Content Marketing Zen: The 5-Step Process to Creating Remarkable Content

5 Steps to creating remarkable content

This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti, founder of Sparring Mind.

It likely comes as no surprise to you that content marketing is on the rise.

From getting more exposure to your business to creating a ‘cult of personality’ that later serves to drive an entire business, creating remarkable content is the surest road to generating brand exposure and creating goodwill among prospective customers.

The question is then, just how does one go about creating content that is “worthy of remark“?

Most of us know great content when we see it, and can even create some ourselves from time to time, but it can be tough to envision what our “process” really looks like if we haven’t though about it.

Today I’m happy to introduce you to what I call the “Content Marketing Zen” process of creating remarkable content.

I’d like to think this 5-step process cuts out the fluff and time-wasting stages of creating great content, and gets down the essentials of researching, positioning, forming, creating, and promoting of the kind of content that builds businesses.

So let’s get into it! 🙂

Visualizing the Content Marketing Zen Process

I love it when information (of any variety) gives me a breakdown of what I’m about to learn.

This introduction prepares me for key points and keeps me interested, when I’m faced with a wall of text, I quickly lose focus and interest (as I’m sure that you do).

That’s why I wanted to start off this post with a pretty little infographic that gives a great outline of the 5-step process of creating great content and prepares you for what you’re about to learn.

Feel free to share it on your own site by using the embed code below the graphic.


The 5-Step Process to Creating Remarkable Content

1.) Researching Your Content

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”

— Albert Einstein

If you want to provide comprehensive, fresh, and unique content, you’re going to need to start with step 1: research.

Research typically entails gathering data for your post that you can present in a way that either generates new insight or compliments tactics that you are about to go over.

For instance, on my post covering how bloggers can use YouTube, I gave information on the growth of the YouTube userbase over the years.

In addition to this more “standard” form of research, I also sought out a variety of YouTube tactics from across the full spectrum of YouTube users, from large YouTube partners to companies using YouTube to even other blogger’s uses of the platform.

I did this research because although I had a fair amount of information to share about YouTube, I wanted to make sure I was covering things in a fresh perspective and that I was offering a complete picture for how to effectively use the platform.

Francisco himself offers us a great example of doing good “research” in his latest post on Facebook for WordPress.

I say “research” because I don’t want folks thinking that they have to dive into academic papers (like I sometimes do) or slog through a huge slew of boring statistical charts just to come up with new content.

Research simply means that you are taking the time out to be informed before posting.

In Francisco’s example, he gives a step by step analysis of all of the new features of the Facebook plugin for WordPress, goes over installation and even gives his final thoughts on its usefulness.

If you are going to create content that has massive amounts of utility (read: provides value), you must do your own due diligence to make sure the information you are about to publish is up to snuff.

2.) Positioning Your Content

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.

— Dale Carnegie

While these may seem like some harsh words coming from Carnegie, it’s still a point that you very much need to keep in mind.

Despite the fact that we are discussing emotions, there is a lot of good science behind creating content that triggers interest and “goes viral”.

What your content really needs is what any good brand needs: a strong unique selling proposition.

The “purchase” you are trying to get people to make is their time.

What is it about your post that promises to leave a lasting impact on those who read it?

Fortunately, there are two resources you can use to help decide which emotional arousal you are after in potential readers.

The first set comes from Mark Hughes Buzz Marketing book.

Mark is known as the marketing guy for back in the day, and it notorious for pulling stunts like getting a town to rename themselves!

In his book, he defines the 6 buttons that you can push to generate interest in anything.

They are as follows:

  1. Taboo
  2. Unusual
  3. Outrageous
  4. Hilarious
  5. Remarkable
  6. Secrets

What’s interesting is that while Mark’s “buzzmarketing buttons” come from personal experience, new research has been found that coincides perfectly with these emotional triggers.

The paper is called “What Makes Online Content Go Viral?”, written by Jonah Berger and Katherin Milkman of the Wharton School of Business.

In their research, Berger and Milkman found that the kind of content that goes viral typically creates a form of high emotional arousal, with 6 key emotions being apart of that process.

The 6 emotions of high arousal are as follows (notice their overlap with the buzzmarketing buttons mentioned above):

  1. Emotion of Awe
  2. Emotion of Anger
  3. Emotion of Surprise
  4. Emotions of Anxiety & Fear
  5. Emotion of Joy
  6. Emotion of Lust

It’s like the 7 deadly sins, except it would be a sin if you didn’t use them to generate remarkable content!

So, when it comes time to position your content, keep these emotions of arousal and “buttons to push” in mind: just how are you going to make this information stay with people and encourage discussion?

3.) Defining Your Content’s Medium

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.

— Walt Disney

So, you’ve got your research in hand, you know how you are going to invoke strong emotional arousal from your content, now you need to decide just how you are going to present this information.

Articles are great, we all know and love the classic blog post, made for easy reading and information consumption.

The thing is, articles aren’t the only medium (by far!) in your content marketing toolbelt.

Additionally, just because you are creating an article doesn’t mean that you can’t also include another medium of content (like this post did!)

Fact is, different types of content mediums will help you stand out when everybody else is “just” writing.

Where you might have normally created a quick 3-point blog post, why not create a YouTube video instead?

Using different mediums offers a number of specific advantages:

  1. New mediums of content keep your content marketing efforts “fresh” for long time readers
  2. Most media content encourages “stealing” (being shared) on other sites; nobody will tell you to copy and paste someone else’s article, but they would tell you that it’s okay to embed or share an infographic or a video
  3. Creating a variety of content allows you to “be everywhere”; you won’t be able to reach a potentially massive audience on iTunes if you don’t dabble in any podcasting

You don’t have a lot to lose in structuring great content (even old content) into a shiny new coat, so what’s stopping you from trying new forms of media for your content marketing efforts?

4.) Creating Your Content

“The best writing is rewriting.”

— E.B.White

Finally we get to start actually creating some content! 😉

Content creation is obviously a topic in itself, and addressing the entire range of subtleties within crafting content is outside of the scope of this post.

However, if you follow the previous 3 steps outlined in this post, actually writing your content will seem like much less of a burden.

Gone are the days of having 8 tabs open, trying to read and write content at the same time, and procrastinating in between.

I like to add a little extra focus to my regiment by using the following 3 tools:

  1. Readability
  2. FocusBooster app + The Pomodoro Technique
  3. ZenWriter

Here’s the deal with these…

Readability is perfect for when you are going over in-depth content from one of your sources in order to incorporate the information into your own post.

I use this often when I’m reading research and opinion articles from the Harvard Business Review, because I find their body font to be an eyesore, and, more importantly, I can get distracted easily when I’m on a normal web page.

The Readability app eliminates this problem by creating a temporary page where the content is laid out in a plain format with large, adjustable typography.

This eliminates my “clicky clicky” desire to click off of the article I’m reading, and helps me consume information faster in order to create my own posts.

When it comes down to writing in a distraction free environment (and staying focused during the process), I like the tag team of FocusBooster and ZenWriter.

The FocusBooster live version is an online timer that follows the pattern set in the Pomodoro Technique, which emphasizes a 30-minute schedule consisting of 25 minutes of work and a 5 minute break, which may help you to stay focused on longer projects (it does for me).

While writing, I tend to use the program ZenWriter, mostly because I have the same problem I mentioned above when in my WordPress dashboard: I want to go everywhere else on the web but my writing screen as a method of procrastination.

ZenWriter helps eliminate this problem (for me at least) by being a full screen writing program that has beautiful typography and even offers some “zen-like” customization including ambient sound and type-writer effects.

You can also use the free variants WriteRoom (for Mac) and DarkRoom (for PC) if you’d like.

5.) Promoting Your Content

Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.

— Milan Kundera

Okay, your post is published, time to share it on your social networks, add it to Buffer a few times, and call it a day, right?


Fact is, you could be doing a lot more in promoting your supposedly excellent content than hitting the tweet button and hoping for the best.

I mean, if you REALLY believe the content that you just created is worthy to be seen and shared (and if you don’t, go ahead and hit that ‘Move to Trash’ button…), you shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for good luck to happen, you should go out and get an audience for your content.


One of the great things about creating content in different types of media (especially visual content) is that this “being everywhere” approach often promotes your content for you: videos get discovered on YouTube, podcasts get downloaded on iTunes, etc.

Outside of that, you need to look for folks who might enjoy the content that you just created.

The key here is to not saturate the same two blogger’s inboxes over and over with your new content.

A quick fix for that problem is to head to AllTop and to find related blogs in your niche.

You can also use the more obvious source in Google to find related blogs in your niche, and then write the authors a very personal email about content that you created that they may enjoy.

You often don’t even have to link to the content in the first email, just ask them if they are interested.

I did this for my electronic music blog Sophistefunk when I released my first artist interview.

I hit up the electronic music section on AllTop, notified fellow bloggers about my interview, and the result was the post was very popular.

You’ve likely seen people tag & CC people on Twitter, I won’t say that these methods won’t work (they sometimes will), but real relationship building happens through email, so don’t leave that out of your promotional methods.

Over To You

Whew, made it all the way down here, did ya? Thanks! 🙂

Since you made it to the bottom, here’s what’s next…

  1. Let me know in the comments what you think of my content creation process.
  2. Do you have any tools that help you create content (in any medium) that you just need to share to the world? Let us in on that info in the comments!
  3. As a reward for reading this lengthy post of mind, feel free to download my free e-Book on ‘Conversion Psychology’ right this instant, if you are so inclined. 🙂

I hope this post has helped you in some way in your content creation.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the comments!

Photo credit: Kevin_Morris

  • Hi Greg,

    I don’t know how do you create such an awesome content every time. You’re the freddy krueger of blogging Jr 😉

    I’ve bookmarked your post again(which I always do when I click on your posts). Going to read it fully again.

    I use Zenwriter + soothing music while creating content. I also use 25 min. technique while writing(it really works effective). And yea, I’ve downloaded your book few weeks back.

    Thanks for sharing bro.

  • Thank Rahul!

    I agree with you on the music, a great pair of headphones and a clean desktop is just about the only way I can operate anymore. 🙂

    Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Guest

    You give a pretty decent overview of staying on top of content creation. Perhaps look into EB White’s advice though, and give editing a little more attention when it comes to your own writing. I’m not familiar with you yet, and your numerous typos (e.g. “Most media content is encourages” or “Readbility”) really damage your credibility to me. And why on earth do you think every single sentence should be a new paragraph? 

  • My apologies. You are correct, I should have caught those errors.

    I’ll notify Francisco so we can make the appropriate changes.

    One thing: Credibility is only built by putting yourself out there, next time please leave a non-anonymous critique.

  • Terrific post, Greg. One term I did not see mentioned here: character. There’s a reason why Seth Godin’s blog attracts the readership it does, and I don’t think it’s merely the good advice, though that’s certainly a big factor. It’s his character. The bloggers, thought leaders, SMEs, and others who successfully offer their concepts to the world are usually fascinating characters whom one can sense a rich personality from, full of humor, insight, conflict, trouble, struggle, and love. The vast majority of bloggers lack several if not most of those components, and they typically yield content that is eminently ignorable. The best have those features in spades.

  • Maryann Buchanan

    Very helpful. Thank you. I am just getting ready to create content on my own site and blog. I have been following Francisco’s blog and his contributors for some time. The guidance is great. 

  • Great Post Greg! I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot.

  • Dawnchit

    I really enjoyed this post and will be referencing it again. I’m a big fan of using appropriate quotes to complement the ideas in a post. And contrary to other views, I feel as though breaking the post up into many paragraphs makes for an easy read. Thank you for the valuable info!

  • Melonie Dodaro

    I do certainly agree that it takes a
    lot of research and due diligence to create remarkable posts. I love the way
    you have explained “researching.”  It gave
    a different perspective to the meaning of the word.

  • Ryan Sandoval

    Great post!

    Exactly the insight I’ve been searching for.

  • Gregory, dude, blown away with the effort and info you put in this post. Well done!!


  • Thanks man, glad you dig it!

  • The surest road to generating brand exposure and creating goodwill among prospective customers.

  • Most of us know great content when we see
    it, and can even create some ourselves from time to time, but it can be
    tough to envision what our “process” really looks like if we haven’t
    though about it.

  • Today I’m happy to introduce you to what I call the “Content Marketing Zen” process of creating remarkable content.

  • Number 3 is a great point.  People like to receive information in different formats.  If you only write, you are missing out on those that search for information on YouTube instead of Google.  It’s important to diversify your content to attract a wider audience.  

  • Chris

    I’m a great believer in giving people techniques to improve their content, particularly given how much crap we all have to wade through, but I feel that you either have it or you don’t. We can all improve using Top Tips, which ironically makes the good stuff all the more  precious and hopefully, sought after

  • From getting more exposure to your business to creating a ‘cult of
    personality’ that later serves to drive an entire business, creating remarkable content is the surest road to generating brand exposure and creating goodwill among prospective customers.

  • I enjoyed seeing a step-by-step process written out for us. The quotes integrated with the content were brilliant! I’m looking forward to following this process soon.

  • From getting more exposure to your business to creating a ‘cult of
    personality’ that later serves to drive an entire business, creating remarkable content is the surest road to generating brand exposure and creating goodwill among prospective customers.

  • Gregory Ciotti, GREAT POST! really, i did not even had to “make it” to the end, I was simply naturally lured there (here).
    Keep up the great work!
    Especially loved the idea about combining different formats to spread your content.
     and the Pomodoro technique you apply to your writing.

  • Gregory,

    “Being everywhere” is something I’ve been hearing from a few people who I follow closely and pay attention to. You and Pat Flynn for instance.

    It makes perfect sense, seeing as YouTube and iTunes qualify as massive search engines as well.

    I would be very interested in learning how people like you and Pat pull off the logistics and the timing of publishing your content on all those different platforms. Do you post the article first, then tweet and G+ it…wait 24 hours and them post & promote your YouTube content? Just a made-up example – but I would love to hear how you manage that process.

    Thanks for the substance. Page bookmarked, notes written.


  • I think most people really miss out on the last step – promotion. You simply can’t get your blog well-known if you never “plug” your posts. Some people just hate self-promotion, but the fact is, the internet is FULL of people with blogs! You’ve got to let other people know what you’re doing if you want your blog to grow.

  • I hope this post has helped you in some way in your content creation.

  • The surest road to generating brand exposure and creating goodwill among prospective customers.

  • Marples

    Great post thanks a bunch…

  • This post is appreciable as
    there is enough material in it for the readers. Thanks for nice sharing!

  • Ivette

    It’s very healthy anyway. I enjoy to learn from a well written article. Thanks,

  • Michael Bian

    Interesting insights. Thanks Greg!

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    OMG! I stumbled upon your article, Mr Ciotti, via Pinterest. And, boy, this is, arguably, THE BEST article that I HAVE EVER come across on how to create the kind of content that sells itself 😉

    I struggle with presenting my content in different forms because I am not a ‘visual or video’ person, which is a huge handicap in today’s day and age. But I am trying to learn the tools of the trade! Also, I find it weird to promote my posts heavily, although I know that’s the only way they are going to get noticed.

    But your article has inspired me to master this ‘5-Step Content Marketing Zen’ process.

    Thank you so much. #IHAVEtoHugYou 😀


  • HRH Akunna

    “You nailed it! ” in Cheryl Cole’s voice.