One thing I've learned over the last few years is that creating content is hard—it involves a choreography of people and things that have to go right. Surprisingly, in my experience the hard parts about content aren't what you would consider the important things. Writing the body of this newsletter is the easy part for me (it's also the part I enjoy!). What's difficult is everything around the newsletter, the cover image, copy pasting into various CMS' etc.
One element that is always a pain are generic assets like thumbnails or blog post headers. Luckily they're one of the easiest things to automate. Here's how:
Step 1: Create fields for every variable
If you look at the asset you're trying to create, you can bucket information into two categories: things that stay the same (aka static things), and things that change for every piece of content (aka variable things). If we take my stream's generic thumbnail below, what stays the same is my ugly face & the background. What changes is the guest name, guest title, guest image, time of stream, stream title, etc.
For each of the things that change for each show (aka the variables), you should create a field in your database (mine is in Airtable).
For the static things, they should go on your canvas, more on that in the next step.
Step 2: Create your canvas of static elements
Now that you've identified what is variable vs static, you should put the static things on a canvas. Once you have your static elements in place, you can add your variable information. In my case, I use Airtable's page designer app (I did a whole stream on Airtable's pager designer app here). You can use other tools like Bannerbear and Placid (more on that in a moment).
Step 3: Add your dynamic information
Now that you have the things that don't change, it's time to add in the things that do. Most tools will let you place variables like text or images on the canvas. Those variables will take the values in your database when you're ready to create your asset. For me, in page designer app, that means dragging and dropping the fields in the right place on the canvas.
Once you've put your variables onto your canvas, you'll have assets that are auto generated for each record in your database!
Step 4: Automate more
This example so far has been using Airtable's Page Designer app which has its limitations. It doesn't auto save your thumbnails (or whatever you're creating) back into Airtable. You're limited to one page, you can't generate videos, gifs etc.
Instead, you can use tools like Bannerbear or Placid which let you automate the creation of assets including images, videos and more! They both offer direct Airtable integration and Zapier integrations if you're not using Airtable.
However, to get their full power, you have to leverage their API. I love automating these assets so much, I created a course on How to automate content for Code meets no-code that covers how to use the Bannerbear API!
So, if you're a strapped creator like me or just find the work of creating generic assets tedious and boring, I hope you'll take the steps to automate some of your assets!
Until next week, keep building!