How to Lay the Foundation for a Content Program in One Hour a Week

Know you need a content program?

Don’t have any time to do it or any budget to hire someone to do it for you?

This post is for you. In it, I’ll explain how to lay the groundwork for a solid content program in just one hour per week (that’s 12 minutes per day – and you get weekends off!).

And I’ll do it fast because dang it, you’re busy.

Caveat: I’m Not Promising Magic

I won’t pretend you can build a high-producing content program in just 12 minutes a day.

What you can do in that time is lay a foundation that will help speed your time to ROI and amplify your results when you do have the time or budget to invest in a full-fledged content program.

Step 1: Put a Signup Form on Your Site

This might take a week’s worth of 12-minute sessions or one hour-long block. It’s worth it.

Figure 1: Propllr’s very own website sign-up

Starting to gather contact information from prospects now means that when you have the bandwidth to launch a content program, you’ll have a ready-made list to promote it to.

In creating the signup form, be honest about what you’re doing. (E.g., “Sign up to receive emails from us at some point in the future.”)

When you launch an email campaign or newsletter, send an intro email explaining yourself first (“At some point, you signed up for this list. We’re about to send our first newsletter…”).

I’ve gotten out-of-the-blue emails from brands I definitely subscribed to but the experience was so jarring I immediately unsubscribed. In some cases, I didn’t even remember what industry the company was in.

The payoff: When you launch your content program, you have a network of interested people to promote it to and a great excuse to reach out to them.

Even if they’d forgotten about you, now you’re reminding them!

Some people will unsubscribe. That’s fine (and can be good!) – they’re no longer a fit for what you’re doing. But others who may have been in the “vaguely interested prospect” stage when they signed up may be a lot closer to making a purchase by the time you reach out.

Step 2: Write Stuff Down

Establish a notebook, doc, Notes file, or email system to capture the following:

  • Questions you hear from customers or prospects over and over
  • Common misconceptions about your work or industry
  • Things you disagree with in the news about your industry (with links)
  • Requests from your sales team for marketing collateral you don’t have time to create
  • Stories about how your customers are using what you sell
  • Good ideas you don’t know what to do with
  • Etc.

No need to be fancy or comprehensive – just write enough to remind your future self what you're talking about. My method is to email myself. I use this to capture ideas for poems that I don’t have time to write in the moment (see Figure 2 and please don’t judge my actual words).

Figure 2: Early drafts captured via slapdash email

This list serves two purposes. First, it can fuel your editorial calendar when you’re ready to launch a content program. Second, it can fuel the social engagement I’m going to suggest in Step 3.

The payoff: You’ll hit the ground running when you launch your content program thanks to your healthy pipeline of topics.

Step 3: Get Active on Social to Build Your Network

Figure out where your ideal customers hang out online, then get active on that platform:

  1. Follow people relevant to your work. This might include journalists reporting about your industry, thought leaders, competitors, potential clients, potential employees, etc.
  2. Engage regularly. Like, post, quote tweet, comment. You can use social to post about the topics you capture in Step 2, but you don’t have to. Focus on raising your activity level and connecting with more people.
  3. Shout out good stuff. If you’re not a natural social media user (I’m not – totally get it), focus on building up other people (see Figure 3, my most “viral” tweet ever). Shout out an insightful article you just read, tweet about how great it was to work with a partner, whatever. Or ask for advice! People love answering questions on social.
  4. Don’t try to market, promote, or sell. The goal is to establish yourself as a trusted member of the community you eventually want to sell to, partner with, raise money from, etc.

Figure 3: I go “viral” by giving compliments

The payoff: A bigger network. When you eventually have your own content to share, more people will see it and engage with it.

Step 4: Save Examples of Stuff You Love & Hate

As you go about your daily life of checking the news, engaging on social, reading emails, and so on, save examples of pieces you love and hate. (You can do this in the same place you capture ideas.)

If you can, make a quick note about what you loved or hated. (E.g., “Love the voice in this email!” or “Hate this layout – so cluttered.”)

The payoff: When you eventually launch your content program, you’ll have a wealth of resources to guide the development of your brand’s voice, tone, style, etc.

The Best Time to Start a Content Program Was 20 Years Ago

The second best time is today.

And even if you only have 12 minutes, you can do meaningful work that translates to improved ROI when you do eventually launch a content program.