With the sheer volume of content currently being published online every day, businesses must create content which cuts through the noise. Despite this, most seem happy to churn out content like everyone else’s; consisting of good news and self-promotion. Unsurprisingly, this approach creates dull content which is more likely to turn off readers than engage them. How can we make content stand out? What makes the content valuable?
Start with why
All businesses know what they do and how they do it. Much of a company’s business collateral is based around this, but this is not the type of content which will gain real traction with a target audience. The customer knows what you sell, but what is far more interesting is the ‘why’.
The guru of the ‘why’ is Simon Sinek. His mantra is, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. I believe this is central to the way businesses must approach content creation in order to make them stand out. What if you sell ‘innovative, end-to-end cloud computing solutions’ – so do hundreds of other businesses worldwide. Content is the hidden gem in the marketing armoury, but without the right story, it’s content for content’s sake.
What’s a good story?
Conveying messages through story telling is an ancient art and journalists are the professionals in telling stories. Before you start creating content, it’s really helpful to take the lead from a journalist’s perspective and understand exactly what makes news. Although you may not be looking to pen content for newspapers, your customers and prospects will inevitably be people who engage with publications on a regular basis. Your target audience consumes news, take advantage of this.
Before a journalist will even think about running a story, they will consider whether the story has mass appeal. The story which finds its way onto the front page of a national newspaper will be the story they believe to directly affect the lives of their readership that day and inevitably will be rooted in a particular news angle. There are three key news hooks that journalists look for in a story:
Firstly, news publications are full of bad news on a daily basis as this is naturally what gains the strongest reaction. A strong bad news headline can sell a newspaper on its own, regardless of the other stories found inside. The trick is to take this knowledge and apply it to your own business’ content.
Identifying the problems your business solves creates a platform on which to base your key messages and the stories you want to tell your target audience, which will differentiate you from your competitors. For example, if the business manufactures electric cars, write about the importance of reducing carbon emissions and the negative impact pollution has on the environment. This will gain much more traction than a piece of collateral about the car itself and will therefore give you an advantage over the competition.
Secondly and equally as important, is to weave a human interest element into any content which is created. Humanising content in this manner will bring it to life, instantly making it more appealing to your target audience, possibly even giving it mass appeal, which can only strengthen brand awareness and possibly result in sales leads in the long run. For content to truly be valuable it must educate, inform and inspire the reader and humanising content which the target audience can truly relate to.
The third hook that journalists look for and the final step to creating valuable content, is to make sure your story has topicality by syncing it with the current news agenda. This will then result in content which is compelling, informative and emotive and all the necessary components to go viral among its target audience.
Making the most of your content
The most common form of B2B content publishing is via a blog space on corporate websites. Ensuring this is updated frequently with compelling content is vital for marketers looking to increase brand awareness and generate sales leads. Statistics have shown B2B companies with blogs have 67 per cent more sales leads a month than their competitors who don’t. This speaks volumes for the power of content.
To truly get the most out of content it is vital to split any lengthy collateral into smaller blogs which can be shared with your target audience; not only providing multiple opportunities to put across key messages but also increase search engine optimisation. This is the perfect example of making your content work for your business.
Of course, with social media becoming an increasingly important marketing tool for businesses, content doesn’t stop with frequent blog posts. Content gives marketers a strong starting point to create an engaging social media campaign while also creating a platform for discussion surround the content.
When successful, content which has a topical human interest angle highlighting the problems a business can solve, stories have the potential to go viral as they are shared across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; seen by many more readers than if it were merely posted on the company’s website. When executed effectively, ambitious and creative content can establish a brand very quickly and prove just how valuable content can be.
Sara Lewis is managing director at Ascent PR
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