#47: Content Creation for Your Online Business with Melanie Deziel

Content creation is a huge part of any online business' marketing strategy. But what is the right way to approach this and create the best content for your business?

Welcome to The Creator's Adventure where we interview creators from around the world, hearing their stories about growing a business.

Today we are talking with Melanie Deziel about content creation, copywriting and promoting a brand through informative content.

Melanie Deziel is a keynote speaker, award-winning branded content creator, and the author of two books. Melanie is also the Co-Founder of The Convoy and GroupUps: B2B marketplaces that help small businesses save money so they can invest more in themselves and their communities.

Melanie was the first editor of branded content at The New York Times, a founding member of HuffPost’s brand storytelling team, and served as Director of Creative Strategy for Time Inc.

Learn more about Melanie: http://storyfuel.co/


Bryan McAnulty: Welcome to The Creator's Adventure, where we interview Creator's from around the world, hearing their stories about growing a. Today, Melanie Deziel is going to show us what is the right approach when creating content for your business. Let's get into it.

Hey everyone. We're here today with Melanie Deziel. She is a keynote speaker, award-winning branded content creator and the author of two books. Melanie is also the co-founder of the Convoy and Group. B2B marketplaces that help small businesses save money so they can invest more in themselves and their communities.

Melanie was also the first editor of branded Content at the New York Times, a founding member of Huff Post's brand storytelling team, and served as Director of Creative Strategy for Time Inc. Melanie, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to, So my first question for you is I like to ask this to everyone now, and it is, what is, would, what would you say is the biggest thing that either that you did or you are doing that has helped you achieve the freedom to do what you enjoy?

Melanie Deziel: This is such a good question. I'm glad you asked it to everyone cause I bet you get so many amazing answers. I think for me the, the big thing is being open to new ideas, which may sound really vague, but what I mean is that most of the career changes that I've made or like, you know, moving from one company to another or launching a new product, were not necessarily things that I had planned very long in.

They were things that kind of came to me or the opportunity presented itself and being willing to say, okay, this wasn't part of my plan, but this does sound like it could be an interesting opportunity or a good fit. You know, kind of stretch my capabilities. So I think that kind of openness to deviate from whatever plan, you know, you may have had in the beginning kind of allowed me to uncover a lot of cool opportunities.

Bryan McAnulty: Cool. So you studied journalism. I see. You started your prov professional career as a journalist. Can you kind of walk us through that story and how you shifted your focus from like the investigative journalism more to like the branded content creation and marketing that you do now?

Melanie Deziel: Yeah. You know, it's so, it's so funny.

This is exactly the example of what I was talking about, about kind of being open to something you didn't plan. So I, I definitely wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be like the old school journalist, like uncovering corruption and like, you know, fighting for the little guy and like maybe wearing a fedora.

I don't know. Like that was the vision that I had. For my own career. And what I realized, you know, the timing was, was just not, not great for me. When I graduated school, I had received a very, like analog journalism education. You know, I was learning how to lay out physical pages of the newspaper. There was not a focus on social media or, you know, websites or, or any of that digital stuff.

You know, the academia hadn't caught up yet. So I went back to school and, and learned some more of those digital skills. But by the time that that I graduated and was really looking for a job newsrooms were going through that whole process of moving online. They were losing ad revenue because it's a, you know, you get far.

Less ad revenue online than you did in print. They were downsizing their teams to compensate. And so I found myself with this like, you know, whole arsenal of journalism skills and nowhere really to apply them there, there just weren't that many journalism jobs at that point in time. And so I was working with a recruiter who was, you know, trying to help me find a placement, and she was the one who said, you know, I have this job at HuffPost.

You know, it's not exactly journalism, it's kind of, you know, you're gonna make content. Different content, you know, kind of cagey, like, I'm not sure if you'll want to do this, but it might be similar enough. And I thought, you know what? At that point I was like, I'll take a job. So yes, please, whatever job you have.

I, I never envisioned that I would be in the branded content space that I would work in marketing or advertising. You know, I always sort of saw myself on almost. The opposite side of that, you know? And so it was an interesting transition, but it was, it was truly just like a situation of opportunity of like, we need someone on the business side who can create content.

And I was coming from a journalism background, that's what I was prepared to do. So I approached it a little differently than I think a lot of folks who would've come to that job through marketing. Or you know, business I was really coming at it purely from a journalistic perspective. And I used to joke that I was just doing journalism and, and hoping nobody found out.

Like I was really just doing the same thing I knew how to do. But it turned out that that was a really interesting, fresh perspective, you know, approaching it like a journalist would. And that, you know, wound up winning me. You know, a lot of, a lot of recognition, a lot of you know, lucky to win awards for some of the work that we did, but really just using those same skills.

So it was a career of opportunity, purely timing. And I don't know that I ever would've found myself there if it was purely based on my planning.

Bryan McAnulty: Interesting. So I, I think I understand, but can you give an example then of like how the journalism background impacted the branded content?

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, for sure.

So when you think of. Sponsored content, branded content advertising in general. You typically would imagine something that's, that's heavily branded. You know, lots of logos, big logos mentioning the brand. Many times the, the product is placed not so gracefully, somewhere in the frame of the video or the photo.

And, and the sole purpose of it typically is like, talk about the product, sell the product, convert the product. I took it slightly differently to say, well, what is it that the audience of this brand really cares about? And where is the brand's authority to talk about things in that category? So as an example, I did a lot of work with general Mills, the food company that, you know, they have like Cheerios and yo play and Progressive soups and, and lots of other brands.

One of the things we did for yo play is rather than just you know, squares and rectangles featuring nice pictures of yogurt, we actually did recipes where you could substitute yogurt in for something else. So instead of sour cream, or instead of mayonnaise or, you know, instead of Cool whip or something

So instead of just saying like, Hey, you should buy this product, it's like, here's a useful recipe. It happens to use yo play. But here's a useful recipe from us to you. Finding a way to sort of let the brand be a co-pilot instead of the sole pilot was really how I was trying to do it. And it wasn't, I wish I could tell you that it was some like genius marketing strategy.

It was purely like my own discomfort with like, I don't. , I, I only know how to write journalism, you know, I know how to do more objective content, so how do I, how do I do as best, as close as I can to that within these confines? And it was often asking the brand to take like a side step or a step back so that we could present something that had a little bit more standalone value than just purely promoting the product.

So, Another example of that when I moved over to the New York Times, same job, essentially. I was the first editor of branded content there, building out a team that was going to tell brand stories. So sponsored content on the New York Times website primarily digital. And, you know, we were working with Netflix.

Now Netflix was trying to promote season two of Oranges The New Black at the time, their show about women in prison. So, you know, , obviously, their goal at the end of the day is like, get more people to watch this. They worked with a number of other publishers. Let's see. The thing they did with buzzfeed, for example, was like 21 Reasons Prison might not be so bad.

And it was all gifts from the show or quotes from the show, right? So very branded, like the value is anchored and only you know, there with the brand at the core. What I proposed and what we ended up doing was, . We actually created an investigative piece about what it's like to be a woman in a prison in the US For real?

Mm-hmm. . So not actors, not plot lines, not the show. But we went into prisons, talked to former inmates, talked to prison reform advocates, and like did a massive in-depth investigative piece with video and photo and infographics. All about like the real experience of being a woman in prison. And at the end we have this like call to action.

It's more in the form of an ad that says like, if you want to see more of this and like learn more about some of these experiences, then you might enjoy, you know, this show. But the goal was really to say like, look, this is a show about women in prison, so let's show them that they care about women in prison and then they'll care about the show.

It was kind of, again, taking a step back not. Showing the characters. You know, we could have spliced into the documentary style video where we're interviewing current and former inmates, like spliced in clips from the show. But it just, it wouldn't have made sense and it would've felt inauthentic.

So that was really always my approach is like, how can the brand provide something of value that. Isn't solely the brand itself, right? Like, how can they, how can they take a look at their other area of expertise, the other value they can provide? Because when people come to the New York Times, like they're not looking for an ad for Netflix.

They're looking for deeply reported content on social issues that are timely where they can learn something. So like, that's what I wanted to present, right? Like, let's do something deeply reported on a timely issue and, and teach them something. And in doing, We managed to really break through the noise.

So that piece that we did for Netflix won a number of awards. The video won a a video award. The written piece won the best native ad execution award. That's, that's over my shoulder here. And. . You know, the other thing that was incredible for me, like the best part of it for me was that it was that piece, that sponsored content piece was in the top 2% of all the content onny times.com that year.

Oh, awesome. So a piece that was sponsored by a brand, like was really holding its own, you know, it was worthy of being read and shared and commented on and like it actually. It, it built some momentum in the same way that our editorial content did. Clearly labeled, clearly disclosed. There was no tricking anybody.

The page was very orange but you know, really just. To me that was a signal that like we created something our audience truly loves and we did that with a brand, you know?

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. And what year was that again? I don't know if you mentioned That was 2014. Hey, got it. Yeah, so I think, I don't, I don't know if you would agree with me, but I feel that more and more now, brands are starting to realize that this is the necessary way to create content.

and our team was thinking about it recently that the way that it works now with Google, I feel like as almost if, if, if the search results that you find in Google are not as good as they would've been even a few years back or back in 2014. Because nowadays everything is branded. Everybody who's in Google, like they're showing up there because they're trying to sell you something, and so you search for the answers or something.

You search to learn about something. You end up on this page and you say, oh man, this is what I'm getting. Somebody right there in your face trying to say, buy our thing. . And so the, the content that's valuable and the way you're going to not only provide the value to somebody, but but make them happy enough that they will actually consider your product is to, to put out that real value first and then have the brand Yeah.

In there, but not just in your face, Hey, buy our thing. .

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, a hundred percent. And what's really interesting is, you know, when back then in like the 20 13, 20 14 era when we were like pitching this kind of stuff, it really was like the first of its kind in that way. Like people were really used to exactly as you say, like straight up pitching.

You know, like instead of recipes, we would've done like five reasons you should buy your plate yogurt this week at the grocery store. Like it was extremely branded and wasn't providing a lot of non-branded value. And the data shows that people actually are okay with brand content, with content from a brand when it teaches them something and when it provides value.

So those are like the things like, can I learn from you and am I getting some other kind of value out of this? So that was always my goal. You know, we didn't have that research then I was just going on like my journalistic gut. But now we have the research that shows that, and it also shows. Believe it or not, content that does have some branding often performs better than content that has no branding, and it's a fine balance, right?

Generally they say one third to one half of the way through is where the brand can naturally have an integration. By that point, you've provided enough value that it's okay for them to be aware, but you haven't gotten so far into the piece that when they find out they will be, feel deceived, right?

Mm-hmm. , because if you're going through the whole thing you know, you spend 10 minutes reading an article and at the very end it's like, and if you wanna know the last secret, like schedule a demo, and you're like, dang it, like, they got me, they tricked me, they got me. You know? Yeah. So we don't, we don't wanna create that kind of feeling.

If you get partway through, so in that that Netflix piece example, by the way, so like, for example, about halfway through we talked to Piper Kerman who wrote the book, orange is the New Black that the series is based on. So we brought her in as a source because she was a, a relevant source, like when you, she actually went to prison.

So we're like talking to her about her experience and saying, you know, she's the author of this book upon which this, you know, this series is based season two comes out on such and such date, and then it. back to business, like talking about, you know, her experience and you know, how it aligns with some of the other things we were hearing.

So I think it makes sense to put the branding in there. You just don't wanna be heavy handed with it if it's too soon, like whether that's the first few seconds of a video or the first few you know, paragraphs of a written piece. It just comes off like nobody wants to be sold to. Like you said, you know, I wanna get some value and then you can let me know where it's coming from, but like, don't hit me over the head with it right off the bat.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, definitely. All right. So with that said you're the author of two books. The latest one is called Prove It Exactly How Modern Marketers Earn Trust. And so in that book you kind of teach about how marketers can gain the trust of their audience using content creation. Can you explain a little bit about I guess how our Creator's and our audience could potentially take some advice in how they can use content to kind of ethically promote their brand?

Melanie Deziel: A hundred percent. So the whole approach with with prove it in the new book is really, you know, we talk a lot about repurposing content, like we've created it and now we're gonna try to find more use for it. This is sort of reverse engineering, like repurposing it. Like, before we create this content, how does it help our brand?

how does it help us connect with our audience? Because in a weird way, the pendulum has like swung almost too far in the other direction, where with all the platforms that we have right now, there's this tremendous pressure to be just like constantly creating new content and putting it out everywhere.

You know, I gotta PI post three times a day on 12 different platforms, and what happens is we get in this hamster wheel of creation and we. Site of the reason we're there in the first place. Like does any of this actually support our business goals? Like is it actually driving toward our major KPIs and not just like dopamine hits of getting likes and followers like are we actually contributing to our broader business goals?

So improve, I talk about how you can identify. What are the claims you make to your audience or the promises, expectations, however you wanna think about it. What are those claims you're making that are so important? You should be providing proof. So we are currently operating in the most skeptical consumer environment we have ever operated in.

Like consumers are so doubtful, so skeptical, it is so difficult to break through the noise because. Scams abound, like spam is outta control. You know, the, the robo calls and like, you know, Nigerian lotto winnings, like there's, there's just way too much out there. So consumers have to be skeptical. But what that means is we're operating in a different paradigm.

So marketers in the old days could just assume that someone sees one of our ads on a billboard. It's one of the only ads they're gonna see that day, and they're gonna believe us that our thing is delicious. That's not the case anymore. They're gonna see our ads or our content now and be like, all right, who's, who's this clown?

Like, we have to earn our keep first. You know what I mean? We have to earn that trust. So really encouraging folks to say like, what is it that I'm trying to prove to my brand? Am I trying to prove that I'm convenient? You know, that our product is fast or easy to use? Am I trying to prove that? You know, we're really connected to our customers.

We have a deep relationship. We know each other. We treat you like family. Or are you trying to, to establish that, you know, you are just really competent. Like you have the most experience, you've won a bunch of awards, you have this tremendous background and, and awesome past clients. Like what are those things that you're trying to establish?

And then how can you create content that backs that up? Whether that means bringing in, you know quotes from experts, whether it. Case studies from your former clients, whether that means you're showing them side by side the way that infomercials do. You don't have to trust us that this vacuum has five times more suction.

Like, watch this piece of carpet that we vacuumed with both and see how much our thing worked better. You know, so looking for ways that you can really, your content serves as proof, like bring the receipts. It, it serves as proof of the claims that you're making so that your audience doesn't have to doubt you because they see the proof there.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, that's interesting. So I actually have a question, kind of a selfish question because it, it made me think of an ad that we ran where we had that, that issue with the skeptics, right? So, um mm-hmm. with our business, like we make money from selling our service of our software, right? So if you wanna build an online course or whatever, you can use our software.

And so our plan was with this campaign that we ran that we're not trying to sell you some course or something like that, because, We don't need to, we have the software. So that's the reason that we're, we're doing this. And so we want to give that, that training content away for free, because it doesn't benefit us.

If, if you're not successful enough to move forward with the software, then, then that's what we need in long term, right? So we're trying to, to train everyone for free so that the way they can use our software. So that's, that's the reasoning behind it. We tried to explain that. And we had comments on the ads where people literally just said, I don't believe you.

And the offer was that like, we're going to give you this training for free. Here's the reason we're gonna give it for free, because we actually make this course creation software. And once when you learn how to do everything, then hopefully you'll use our software to do it and be able to do it longer because you'll be more successful.

And we had comments saying like, I don't believe. . And so I wonder, what would you say to someone, it doesn't have to be our exact situation, but what would you say to someone where in that single video, they're trying to promote something, and in this case it was trying to just get somebody's email and they thought that we were going to really sell them some other kind of course that we are tricking them.

So what would you say to somebody like that where you're trying to promote yourself and you're being honest and they're still kind of a skeptic like. .

Melanie Deziel: So as a side note, I would say that the skepticism honestly probably came from the need for the email because the thought is, okay, well if I give you my email, then what are you gonna sell me?

Right? If, I mean, one thing you could try, honestly is like put the actual training content in the video. , Hey, you know, we, we know that this is so good. So after I'm done talking in 10 seconds, you're gonna get to actually see some of our awesome, you know, our product in action. You don't have to pay for training, like we're gonna show you cuz we believe in it so much.

So that they can see like, oh, this is like good stuff that they're actually given away. Maybe put one or two of the videos outside of that. , you know, that like email wall, you know, un gated so that folks can experience that it's free and then say like, look, we're gonna get your email so we can make sure you finish the training.

You know, maybe adding some evidence of what you're gonna use with that email for. But I think, you know, it's, it is tough, right? There's always gonna be skeptics on some level. I won't say that we're gonna be able to like, you know, get rid of all haters altogether. Cuz some people. Grumpy and like to be grumpy on the internet.

But I do think that that kind of feedback is actually really useful. Because a lot of times we throw our ads out and we don't know why they're not working. Yeah. So to hear from a consumer like, Hey, I don't believe you. So that's the question where I would back up and say, okay, well, Why might they not believe that this is free?

And how could we prove that it's free? So that might mean, okay, let's find some of our awesome customers who have taken it for free and get quotes from them. And let's put those quotes on screen, right? Like, Hey, I didn't believe that this was free, but I actually finished it in 25 minutes and it was like, so helpful.

, you know, tag those people in the comments, you know, who are real customers, who can attest that it was, that it was great. You know, get a video testimonial from people who actually experienced it. Show a walkthrough of how you're gonna, like the steps to take to go see it so that they know like, Hey, when you click this link, here's what's gonna happen.

Here's what you're gonna see, and boom, you're right there. So like, make it make it so they can't doubt you, you know? Yeah. And it's, it's a learning experience and I. In a weird way, I'm, I'm glad that we have, you know, comments and, and things like that so that we can get that feedback to optimize.

That's idea, man. We didn't, we didn't used to have that. You know, you throw out, you spend half a mill on a billboard, leave it there for a month and you have no idea if it worked or why, you know

Bryan McAnulty: Or even if you have some idea, the feedback loop is so long before you even start to realize, oh yeah, oh, actually we should not do that.

We should have a completely different direction maybe. But yeah. Okay. That's interesting. And I think, I was just gonna say, I was wondering if your answer would be that some amount of time, even if you only have this one video, this one piece of content, some amount of time in that should be spent on showing a real example and, and proving it like you're saying.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, a hundred percent. Because I think you know exactly what we saw. We're still asking someone to take an action. They have to trust us enough to click learn more. They have to trust us enough to click read more, or click over to the site, or, you know, whatever the call to action is. So the, the trust needs to be earned upfront.

And some of that, honestly, some of that might just be sequencing. Like maybe you need, they need to be hit with a couple ads before they really, you know, maybe they need to be hit with a testimonials ad and then they need to. hit with you know, something else. It's just gotta, maybe there's a sequence to it to kind of earn that trust.

But I do think that what's really cool and you know, you can learn more about this in hugger Haters, the book by J Bear is that when we can convert those skeptics, they often become some of the best like advocates and evangelists for the brand because we've proved, you know, we've, we've earned that trust and, and they know what it took to overcome.

So, I mean, that would be ho honestly like, , I would probably reply to that person or, or those people.

Bryan McAnulty: What we did in that case is we said like, Hey, you know what? You don't, don't even give us your email. We're just going to give you the link. Here is the training. You can just go and have it and, and, and prove it to them that way.

And I would attest to that. You have that proof. Yeah, exactly. And then I would attest to that as well, that like the, the idea of. Killing the haters with kindness and uh and still communicating with them instead of ignoring them because Yeah. While there's going to be some people who are just against you for whatever reason.

There are those who, the reason that they're a hater is because they, they have some kind of emotion and passion about what you're talking about, and it made them feel a certain way, but maybe they're uncomfortable about something. And if you can address that and talk to them and let them, let them know like, Hey, like I'm, I'm here.

I see what you're saying and, and I can help you. Then yeah, they can really become like your biggest advocates in the future.

Melanie Deziel: and that's, that's the exact skepticism that we were talking about before. Right. Which is like, they've probably been burned, like somebody told them something was free and then there was a fee, or you know, a subscription, or they auto charge their card six months later.

Like they've, they've been deceived by that word before, and so they no longer trust it. Right. And unfortunately I feel like in marketing we often have to pay for the sins of our. You know, our, our less ethical brethren and kind of earned back some of the trust that they've burned for us. But it sounds, it sounds like you guys had a, had a great response engaging with them in the comments and that hopefully other folks who are seeing that ad now seeing that interaction in the comments that access proof as well.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. Yeah, and I would say that the Definitely like once, once they hear that, then once they know that you're genuine, then they're gonna go out there and tell their friends and say like, like, I've been burned before, but like this person, I talked with them. I'm, I'm working with them. I got there, whatever it is that they're offering, and like, they're the real deal.

And like they'll be able to really passionately communicate that after that experience.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, I mean, another thing that I think is so useful and, and we don't see enough of this, I don't think is like side by side or comparative walkthroughs. So a lot of times in sas, you know, there's, the claims are around convenience, right?

It's easy to use, it's easy to import, it's easy to, you know, integrate with existing tools. , but nobody ever shows you that. Like, I wanna see a video of how fast you can set this thing up and import it. I wanna see a video that shows how easy it is to drag and drop and make these things work. Because that stuff goes a long way, right?

Because everyone's gonna tell you that it's convenient and that it's helpful and that it's easy and that it's affordable, you know, all the claims are out there. So, you know, differentiating yourself with that kind of comparison can be, can be, you know, I mean, it's a great way to, to stand out for.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah.

Honestly, I feel not only for like a, a software business like ours, but I feel like for entrepreneurs selling information courses coaching, it's more and more important now to, to show things and to have video on your site, I feel, than ever before because now everybody's used to seeing the well-written sales page and hearing like, okay, you're, you're saying this and okay, you're, you got my attention, but only the video can really show and demonstrate.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, definitely. And it, it's, I think the, the demand for interactive content or just otherwise dynamic content you know, people, people get bored easily and, and that's not like an offensive thing, you know, to like goldfish brain and talk about how we have no attention span. It just means like, There's a lot more exciting things to do.

Like I could be watching TikTok, you know, I could be on Netflix, you could be doing all kinds of fun stuff rather than spending 20 minutes reading through a sales page. So yeah, the more you can make it interactive and, and multimedia, the, the more likely you are to kind of keep somebody interested long enough to, to show them proof, you know?


Bryan McAnulty: So our audience, as I mentioned, mainly independent entrepreneurs. What would be your suggestion to them as far as like how they can improve their content creation and taking it to the account that in general, they're gonna have limited time and resources compared to like a bigger brand.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah. The, the biggest thing I think is to actually focus your attention.

And I know that sounds so elementary, but like I said, the pressure to be everywhere and do everything is so, so great. You know you look at someone like a, a Gary Vaynerchuk, for example, Gary V you know, very popular on social media. It's easy to compare yourself to someone like that and say, well, you know, I need to be going live three times a day.

I gotta post on Twitter every 15 minutes. I gotta be on LinkedIn. You know, and kind of set this unrealistic expectation for yourself, not acknowledging that Gary has a 40 person team that manages his online persona, like that's not one human, and you are in fact one human. And so like, you need to kind of adjust.

It's gonna be so much better for you to focus your attention on one or two platforms, or, you know, one or two you know, communication channels, like maybe a newsletter and YouTube or something like that. And, and really put your effort in there because it will actually move the needle rather than you being.

Mediocre in 14 places and never getting traction, never breaking through the noise because you're not being exceptional, you know? So that is honestly, like do less is is my actual piece of advice. Like figure out where you get your best clients, your best conversion rate, you know, you have the most fun or, or whatever it is, and really focus your attention there rather than trying to sprinkle a little bit of effort all around and, and not do enough to, to make a difference.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah, that's great advice. I think because our, our kind of strategy ourselves has been figure out, you know, what those things are and then once we, we get good at them, once we get a following with them, whatever it is, then we figure out, well, how can we do more of it? . But if you just start out trying to do all of it, then yeah, I agree.

People will, maybe they see you once, but then they're not that impressed because you're not that authentic. You're not that valuable in, in whatever you're created and so then they don't follow you again. Yeah. But if you put effort into that one piece of content or that one platform, then they see once and then they become a.

Melanie Deziel: Yeah, and it's, I mean, it's easy for us to see how that plays out. You know, in other media, like, think about, I mean, there's some musicians who are just like putting out tracks left and right, and it's like, it's never anything super special because you're like, I didn't have to wait for that album.

There was no hype. There was no time that went into it. Same thing with TV shows, right? Like shows that come out every single week for like years on end, you're just like, well, I know there's a formula. It's, I mean, it's good, but it's not amazing. Then you have something like Game of Thrones where people are willing to wait like two calendar years for a new season because they know it's gonna be incredible.

Right. I think people forget. You know, we, we've been sold this myth of like, you know, like the goldfish memory and people don't pay attention for more than eight seconds and everything has to be short and snackable. But like, people are still out here scrolling TikTok for two hours and watching, you know, binging stuff on Netflix and, you know, reading full-length books.

Like people don't, it's not that people don't want to consume content, it's that a lot of the content is not worth consuming for that long of a time. So if you make your stuff worth consuming for that amount of time, then, then you're gonna have no trouble earning that.

Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. Yeah, that's great advice. So I wanna also talk about stories.

Your previous book was titled The Content Fuel Framework, how to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas. Why is storytelling such a critical part of content creation, marketing, and how can entrepreneur come up with new stories, new content? .

Melanie Deziel: So I mean, the good thing is that the book is actually like all about that, not to, not to throw in a hard sell here.

By all means I have like free guides and things on my, my website as well. But you know, the, the thing about content creation and, and coming up with new ideas is that it needs to be some sort of system or process. What we find is that in so many parts of our business, we have a system, you know, Assume you're gonna remember all of your clients, you in, in customers, you have a crm, right?

You don't assume you're gonna remember all the orders. You have a system where the orders come in and a system for how you package and ship them. But when it comes to content creation, it's often this like, I'll come up with something like the day of, hopefully I'll have a good idea. There's no schedule, there's no process, there's no systems around it.

And so that's what makes it so challenging to do at scale because there's, there's no advice for how to scale it, right? So, in the book, I kind of walk through just like basically what I do in my head when I'm trying to come up with content ideas. And it's really informed a lot by the journalism side of things.

But understanding essentially that a content idea is not one thing, it is actually two things. So a content idea is the what, what are you gonna talk about? , and then it's the how you're gonna bring it to life. So it's actually two things. If you're trying to just, I need a content idea, it's gonna be very difficult for you to grasp onto anything because you're, it's too big, right?

It's like I need you know, a movement. Like, it's just, it's too big of a thing to try to come up with like that. If you think of the what, like what can I talk about? And then you think, okay, well, How can I talk about that? I could do it in a video, I could do it in a podcast. I could do it as an article.

I could do it as an issue of my newsletter By changing it into more of a one two punch, where you're coming up with the, the focus of your content and then the format, it makes it a lot easier to build a system, and it also makes it a lot easier for you to, to organize and track your ideas. A lot easier for you to do it on demand because you have a more focused prompt to get you in the right place.

You know, I like to compare it to whenever anyone finds out that you have like a, you know, you're meeting someone new and they find out like you have a skill or a talent, you know, oh, you speak a, a language other than English, or like, oh, you're a good singer. Oh, you're funny. The first thing they say, oh, sing something.

And like in that moment, you can't think of a single song that's ever existed because you have the entirety of songs. Like is your prompt if they're like, oh, can you sing a Taylor Swift song? Right? And you're like, okay, I could pick one of those. Like, that's quick and easy. Having that specific prompt, it, it's actually helpful.

Like people think that creativity and, and idea generation is like this completely free and open thing, but actually it's so much easier to be creative when you do have some confines and some limitations on it because it's like guardrails for making sure that your, you know, your efforts are going in the right direction.

So that's, that's gonna be a big part of it, is just understanding that you're looking for two things. You're looking for, what am I gonna talk about and how am I gonna talk about it in that, .

Bryan McAnulty: Awesome. Yeah, I think that's such a great comparison that you gave to explain it too. For myself, like I come from like the product design background with the software, and I think of it the same way that the creativity is, it's not this blank slate, but the product is made from the constraints that are set or that you choose to set on it.

And without that, it, it could be nothing. It could, there, there's almost no value to it, but the constraint brings value to it. It brings. It brings focus to it. That's really important. And so like for ourselves, definitely when I'm thinking about that as you're talking, like we do have a process for what happens for a blog post, what happens for a podcast episode like this.

And it's made it so much more easy. And, and, and in my part, yeah. For like the podcast almost effortless. I'm, I'm spoiled, I guess that. I didn't have to do anything until I got here and hit record with you, . I had teammates booking everything, teammates researching, writing the questions, everything. But it's because we have that process and if I was doing it by myself, it would still feel a lot easier and less overwhelming because I have that process in line.

So one of the first things that we did when we said we're gonna make a podcast. Is figuring out what's the process gonna be? How is all that going to work? And in, in our case, who's going to do what? So as an entrepreneur, you don't, if you're just yourself right now, you don't have to figure out who's gonna do what.

You have to figure out those steps and then you can apply that, like that prompt what you're saying to all of that content creation.

Melanie Deziel: And you're exactly right. And that those prompts can also, you know, to your point about not having maybe a whole team behind you or a bunch of resources, that's also what allows you to choose realistic goals.

It's not that I don't want people to stretch, right? Like, it's not that we don't wanna set big goals, but if you acknowledge that you have to do the booking, you have to find the guests, you have to write the questions, you have to edit the audio when you're done, you have to upload it to iTunes, you have to promote it on social.

Well, like maybe doing a podcast every day is not a great use of your time. Like maybe that's not a scalable solution. Maybe you start every other week for now, and then as it gets better, you increase it to every week. As it gets better, you increase it. You know, as you increase your team, you can increase it.

But we see this a lot with content and I'm guilty of it too. Like if you go to my YouTube, you'll find a very short-lived series called Content Idea Friday, where free content idea Friday, where I. User suggestions and then like shared a bunch of content ideas. But I was over ambitious. I started doing it every week and I burnt out.

It was too much for what I was actually capable of doing at that point with my available resources. But the way to avoid something like that is to have these kinds of conversations ahead of time, like, Who's gonna do what? And the answer might be you in every single case. And how often can we realistically do that?

Because that's a lot of work. So should we do it once a week? Should we do it every other week? Maybe we just do one epic ebook every month or something. Right? Maybe we, we do it even less frequently, or maybe that's a lot of effort. And instead we're gonna do super short audio clips that we're gonna drop, like as reels or something, you know, so you can kind of adjust your.

Goals, your expectations and your plan based on the realistic amount of resources you need. But it only happens if you actually try to examine the system and figure out what it's gonna be. If you just jump in with both feet and you haven't thought about that, you know, you'll, you'll end up burning out like I did

Bryan McAnulty: All right, great. So I've got two more questions for you. One more question about this content creation. Off the top of your head, can you recall like a marketing campaign, a ad or, or some kind of content that you really admire or you feel like had great results? Not necessarily that you created, but just in general.

Yeah. Something that you've seen.

Melanie Deziel: Well, I don't know if this is the exact right answer to your question. But one that I worked on that I really enjoyed and I felt like we got to do something really unique was back when I was at HuffPost. So we're, we're going back to like 2013 ish or so. I, I got to work on anchorman, anchorman two was coming out, and we wanted to create something to promote Anchorman too, and.

what we decided, because HuffPost at that point, especially was known for blogging, that people, you know, would have like personal blogs that were part of HuffPost, they were like columnists in a newspaper. Is that we were actually going to act as if Ron Burgundy was a columnist at HuffPost and had his own blog critiquing the media.

And so to me that was just like such a fun campaign where, rather than just like, you know, again, rather than just like running trailers or something, it was like, let's bring this character to life. Like, let's, what would Ron think about the Kardashians and what they're doing right now? Like, how, you know, how would he talk about these things?

And it, it was able to run in our comedy section and it was, it was a lot of fun. But I think again, because instead of just thinking how do we promote the movie, how do we get people to buy tickets, it was like, how can we make this something our audience? Sit in and if they're interested in Ron Burgundy, then they're gonna care about his opinions on these kinds of things.

So that was, that was a lot of fun for sure.

Bryan McAnulty: Oh yeah. Yeah. That is really neat. And I think that's a great idea, a great approach to it. All right, so my last question for you this is something we like to do to have each of our guests ask a question to the audience. So if you could ask anything to our audience, it could be something that you're curious about.

It could be something like an introspective thing you kind of want our audience to think about. What would that be?

Melanie Deziel: I think the biggest question that I would like for all of you who are listening to think about is, what's the one thing I need my audience to know about me in order for them to trust?

what's the one thing they need to know in order to trust me? Because if you can answer that question, then you know exactly what you need to be creating content about, exactly the type of proof you need to create. So that's where I would start. What do I need my audience to know in order to trust me?

Bryan McAnulty: Awesome. All right. That's great advice. All right, well, Melanie, thanks so much for coming on the show. Before we get going, where else can people find you? .

Melanie Deziel: Sure. So my home base is story fuel.co. So easy to remember cuz my last name's Diesel, so it's story fuel, f u e l.co. That's where you'll find info about the books, about working with me about, you know, all my social links if you wanna track me down, wherever you like to hang out.

So story fuel.co, is a place to go.

Bryan McAnulty: All right. Awesome. Thanks so much.

Melanie Deziel: Thanks for having me.

Bryan McAnulty: If you enjoyed this interview and want the chance to ask questions to our guests live, tune in on Tuesdays when new episodes premiere on the Heights Platform Facebook page. To learn more about the show and get notified when new episodes release, check out The Creator's Adventure dot com.

Until then, keep learning and I'll see you in the next episode.

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About the Host

Bryan McAnulty is the founder of Heights Platform: all-in-one online course creation software that allows creators to monetize their knowledge.

His entrepreneurial journey began in 2009, when he founded Velora, a digital product design studio, developing products and websites used by millions worldwide. Stemming from an early obsession with Legos and graphic design programs, Bryan is a designer, developer, musician, and truly a creator at heart. With a passion for discovery, Bryan has traveled to more than 30 countries and 100+ cities meeting creators along the way.

As the founder of Heights Platform, Bryan is in constant contact with creators from all over the world and has learned to recognize their unique needs and goals.

Creating a business from scratch as a solopreneur is not an easy task, and it can feel quite lonely without appropriate support and mentorship.

The show The Creator’s Adventure was born to address this need: to build an online community of creative minds and assist new entrepreneurs with strategies to create a successful online business from their passions.

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