Document, Don’t Create

Credit: Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia

Gary Vaynerchuk is an unstoppable content machine.

On top of publishing five New York Times best sellers and thousands of online videos, he’s the fastest influencer to hop on the hottest new app or social network as soon as he detects the sweet, sweet smell of underpriced attention.

What’s the secret to his success?

It’s a content marketing strategy he calls Document, Don’t Create.

Document, Don’t Create is the idea that a successful content marketing strategy is built around publishing a lot of content on a regular basis, and the only way to do that scalably is to document your process instead of creating content from scratch.

Here’s Gary explaining it in his own words (12:30 min – 15:00 min):

“You should be putting out content on a very regular basis. You should start a pillar show. You should be doing Instagram stories and Snapchat stories at scale. You should be putting out 7 – 25 pieces of content on both those platforms a day. And let me explain how. Don’t go fancy. Document, don’t create. It’s a big shift.”

When it comes to making that much content, he compares it to producing The Real World and the Kardashians instead of Star Wars and Friends.

In other words, don’t spend forever planning out every frame.

Turn on a camera and capture real, behind-the-scenes moments of your business.

Here are some of Vaynerchuk’s examples:

Why is Document, Don’t Create effective?

Document, Don’t Create works for a lot of reasons—mainly the following.

Reason 1: Running a business is inherently interesting.

Maybe your workplace isn’t exactly Mad Men, but I guarantee it’s interesting to your customers and prospects. It doesn’t matter if you sell hot sauce, marketing software, or private vocal coaching sessions, there’s inevitably a way to document what you’re doing and make it interesting.

Why does this resonate? According to TechWyse, “People want raw, uncut, honest, and informal conversations about business, life, and learning. When you throw out the scripts and just started talking in an authentic way, things start to take off.”

Reason 2: No one knows your product better than those building and selling it.

What makes more sense: getting you, your sales folks, and your product people to talk about your business or a blogger who has no deep knowledge of what’s going on?

It’s a no-brainer.

Focus on featuring the people in your trenches—those who are solving problems, interacting with customers, and have a passion for what you’re doing. Content featuring those people is more authentic than a strategy reliant on siloed marketers.

Reason 3: It allows you to pump out content. Fast.

When it comes to writing content from scratch vs. documenting your process and repurposing footage, there’s no contest.

One video with the CEO could turn into 10 social posts, 2 blogs, 5 YouTube clips, etc.

Unless you have hordes of writers, there’s no faster way to produce that much content. Yes, you still need a content team, but they’ll be focused on coordinating and repurposing material rather than penning mediocre blog posts.

How do I get started?

How do you start capturing the amazing things happening in your company?

Gary Vee says: “Just start.”

Get in the habit of picking up a camera and capturing as much as possible.

Start interviewing people, collaborating with internal thought leaders, and repurposing pieces being produced in other divisions.

If this is brand new to you, I recommend following these ten steps:

  1. Book a meeting to introduce the idea and explain the strategy to other marketers, salespeople, and leadership from whom you need buy-in.
  2. Commit to sharing 1 piece per day. You’ll ramp up eventually, but start by publishing something every day for the first few weeks.
  3. Try a pilot month where you don’t produce any content from scratch. You’re only allowed to document and repurpose what others are doing.
  4. Create a #document-dont-create channel in Slack for collaboration. Invite everyone who will be responsible for execution, as well as the internal thought leaders and decision makers who you want to contribute.
  5. Create a recording schedule to capture moments from around the company. If you know that key meetings are happening on certain days, make sure you’ve got coverage for those times. You can also schedule short sessions with key people on a regular basis for interviews and Q&A.
  6. Establish a thought-leadership committee. Interview one person per week and turn that interview into multiple pieces of content.
  7. Interview the people who created your old content (e.g., white papers, webinars, etc.) and pick their brains on their areas of expertise. Cut up the old content into smaller pieces and share on social.
  8. Put a camera in the corner of your boardroom and record key meetings. Adopt a mentality of capturing first and editing later. If something contains sensitive or inappropriate information, you can remove it in post.
  9. Download recordings from your call system. If you’re using Zoom or GoToWebinar or any other system that records calls, download the recordings from key meetings or sales conversations and cut them up into marketable bits. Your sales and success people are handling objections and solving problems every day—dig up the gold and use it.
  10. Film sound clips & testimonials from customers whenever they stop by your office or you happen to be near them.

Full disclosure: a lot of the suggestions above are tougher than they sound.

When I rolled out Document, Don’t Create with my team, it took a lot more effort than I expected. People loved the idea, but their feet got cold as soon as we started recording. Be aware that it’s going to take some coaching and practice in front of the camera. That’s why your team is so important, which leads me to…

Who should I hire?

Gary Vee has 22 full-time employees on his content team, in which he has personally invested over 7 figures. That’s purely for his personal brand.

Do you need to start with 22 employees?

No. Start with three if you can afford it. If not, start with one.

In his interview with Brian Mazza, Gary hammers the point home:

Gary: Start with three people at $100k, because you can get three kids at 35k. If it has to be one at $35k to start, that’s the blueprint. Every day in the office.

Brian Mazza: How can I get in front of more people and be more impactful?

Gary Vee: Hire more people. This [pointing at room of employees], that’s it. The fuck are they doing? The fuck are those 20 people doing? They’re biz-deving, they’re developing. That nerd in the corner is building my Facebook message bot. He’s filming. Andy’s strategizing everything. Seth’s working on the audio. Sof, right now, is DMing influencers that have enough awareness and engagement that it feels like there could be something worth my time. Se-nan is focusing on pre-roll YouTube video. Tyler’s my ad man. The second you realize you’re Barstool and CNN and ESPN and Vogue—the second you realize you’re THAT—is the second you decide, “Ok, if I’m that, well who’s the writer?” Once you decide you’re actually a media company comma human being, you’ll be off to the races.

What equipment do I need?

You do not—I repeat, DO NOT—need expensive equipment or editing software to get started. Your phone + the free editing tools on your computer are fine.

As long as you’ve got good lighting and a decent mic, you’re ok.

Now. If you want to go full-blown professional, here is the equipment that DRock uses for producing Gary Vee’s content.

It includes a Sony a7S camera with a variety of lenses, Zoom recorder, Joby Gorillapod, Sennheiser AVX wireless mic & lav set, and more.

You can find DRock’s equipment and software here via Kit >

Alternately, here’s the gear that Tim Ferris uses to record his shows.

If you don’t want to drop a ton of cash on equipment and just want a decent mic for podcasting or interviews, I recommend the Blue Yeti with a pop screen. It’s the easiest, most popular USB mic for podcasters and streamers by far.

What’s the recording process?

As much as Gary films by the seat of his pants, a lot of his content marketing strategy is carefully coordinated, too.

Take the #AskGaryVee Show. Here’s a behind-the-scenes video of how they do it:

The (rough) production process of the #AskGaryVee Show

  1. Set up a recording room ahead of time. Make sure batteries are charged, memory cards have enough space, mics are working, etc.
  2. Source questions from online. Interact with your social community and see if there’s anything they want answered or prepare your own questions.
  3. Bring in the speaker(s) and mic up. Do a quick sound and lighting check.
  4. Record the content.
  5. Offload video footage to computer.
  6. Edit video footage and combine with premade sequences like intro montages, logo bumpers, transition effects, etc.
  7. Upload to online channels and release.

From start to finish, the production of one #AskGaryVee episode takes approximately 5 – 6 hours. If you’re just getting started with your own vlog, count on it taking three or four times as long while you iron out the kinks.

Final word: Document, Don’t Create

If you’re not convinced by now that Document, Don’t create is one of the most scalable and effective ways to build a content marketing strategy, I’ve failed. Give it a college try and see what happens—and don’t give up when your videos don’t go viral.

Practice, practice, practice.

Start with the 10 steps I outlined and go from there. As Gary says, “Ideas are shit without execution. Put your head down and work.”