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8 Early Tips for Producing Digital Content During The Current Crisis

As church has moved entirely online in the midst of the global crisis, more leaders are producing content than ever. A quick check of any feed from (including TikTok) will show you that.

How much is too much? What channels are best?

How much content should you produce?

I’ve been creating content for years in various forms: podcasts, articles, blog posts, pics and posts for social, courses, talks, messages and so much more.

And we’ve seen some traction. Excluding social media, my content gets accessed more than a million times a month, and last year once again we saw over 40% growth in audience size.

In the last year, in particular, I’ve noticed some really interesting things about content sharing that honestly have surprised me. The current pandemic has changed everything as life moved online overnight, but some of the principles remain.

This post is part of a series on church leadership and the current global crisis:

5 Ways The Current Crisis is Accelerating The Arrival of the Future Church

Crisis Leadership, Christian Leadership and the Corona Virus

How to Lead Through Rapid, Unexpected Change

8 Ways to Lead in the New Digital Default Church

My Top 7 Rules for Leading a Digital Team

3 Simple Ways To Make Sure You Don’t Break In the Crisis

Why Motivation Alone Won’t Get Your People (or You) Through This Crisis

In the hopes of helping you get your message seen and heard, here are 8 early lessons I’m currently learning about sharing content and how that applies during our current crisis.

1. The Right Amount of Content is the Amount That Helps Your Audience

This may sound like I’m ducking the issue, but the right amount of content is the amount that helps your audience.

Your content isn’t about you. It’s about your audience.

In these early days of the crisis, I am seeing a lot of people who have never been online jump online. I’m also seeing far more live live broadcasts than ever. Almost one a minute some hours.

My guess is that extremes are happening on either end of the poles.

Some leaders are producing too much content.

Other leaders aren’t producing nearly enough.

The right amount of content is the amount that helps your audience. Your content isn't about you. It's about your audience. Click To Tweet

I would encourage you to keep experimenting and producing content, but the key is to run all your content through a helpful filter.

Don’t post content for the sake of posting content. Post content to help people.

If you help enough people, people will watch, read and listen.

Another way to think of it, is to do more for your audience than you ask from them.

Do more for your audience than you ask from them. Click To Tweet

Zero content isn’t helping anyone. Neither is too much content.

So ask yourself before you post: will this help the people I love and serve?

If you believe it will, post it. If you don’t think it will, wait until you have something to say.

Church leaders, don't post content for the sake of posting content. Post content to help people. If you help enough people, people will watch, read and listen. Click To Tweet

2. You’re probably a bad predictor of the content people will love

At least I am.

I spend hours (okay, days) putting content together each month. And, like you, as a content creator I get very excited about some of the content I’m creating.

Here’s what I find: there is almost no correlation between the content I think people will love and the content people actually love.

The key is to watch the metrics. You might think Instagram Live is the way to go, but if over time, only 3 people watch, that tells you something.

As I say to my team all the time, as much as we hate it, the internet doesn’t lie. The metrics tell you a story.

Don’t quit after one attempt at something, but if you start a daily live broadcast and few people are consistently helped by it, pivot.

And by pivot, I mean change the:

Time you release it

Content you’re sharing (maybe people don’t find what you’re sharing helpful)

The channel you’re using (YouTube v Facebook v Instagram v Email v Twitter)

Bottom line: experiment. Don’t change everything at once, but don’t keep trying to start a car that ran out of gas a long time ago.

Then watch the metrics to see patterns. You’ll eventually see that some things start to catch on.

When you see that, repeat, tweak and experiment.

If you build on what’s already gaining traction, you’ll get more traction.

If you build on what's already gaining traction, you'll get more traction. Click To Tweet

3. People often love the insight you almost threw away

Quick example of how all this plays out in real life.

I lead off each year with a post on trends that often is one of the most read posts I write.

This year, I did two trends posts (well, three if you include this one), pouring days into each until they were just right.

Here’s the surprise.

The most shared insight in both posts were ideas I almost threw away and only added at the last minute.

For example, in my leadership trends post, one of the trends I named is that focus is a new superpower for leaders.

As I was writing, I felt the point needed something a little more concrete, so just before I hit publish, I went into the manuscript for a new book I’m writing (not released yet), literally cut and pasted a stat about how many times people touch their cell phones every day (2617 to be exact), didn’t think much about it, and hit publish.

That stat got quoted 10x more than anything else I wrote. (See point #1 above).

Then in my church trends post, a similar thing happened. Again, I spent hours writing the post and crafting the insight.

In the very final edit before hitting publish, I thought one trend needed a little more clarity, so I whipped together a line about hype no longer resonating with a generation looking for hope.

Again, 10x resonance from readers with that line.

No matter how many years I do this, I find that people often most love the insight I almost threw away.

Lesson? I don’t know that there’s a lesson other than don’t throw it away. Keep writing.

People often most love the insight you almost threw away. Click To Tweet

4. Unpolished Is Just Fine and Really Resonating

The move a lot of churches are making is to try to produce content that looks similar to what we produced when we had access to our buildings. Others with production crews are still capturing in their buildings. Growing lock downs might change that.

The argument runs both ways.

Some say people are craving ‘normal’ and they want to see what used to be, so producing content like we always have is a good idea.

Others argue that when we’re in a global crisis, slick production looks out of place.

I see both sides of the story, but here’s the overall trend which will probably get more intense as lockdowns and quarantines become more widespread, is that simple production will resonate more.

Example from 2019 when things were ‘normal.’

What shocked me is that last year on my Instagram, seven of my top 9 Instagram posts were Twitter quotes I screenshotted and posted to Instagram.

Yep…super fancy. Took me like 30 seconds to do the screenshot and post. Zero design.

Similarly, in my IG Stories, one of the most popular things I did in the last twelve months was post stories about my dad’s obsession with desserts. He’s a slim man who works out, but at almost 80, enjoys dessert a lot. So I call him out on it and we have fun bantering back and forth in these videos.

Again, totally unscripted. Just fun. Spur of the moment stuff.

Not polished. Not edited. Just real.

Here’s what I’m learning from moments like these: In a world of spin, fear and opportunism, people are looking for real. And leaders, people want to see you, not some perfect version of you.

In a world of spin, fear and opportunism, people are looking for real. And leaders, people want to see you, not some perfect version of you. Click To Tweet

5. A Simple Kit is All You Need

You’re probably reading this post on the only device you need to influence the people you lead in the future—your phone. Your phone is probably even 4k…way more than the web requires.

I’ve been getting asked what I use for my short daily Instagram series on crisis leadership. You can watch/follow for free here.

The most important thing, surprisingly, is sound.

Mic

While I own numerous mice, here’s the lapel mic I use 99% of the time with my phone.  Just attach it with the adapter your iPhone comes with. It’s cheap. It’s great.

Tripod

I have a few tripods, but this one is inexpensive, simple and very versatile. You can put it on a desk, mantle or wrap it around objects.

Lighting

Often natural room light is enough, but if you need a light or are recording at night, a simple circle ring light works just fine.

Because I shoot a lot of video, I’ve also recently invested in two fully adjustable Elgato Key Lights. These will be overkill for most leaders, but if you’re used to a high production environment (I’ll use them to shoot courses, do webinars and shoot video podcasts), these are a great alternative to big light kits and the settings are fully adjustable off your phone. They sit nicely on your desk too and you can remove them easily when you don’t need them.

Just to be clear, most of the video I shoot off my phone doesn’t use enhanced lighting. I just go with room light. Not trying to sell you on something you don’t need.

Bottom line?

Boom…there’s your studio for under $100 (if you go with a basic circle ring light).

Remember this: Slick production doesn’t make lame content shareable.

If you have a shareability issue, it’s probably your content, not your kit. You can’t produce your way out of sub-par content.

Slick production doesn't make lame content shareable. If you have a shareability issue, it's probably your content, not your kit. You can't produce your way out of sub-par content. Click To Tweet

6. Experimentation Outperforms Set-It-and-Forget-It Sharing

The key to shareability and keeping your audience engaged is to keep experimenting.

Experimentation leads to breakthroughs.

The challenge most leaders and organizations have is that content sharing can be automated to the point where you stop innovating or even thinking about it.

As soon as content-sharing becomes so systematized that you fall into a set-it-and-forget-it mindset, you lose, and so does your audience.

That’s also the best way to ensure you get diminishing results over time. Algorithms are always changing and your audience will grow bored of the same old same old.

So keep trying things you’re not sure will work. They just might.

Then track the impact carefully, learn and move forward.

As soon as content-sharing becomes so systematized that you fall into a set-it-and-forget-it mindset, you lose, and so does your audience. Click To Tweet

7. Your best content keeps producing again and again…don’t abandon it

As a leader, you’re likely attracted to shiny new things. So am I.

But having written this blog for seven years now, the trend I see emerging is unmistakable: often content I wrote years ago continues to be some of the most read and most sought after content.

The temptation is that I get bored with it and want to ignore that. Don’t.

And none of this should be surprising.

Imagine going to hear your favorite band live only to have them announce We’re not playing any of our hits tonight. Just new material and B sides. 

You’d want your money back.

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite leadership experts. In my most recent interview with him, I asked him to unpack The Five Temptations of a CEO—a book he wrote back in 2008.  Imagine if Pat said “Yeah I’m bored with those ideas. I’ve moved on.” (Which, of course, he’s not. And he gave a superb interview.)

Another example. I wrote this post on toxic people way back in 2013. Last year, over 150K people read it. Why?

Not because of me. I barely mentioned it.

Google led them to it.

So, what do you do with that? We took that toxic people post, cleaned it up and optimized it so leads people to what we’re doing today, not what I was doing in 2013.

You can do the same with your best performing content.

Leaders, when you’re done with a topic, others are starting to catch on.

Church leaders in particular really need to pay attention to this.

Nobody is better at producing important content that is immediately forgotten and never referred to again than the church.

Churches are famous for focusing on what’s next. The relentless pressure of Sunday has you always focused on a new message, new music and the next weekend.

However…you have an archive.

Some of you have an audio archive of audio messages. Some of you have a podcast. Others have years of YouTube videos or services captured in HD that sit on some website nobody visits.

Leverage those.

Just because your content isn’t brand new doesn’t mean it won’t be new to your audience. Especially a new audience.

Nobody is better at producing important content that is immediately forgotten and never referred to again than the church. Click To Tweet

8. Email Is Much Sexier Than It Sounds

I’m going to guess that the most ignored tool in your content-sharing toolbox is your email list.

So while everyone else is focused on YouTube, TikTok and social media, dust off your email list and start using it again.

Unlike almost anything else online, email isn’t controlled by an algorithm. With very few exceptions, your email gets through. On all other platforms, the algorithm changes regularly. Just when you think you’ve cracked the code, Instagram changes the code.

Not fun.

The key to getting high open rates on email is to serve your audience, not just sell to them.

Most people use their email list to sell. Be different. Use it to serve.

So how do you do this? Help people when you email them.

Most people use their email list to sell. Be different. Use it to serve. Click To Tweet

I’ve got an email list of over 55K leaders I talk to via email almost every day with a very decent open rate and tiny unsubscribe rate. I almost always keep the emails short and to the point and link to helpful content designed to help leaders solve problems they’re facing.

My filter for those emails (and, I hope, for all my content) is a single word: helpful.

I want my content to help leaders. Plain and simple.

So can you sell via email or call people to action? For sure. Your inbox is loaded every day from organizations that try to do that. I do it from time to time too.

But if that’s all you do, that’s why you end with really low open rates and very high annoyance rates.

Instead, make your primary use of email to help your audience. They’ll come to see you as a trusted voice, an ally in a noisy world where everyone wants something from you and few people want something for you.

Do something for them many more times than you ask for something from them will make your audience really look forward to hearing from you.

Doing something for them many more times than you ask for something from them will make your audience really look forward to hearing from you. Click To Tweet

Access My New FREE Crisis Leadership Course Today

The world is experiencing a series of unprecedented challenges, and you’re leading in the midst of it all.

I’ve got a brand new online, on-demand course, called How To Lead Through Crisisthat can help you lead your team, your church and yourself through the massive disruption.

The course is the gift from me and my team to you and leaders everywhere. In light of everything that’s going on, we decided to make it available 100% free.

Inside How To Lead Through Crisis, you’ll learn how to: 

  • Cultivate a non-anxious presence that inspires confidence and trust.
  • Care for yourself so the crisis doesn’t break you.
  • Master the art of fast-paced, clear decision making. 
  • Gather and interpret the most reliable data that will advance your mission
  • Advance digitally to scale past physical barriers and grow your outreach.
  • Lead your team and congregation remotely

While no one has all the answers in a crisis this big, in the course, I share the mindsets, habits, tools and strategies that I believe will help you lead through crisis to get you and the people you lead to a new (and better) future. 

You can enroll and get instant access for you and your team here.

What’s Helping You Gain Traction?

What’s helping you gain traction online right now?

And…what are you noticing?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

4 Comments

  1. David Sasser on March 26, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    Carey, I thought I heard you mention a service that churches can upload videos too and other skilled people would do all of the post editing and production? If I am not remembering correctly then forgive me. Thanks!

  2. Justina Baker on March 26, 2020 at 9:43 am

    Great article you’re the one not spread panic in this situation just giving tips to the people during crisis keep it up

  3. Bobby McGraw on March 22, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    Great tips! What are you using for your webcam?

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