Document. Don’t Create

Last updated on September 30th, 2022 by

Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to 6 NBA championships and is probably the best basketball player ever. But Michael Jordan wasn’t born a legend. He’s a legend because of the shots he made and the games he won. He made those shots because of how he trained and prepared on his off days.

The Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance” ran for 10 weeks and told us the story that you couldn’t see on the court, and each week had over 4 million viewers. In this mini-series, you get a look at the reps, training, people, everything that made him a legend. You can see where he got his drive and competitiveness, the reasons he worked so hard off the court.

That is great content.



The Problem of Creating

Coming up with original ideas, producing them, and distributing them is hard. We define that process as creating content.

If you were tasked with creating content for your social media accounts, you know this. You know what goes into it. You need a good image, some good text, a link, some attribution codes for tracking. Ideally, it will be contextual to your audience.

It’s hard for at least 3 reasons:


1 – It’s Expensive

If you are producing creative materials, you know that hiring a creative is an additional payroll expense, not to mention the necessary equipment like a camera, software like Adobe Creative Suite or a recording studio. Or if you decide to do it with your existing staff, it takes time away from serving your clients.


2 – It’s Slow

Especially if you’re trying to do it yourself, chances are that you aren’t fast. It’s one more thing on the list each week. That is a compounding problem because the quickest way to get good at something is to iterate: publish regularly. Each iterative cycle makes you better. But if creating content moves slowly, you’re not publishing often. Isn’t that the entire reason you’re producing content in the first place?


3 – It Conceals Your Process

If you’re creating content, you have a process that produces an end product. Your process produces a great end product that says what you want it to. But your end product likely doesn’t reveal the decisions you made and why you made them. It hides your process. If your content is good, your audience wants to know how you do it so they can do it too.



Document. Don’t Create: The Concept

If you want to be great at something, one way to learn is to watch someone great to see how it’s done. But rarely we get that content. We see gameday, not the daily grind of how the greats are made. That’s one reason we love documentaries. We get to see the process of how greatness is formed.

There is a lesson here that has been applied to content marketing. There is a lot that goes into your work every day that makes your company great. There are people that admire you that are paying attention to how you do things so they can be great like you.

Just like Michael Jordan, you have an audience that wants to know how you do it, how you have become the best.

When you make content, Document. Don’t create.

“Document. Don’t Create.” has arisen as a mantra for some of the best in the content marketing industry. The premise is that there are things that you do on a daily basis that your audience wants to know about, and one of the biggest obstacles to generating content is the “creation”: getting the idea, get the sound and lighting right, and perfecting the scene. Documenting gives authentic content in its unscripted form. It gives answers for different questions:

  • What was your process like for solving that problem?
  • How did turn that hard situation around?
  • How do you produce content?

Documenting and sharing the conversations you have, the decisions you make and your problems is authentic and fosters connection. Thinking like a documentary producer when you produce content shows your audience that they’re not alone and helps them solve similar problems quicker.



What that looks like for you

“Document. Don’t Create” is really a mentality where you’re always watching for opportunities that aren’t staged that would be beneficial for your audience as content. There is a spectrum to how you approach this method. You can take it very literally and let a video camera follow you wherever you go and record everything. On the other end of the spectrum is creating content by repurposing internal materials. Let me explain:


Capture Live Moments

Remember that time the team met at the whiteboard and diagrammed out a huge problem? Remember that company gathering where you told that great joke? Remember when your IT guy fixed the copier by smacking it real hard?

There are so many great moments that happen every day that can make people smile or laugh, give insights to how things work or explain why you make decisions. People love this content.

It’s easier than ever to record video or audio. If you’re going into a meeting where you know your team will excel, ask your team if you can record it. Edit the great parts and publish them.

If you are very strong in client meetings, get your client’s permission to bring a video recorder into your meeting. Can you think of a better way to show prospects what it’s like to work with you than letting them sit in on a real meeting?


Example: Gary Vee

Gary Vaynerchuck, better known as Gary Vee, records everything. Gary has a camera on him every moment of the day. He has a video editing team to create compilation videos around a certain topic and then edit them into a produced video. In fact, Gary is one of the best known champions of “Document. Don’t create.” and has created a series of videos on this exact topic.** (Warning: He can be vulgar)


Retell Stories

Maybe having a camera follow you around is horrifying. It is for me. You can still use those moments, they just won’t be captured live.

Retelling stories is the most common way we experience “Document. Don’t create.” You can always use that moment by recounting it in content. Anecdotes are very powerful for teaching lessons. Talk about it on a podcast, a Facebook Live, or include it in a blog post.

You can get creative too. If you have a graphic artist, perhaps they can produce a comic strip of something that happened.

The hard part is that so often when you are going about your day, you don’t think to ask yourself “Would this content be helpful for my audience?” You’ll need to be aware of all the opportunities and how you can retell those stories.


Example: How I Built This podcast

How I Built This is a podcast that interviews founders of well known companies and allows them to recount the early days of their business. You can listen to the founders of Tom’s Shoes, Peleton, Larabar and more. It’s a simple interview-style podcast that is executed wonderfully. There is obviously some production, but the content itself already exists and doesn’t need to be written. It just needs to be spoken by the interviewee. Think of the power of learning the biggest mistakes of the most respected companies…


Repurpose Other Materials 

Chances are that repurposing other materials is the lowest hanging fruit that you’ve likely never thought could make great content.

Are there internal tools you use regularly to help guide your customers?

At JM, we created a tool for our customers when guiding them on copywriting. We turned one into a blog post about creating engaging content. We’ve also repurposed our writing process into content that we used in a post on scaling content.

Have you created tools or documents to present to clients during your sales process? Do you have tools that you give to clients at some point in your relationship? Repurpose these into content. Create digital media or create a graphic for your waiting room.


Example: Brian Dean

Someone that does a good job of repurposing his professional process into content is Brian Dean of Backlinko. Brian great at SEO and great at producing content, especially video content. He started out as an SEO expert that helped businesses improve their traffic from search engines. Now he creates content about HOW he does it. The theory is if he gets good results for SEO, teaching people how to do what he does may be as valuable as doing it himself.

Example: Here’s his YouTube channel



Where to start

Start by making a mental shift. When it’s time to create content, ask yourself about recent engaging conversations you’ve had with prospects, employees or clients. Retell these stories. Recall the documents or tools you have already created that you or your clients use that you can repurpose into content.

Lucky for us, there was always a camera rolling as Michael Jordan was building his legend. We can see how it came about.

You’re building greatness too. Your fans want to know how you’re doing it. 

Document it.