One to Grow On: Content Creation with Purpose

7-20 One to Grow On

This week’s One to Grow On quote is more practical than philosophical, and it is advice anyone who is tasked with being creative on the job should take to heart. The source of this advice is someone who knows a thing or two about creating content. Ann Handley is a writer (author of Everybody Writes and co-author of Content Rules) and Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs. In marketing, the shift toward content has been swift and dramatic. Brands and individuals alike recognize the benefits of leveraging content channels to build a community, educate customers, and yes, even generate revenue. Recognition of why you should be concerned with content creation is the easy part; implementing a system to plan, conceive, create, and distribute content is where most of us are baffled.

Start with Motivation

If you find yourself struggling to create content in any form (photos, video, blog entries, articles, social media posts), a logical question to ask is why do you want to create content in the first place? Perhaps your employment security depends on it, meaning that content creation is in your job description. While that is true for many people, even more people realize content could make their work more distinctive and make their personal brand stand out. Start with the why of content creation to make the what and how easier to answer. Consider these motives:

  • Create to help others. The best content is based on what recipients consider useful to them. Does you content solve problems? Teach a skill? Give people comfort? If you are driven by a desire to make a positive impact on those who consume your content, you will find instances of “writer’s block” or its equivalent diminishes as you are inspired to create content that benefits your audience. The information or education benefit for the audience could in turn become an economic benefit for you if people are moved to buy from you or your company based on the utility of your content.
  • Create to help yourself. A funny thing about content creation is that when you set out to help others, you often help yourself, too. For example, I began blogging in 2007 because… well, no particular reason. However, I soon discovered that the exercise of writing blog posts strengthened my writing and editing skills. My confidence increased the more engaged I was with the craft. Audience metrics? I did not look at them for years because blogging was more therapeutic and recreational than it was a commercial endeavor. I write for others’ consumption as well as my own release, and if the former does not occur the latter still does.

From Work to Want

Whether you are motivated to write to serve others or for self-fulfillment, you may still be challenged in finding how to put joy in creating content. Based on the external/internal motivations discussed earlier, joy in content creation can come from the following sources:

  • Being a resource. If you enjoy helping other people, consider how you can use content to make that happen. How-to videos, best practice articles, or step-by-step blog posts are examples of information that could benefit your audience.
  • Making a difference. You may go beyond merely providing helpful information to content that could be life changing in some way. An open discussion on a sensitive topic, being willing to be vulnerable and share your own stories of mistakes and redemption, or providing encouragement to people who need it could give wings to any content creator in search of ideas.

Regardless of the scope of impact you seek to achieve with your content, when you are driven by wanting to do something for someone else (educate, inform, or inspire) or for self-improvement your outlook changes from “have to” to “want to.”

Go Forth and Create

Online channels give everyone a voice today. You have a platform; the choice is yours whether you step up to the platform and use it. It is a privilege prior generations did not have as content creation and distribution was reserved for people who had access to mass media outlets- TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and books. The goal is not to become the next celebrity; it is to impact your network in a positive way.

Motivation: Energy for Your Brand


Answering the “Who am I” question about brand purpose can be accomplished by asking more questions, beginning with a broad query “Why am I who I am?” This question is not meant to be deeply philosophical- it addresses motivations for wanting to create the personal brand you aspire to have. Motivation has been studied extensively by psychologists, but its meaning can be put in simple terms: Moved to do something.

If you consider every decision you make in your life, it can be connected to a motive. You might be seeking an outcome that gives you feelings such as pleasure or accomplishment (e.g., a personal best time in a 5K run or getting a job interview with the top company on your target list) or one that avoids guilt or punishment (e.g., prepare for a group presentation to avoid looking incompetent or arrive at work on time so your boss does not fire you).

Sources of Energy

Motivation- positive and negative- spurs action, creates urgency to get things done, and keeps you on track toward reaching a goal. To identify and understand what motivates you to fulfill your purpose in ways that align with personal values, you want to determine sources of energy that move you to get things done. These energy sources are better known as extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. One source is not necessarily better than the other; they are two different ways that you can be energized to action.

Extrinsic motivation. When actions are guided by the expectation of an outcome separate from the action, extrinsic motivation spurs us to pursue the outcome. Actions are motivated by what is anticipated will occur as a result of the actions. Extrinsic motivation is effective when it is believed we have some control over an outcome. For example, a prime extrinsic motivator in business is that being a productive employee will lead to opportunities for pay raises and promotions. The outcomes (raises and promotions) spur action (greater effort or commitment).

Intrinsic motivation. While extrinsic motivation can move you to reach goals because of a reward linked to action, your personal brand needs to be guided by a stable internal compass that moves you in the direction of what is important to you. This internal compass can be described as intrinsic motivation. In contrast to external motivation, internal motivation occurs when you enjoy rewards from engaging in behavior that you find interesting or enjoyable. Intrinsic rewards do not come from an outside source (e.g., a pay raise at work or a grade on an exam). Instead, you could say that we give intrinsic rewards to ourselves; you decide how actions or outcomes are to be valued.

Understand the Motive behind the Motivation

To better understand how extrinsic and intrinsic motivations shape your purpose, consider how each source of motivation influences decisions and actions. When it comes to extrinsic motivation, you have likely heard the terms “carrot” and “stick” used in reference to providing incentives to get someone to engage in desired behavior. The carrot refers to positive reinforcement or reward if the desired behavior is exhibited. It represents a “goody” that one gets for meeting someone else’s expectations. The stick is negative reinforcement or consequences resulting from failing to meet expected behavior. Use of a stick as a motivator is based on the belief that one will learn from the situation and be motivated to avoid a similar negative result in the future.

Determining sources of intrinsic motivation may seem more challenging. How can you come up with the answer to the question of what you truly find interesting or enjoyable? It must be noted that intrinsic motivation not only resides within an individual, but it exists in the relationship between a person and a task. For example, people are attracted to a hobby more often by intrinsic rewards than external outcomes. An avid fisherman could be drawn to the sport because he enjoys spending time outdoors, connection to memories from childhood, or as a way to “recharge the batteries” after a busy week. These outcomes can be experienced regardless of how many fish are caught… even if that number is zero!

The Bottom Line on Motivation

Extrinsic  motivation = Influences action because of what it does for you 

Intrinsic motivation = Influences action because of what it does to you

Image Credit: Unsplash/Jake Hills