This March, I had the honor of teaching my first paid content writing workshop.
(I’m stepping out of my comfort zone by taking my first in-person speaking engagements this year. Till now, I’ve done webinars, podcasts, and lots of video. This January, I gave my first 20-minute live talk to a mastermind here in Austin, and it went well!)
The March workshop was in Irvine, California, for a healthcare company called NextGen Healthcare. Sarah, Manager of the Marketing Content Strategy, asked me to come and teach a full half-day class on one of my favorite topics — strategic content writing techniques for web, blog, email, social media and downloadables (whitepapers, content upgrades, etc.) for a B2B audience.
The workshop was on March 26, and it went very well!
For several reasons.
First, the team of people that were there! (*cue Hallelujah chorus*) Teaching is easy when you have such a great crew as students. These people were simply amazing. Smarties, each and every one!
Secondly, it was great to have a live audience while teaching content — tunnel vision, farewell! I was able to see, hear and discover what people that work in a leading industry firm actually find difficult in content marketing, what they struggle with, and on the flip side, what they actually enjoy doing and are good at.
I think I walked out with as much new inspiration and knowledge as I (hopefully) left my attendees with. Here’s a recap of my workshop experience. First, what went into the workshop; and secondly, some key takeaways from the conversations I listened in to.Content marketing expert @JuliaEMcCoy gave a live content writing workshop to a healthcare firm in California. Read her top takeaways from the experience #strategy Click To Tweet
What Went Into My 4-Hour Content Writing Workshop
It was fantastic to work with Sarah Andrade, who is the Manager of Marketing Content Strategy (that’s a mouthful) at NextGen Healthcare. She found me through our site at Express Writers, and sent me a warm, friendly email requesting my presence teaching the workshop and offering full payment.
Content creation is my jam, so when Sarah at NextGen Healthcare found me, despite a short timeline (in two weeks!), I said yes to taking on content creation for the half-day workshop.
It was an amazing experience. I can’t say enough good things about the content team themselves. Brilliant people, all of them! Sarah (the marketing manager who found and recruited me), Allison, Carrie, Michael, Holly, Eleen, Jaime, Cathryn, Michelle…and everyone else whose names my post-speaking mushy brain sadly didn’t hit save on. Seriously, it was a rockstar team.
They checked all the boxes:
- Engaged, interested, and passionate about their jobs (the whole room was engaged and came alive when we paused for Q&A)
- Already knowledgeable in a variety of areas (from SEO all the way to how to post content on Instagram with the paragraph breaks — Allison and Jaime had a finger on SEO, social and content trends)
- Great at content (Michael, Carrie – rockstar content writers, serious OGs, I’d hire them — and I hire 1-2% of the writers I meet!)
Here’s what the final outline of my workshop looked like:
NextGen® Healthcare Content Creation Workshop Sessions & Outline
Sarah gave me full liberty to construct the whole half-day workshop. So, with Sarah’s help, I came up with 20-25 minute speaking sessions, broken up by Q&A content creation workshops. Here’s the final outline of workshop I constructed and gave. I was able to get through all the sessions between a time span of noon to 5 p.m. We ended up spending a great deal of time in Q&A, which I loved.
- Session 1: Introduction to Modern Content Writing & Content Types
- — Learn It! Q&A and Homework Share
- Session 2: How to Craft Engaging, Optimized Blogs
- — Learn It! Q&A and Blog Content Creation Workshop
- Session 3: How to Write Engaging Web Content
- — Learn It! Q&A and Web Content Creation Workshop
- Session 4: How to Write Emails
- — Learn It! Q&A and Email Writing Workshop
I spent a few back-to-back 10-hour days working on the content to get it all done, right after Sarah found me. In less than 10 days, I’d created 200+ slides, four PowerPoint presentations, four cheat-sheet PDF takeaways for each attendee, and two recorded videos for the class demo-ing how to use BuzzSumo for content analysis, and SEMrush for keyword research. If I had more time, I would have made the content even more tailored to their audience and conducted more research on their high-level audience – but, I was able to customize it fairly well.
My designer did an amazing job on the presentation design (psst… this is something we offer in the Content Shop!):
Here are a few of my favorite slides from the session (and I think everyone’s favorite, from the joyful and positive feedback that erupted after I presented the ‘icky face’). I took an overly stuffy home page tagline from the website for NextGen Healthcare, and rewrote it for the class:
The ‘homework’ everyone was asked to do prior was a suggestion of Sarah, and I thought it was a great idea. We came up with three items (1. Bring your questions, 2. Bring a piece of content from NextGen to reform, 3. Bring a piece of content that makes you feel something – curious, inspired, joyful, etc.), and everyone that attended the workshop was all about it! Pretty much all of them had done their homework prior (again, so impressed with this team).
In the homework Q&A time, lead writer Michael shared how much he took inspiration from Andrew & Pete, two content marketers that recently made a Top 100 Marketer list. I love Andrew & Pete myself. They’re outside-the-box thinkers who boldly and creatively go where few marketers go.
Overall, it was an amazing group, and the experience of teaching a workshop was wonderful.
3 Takeaways & Inspirations Gained from Teaching My Workshop
I was inspired by the live conversations I listened to, during and after my live workshop. It was quite an experience to teach a group of (incredibly smart and talented!) people live, vs. teaching one of my courses online.
I was so inspired that when I visited the California beach the next day, I filmed this YouTube video: Is the Playbook to “Good Content” Dead? The Reality of Content Marketing Today (Video) I’d planned on filming my next bi-weekly scheduled video while in California, but had no script, talking points or outline prior to recording. I was thoroughly, 100% inspired.
It’s time to stop doing same old, same old — and that’s one of the biggest points of my video and my takeaway from teaching the workshop.
My three takeaways would be these:
1. THEM vs. US.
It’s time to stop making our marketing about us, and make it about our consumers, our people.
As I drove back to the L.A. airport from Irvine, I noticed and read billboard after billboard. 60% were worded with ‘OUR’ and ‘US,’ and only 40% were worded with ‘YOU,’ ‘YOURS’. And the ones with pro-consumer copy were so much more inviting and intriguing. A Porsche billboard, for example, offered an experience that was “your ticket to adventure.” You only knew it was Porsche from the logo. I wanted to be a part of that adventure! A bank offered “our talented solutions” for your needs, and their egotistical message overshadowed the ‘you’ part.
Authentic, audience-focused copy on our website, ads, etc. makes a huge difference in telling our audience that we truly care about them.It's time to stop making our marketing about us, and make it about our consumers, our people. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
2. Level 10 is Now Level 1
What used to be Level 10 (content strategy knowledge) just a few years ago is now Level 1.
Seriously! I believe that level 10 has become our new Level 1. It is now the Basics.
So, this means we have no excuse to not know our content basics. Get strategic, and never guess when creating content – ever! Use data-backed insights on REAL searches they’re doing in Google and find the questions they’re already asking online, using tools like BuzzSumo (content discovery) and SEMrush (SEO analysis).
Need help? I teach all the answers to ‘what is content marketing’ step-by-step in the Content Strategy & Marketing Course.
Our new level 10? Well, that’s my next point.What used to be Level 10 (content strategy knowledge) just a few years ago is now Level 1. This means we have no excuse to not know our content basics. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
3. Allow Room for Innovation
Once you have the basics down, and you know content strategy:
Throw out best practices and your content playbook.
I mean it.
This is your new level.
After you equip your people (agency staff) with the right skills, it’s critical to allow room for innovation. Take your marketing people on a trip outside the office to spark brand new thoughts and inspired action.
This is how we’re going to win today.
Not just by covering the basics, and ‘knowing’ the what.
After we know our basics (the WHAT and HOW of content), we need space to create content people desire. This comes when we leave room for inspiration and innovation. This only comes when we leave room for inspiration and innovation. And this is how to hit a true, tangible and real next-level, in a world full of mountains and mountains of content.Once you have the basics down, and you know content strategy: Throw out best practices and your content playbook. Your new next-level is innovation. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
Teaching a training workshop is no joke. I was dead tired after my four-hour workshop!
However, it was rewarding to be a part of an amazing content team (even if just for half a day). I thoroughly enjoyed helping them navigate the waters of creating great content! And, I feel like I walked away with just as much fresh, renewed inspiration as my students.
Want to request Julia to be a part of your event? Send us a message!