creative content marketing

about

Do you need help creating content?

Do you have a content brief you need someone to respond to? Do you want to improve the output of your content team?

If so, we should talk.

You see, 5 years ago…

I knew nothing about making content

For example, here’s a short snippet of the first thing I ever made:

Screenshot 2016-03-16 22.34.21

It makes my stomach turn just looking at it. Seriously. I daren’t even show you the whole thing. It’s too much.

It got 5 Facebook likes and 1 link.

You see? I wasn’t lying before. I KNEW NOTHING!!! Nada. Squat. Zero.

The only thing I knew was that the content we were making was bad, the clients weren’t happy, and nobody was having any fun.

something had to give

I decided to learn more about making shareable content. I focussed on infographics and data visualisation initially – immersing myself in that field, and absorbing all the information I could.

While I was desperately scrambling around, trying to find a process for visualising data, I had an idea – a quirky little metaphor that clarified the difference between data and information. This turned out to be…

my first taste of success

data cake: 40,000 visits and 1,200 likes

data-cake-04

This was the first successful piece of content I ever made. It even ended up in an MIT text book, strangely.

But pet projects aside, I needed to make content that worked for our clients.

Thankfully, our first big hit wasn’t too far away.

In October 2011, we launched the Evolution of Dance Music – an animated infographic mapping out the history of electronic music – from its roots in blues and jazz, right through to house, hip hop, techno and beyond.

this changed everything

the evolution of dance music: 2,000,000 visits and 155,000 likes

Thomson Dance Music 4

This was the first piece of content the company had ever made that was covered by top tier publications – Wired, Fast Company, The New Yorker, and more. We were literally running round the office high-fiving each other.

but there was a long way to go

I was working as an SEO consultant at the time. But I was quickly becoming the go-to guy in the company for content-related questions; the other consultants, the designer, the developer, the data scientist – my inbox was flooded with requests.

And this wasn’t even my job!

But it got me thinking… maybe it should be.

I forwarded all the emails to the company’s founders, and I made my pitch. I wanted Distilled to start a creative team, and I wanted to be the one to do it. After a bit of persuasion, the bosses agreed. And we were off.

building the team

We started the team in November 2011. At that time, there were 4 of us – a designer, a data scientist, a developer, and me. By May 2014, there were 10 of us (only 9 in shot below). And at its peak, in late 2015, there were 16.

Screenshot 2016-03-17 01.41.42

Having started out with infographics, we slowly broadened our horizons – making a collection of web apps and tools, interactive graphics, animated graphics, photo stories, quizzes, and games – many of which went viral.

web apps and tools

the career aptitude test: 897,000 visits and 3,300 likes

Screenshot 2016-02-24 17.33.29

interactive infographics

creative routines: 863,000 visits and 40,000 likes

Podio Daily Routines 4

Podio Daily Routines 1

animated infographics

photos of instagram: 173,000 visits and 5,100 likes

Photoworld Photos on the Web 1

quizzes

the grammar quiz: 65,000 visits and 4,400 likes

Staples Grammar Quiz 2

games

the emergency stop game: 4,700,000 visits and 411,000 likes

Just Park Reaction Game 4

speaking about content creation

When I first started working at Distilled, I had the opportunity to speak at conferences. But I didn’t want to step on stage and talk about things I only knew about in theory. I maintained I would only get on stage when I could stand up and point to the successful things I’d done.

Well, that day came. And my boss called me on it.

It was time to step up.

I spent weeks and weeks analysing our successes and failures, trying to figure out what we did when things went well. And how I could pass that on to others.

the presentation went viral

Screenshot 2016-03-16 21.18.55

The slide deck from my presentation at SearchLove Boston went viral. It hit the front page of SlideShare, and received over 1.5 million views, making it the most viewed deck in the history of Distilled’s conferences.

this was a breakthrough

The thinking I put into the presentation helped clarify the creative process for me and my team. This allowed us to:

  • Develop a shared process for generating and assessing ideas
  • Create a shared language for discussing ideas
  • Assess which ideas were likely to work, and what they might still be missing
  • Turn half-baked ideas into fully-formed ones
  • Teach others in the team how to ideate (way beyond traditional brainstorming)
  • Help the team think more critically about their ideas
  • Make the creative process more defined, and stop waiting for lightning to strike

improving the creative process

I continued to analyse and develop our processes constantly. And over the course of 4 years, I transformed the agency’s creative output – improving the quality of the work, increasing the results, and growing the team.

Our work won awards. And the company went from making lacklustre infographics to producing some of the best content in the SEO industry. We built a reputation for creating viral content, and clients started coming to Distilled solely for that purpose.

It was a great period in my life. And one I’m extremely proud of.

But now on to the next chapter…

helping teams make better content

Having built a successful creative team from scratch – with no background in creative whatsoever – I really have learned this the hard way. If there’s a wrong way to do things, I’ve done it. I’ve made tonnes of mistakes, and I’ve got the battle scars and war stories to prove it.

I’ve also created processes and methodologies to help avoid the most common mistakes, to give your content the best chance of success.

I’ve built a portfolio of content that’s received over 14,000 links, 1.4 million likes, and 18 million visits.

And I’ve developed the ability to boil the creative process down into clear actionable advice.

so how can I help?

What are your frustrations when it comes to creating content? Is there something I can help you with?

If you’d like help creating content, or improving the creative output of your team, we should talk.

Email me at:

mark@markjohnstone.co