — Write value proposition for series

The first thing you must do before you even start testing the waters is write a value proposition, and I know you’re already saying, “That’s so dumb. It has nothing to do with my content. It’s just a waste of time. That’s a consultant’s speech.” It’s not.

One concise sentence (a couple, at most) that explains what you’re going to provide through this content series is going to…

  1. Effectively communicate that value to your customer
  2. Give you a target internally as to why you’re making this show and a North Star that you can point back to to say, “Is this piece of content actually delivering on what we said our value proposition is?”

A value proposition is absolutely critical. You can believe it or not, but we cannot emphasize that enough.

We did not have a value proposition for The Startup Show four years ago and that is a big reason why that podcast fell off after a certain period of time. We had a lot of attention, it wasn’t about that. We had a lot of interest, it wasn’t that. We weren’t clear as to the big why.

#2 — Establish messaging for the brand

Again, this sounds a little theoretical, like a lot of effort, but if you need to know the who, what, why, when, and how of what you’re going to say.

  • How are you going to say it?
  • Why are you saying it?
  • When are you going to say it?

Answering those questions can be as simple as writing them out on the back of a napkin. It can be as complex as going through an entire branding exercise and having a brand look/feel, a lookbook, or a style guide, but you don’t have to do those.

At the very least, answer the basic questions that define the message that your content series is going to tell and that your brand is going to tell.

#3 — Brainstorm and present “show concepts”

These are the big ideas, how the show relates to the audience internally and what platforms they should be executed on. There are a million different ways that you could actually distribute, but…

  • What is the show concept at its core?
  • How does it relate to the audience?
  • What is the creative way in?
  • How would you distribute it?

Those are the key components you need to figure out because that’s going to determine the creative wrapper around how the show gets distributed and communicated.

Again, if you don’t have a concise and congealed show concept, it’s difficult for the audience to be able to attach, sink their teeth in, and come back on a regular basis. That’s super important.

#4 — Talk to your customer and get feedback

From there, you need to go talk to your audience:

  • “Here’s our concept.”
  • “Here’s what we think.”
  • “Here’s our value proposition.”
  • “What do you think?”
  • “Is this actually relevant to you?”
  • “Does this actually solve your problems?”

Get them to give feedback on if they like what you’re talking about and if they agree that that is a problem. If they don’t agree, why don’t they agree? Is there a different problem?

That’s not to say that you listened to them 1,000,000%.

“Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

-Steve Jobs

There is some of that creative development that needs to happen, but it is super important to at least validate that you’re in the right ballpark, that you’re talking about things that matter to your customer or audience.

#5 — Collaborate with your team, refine, finalize the show concepts

This doesn’t need to take a ton of time or money or effort, but at least go through this thought exercise over—at the very minimum, the shortest timeframe—10 days to two weeks.

Go through this with your team or, if you’re a solo founder, maybe with some friends. Then consult people who are in your prospective audience.

At least verify that what you believe to be the problem and potential solution are actually the problem and the solution through your content.

Iterative approaches are great. Getting dirty and figuring things out on the fly can be amazing, BUT these are the five things you absolutely must do before you start a content series.