June 8, 2017
by Chuck Frey
We’re awash in a cesspool of bad content.
Much of it is content that is so self-serving, it makes you cringe. Tired topics that have been covered ad nausem by many other authors – apparently in an attempt to validate the theory that an infinite number of monkeys pounding on an infinite number of typewriters can write a novel. Dense, confusing infographics that look like a unicorn barfed in Photoshop. Topics that the author was obviously passionate about, but don’t connect with any customer need or interest.
Most of the time, you can recognize bad content when you see it.
However, it’s different when you produce content for your company. You’re too close to it to be objective. Plus, you have a deadline looming, so you do the best you can. You churn out one of those ubiquitous “10 ways” list posts. It turned out pretty good. It’s well written. It makes logical sense. But is it actually worth reading?
Here’s the rub: You can’t be the judge of that. It’s up to your customer or stakeholder to decide what rocks and what reeks.
Tips to create content that rocks, not reeks
So how do you turn the odds in your favor? How do you ensure you’re producing content your target audience will actually read, value and benefit from? Here are some tips:
Customer focused: Always start your content creation efforts with a well-defined customer need – no exceptions! Bonus points if you have created a customer persona and a customer journey map for the audience segment to whom you’re writing.
Compelling: Make it a compelling story. Communicating the facts is important, of course. But let’s be honest – it’s often boring. How can you make it more memorable and interesting to your target audience?
Tell a story: Study storytelling techniques, and learn how to incorporate them into your writing process. Why? Because as human beings, we are hard-wired to respond to stories. They engage our mind and emotions like nothing else can. If you can tap into your audiences’ minds at this deep level, you have a much greater chance of engaging them with your content.
Useful: Make your content useful. It’s important to educate your target audience about what they need to know and to answer their deepest questions. But you must also deliver it in an actionable format. Always ask yourself, “How can I help my reader put this information or knowledge to use immediately?”
Valuable: When you’re writing, continually ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” You need to always think in terms of the audience for whom you’re writing: Their needs. Their challenges. Their opportunities. This bit of advice may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how much your voice and point of view try to sneak into your writing. I’m sure you see it all the time – blog posts that provide useful information until the very end, when the author can’t resist to toss in a product or brand mention. Don’t do that. Remember, your goal is to build trust, not sell something.
Differentiated: Always seek to differentiate your content. Not just for the sake of being different, but to gain attention and engagement. Appeal to emotions and issues that your target audience cares about. Think about their typical day. What value can you deliver to them that will make their day, their week, their career better? And remember: You’re not working in isolation: You need to do a better job of this than any of your competitors, who are also trying to influence that same audience.
Where do you stand?
So where do you stand on the continuum from bad to good content? It’s time to move upstream. Your audience will appreciate it. And your boss will, too, because your content will be more effective.
This post originally appeared on the Cultivate Communications blog.
Photo credit: Flickr user Vix_B
About Chuck Frey
Chuck Frey is the director of content marketing at Cultivate, a Milwaukee-based digital marketing agency. Prior to that, he served as director of online training for the Content Marketing Institute. He is also the founder and author of The Mind Mapping Software Blog, the world’s leading website covering visual mapping. In addition, he blogs about creativity, productivity and personal development strategies on his personal blog. He has extensive experience in public relations, online marketing, content development and marketing, business strategy and creative problem-solving techniques. He is an avid photographer. You can follow him on Twitter @ChuckFrey.