As part of Brandpoint’s 20th Anniversary celebration, we’ve developed “Content Makers,” a four-part blog series giving you a behind-the-scenes look at our passionate team of content creators and strategists. We’ll explore what it looks like to tell a great story in 2016, what it means to truly understand an audience, and what the future of content marketing looks like through the eyes of those who live it each day.
(Hint – It’s People!)
Recently, my supervisor asked me to share with her two core values that I believe define my work as a writer for Brandpoint. I chose “quality” and “joy.” To her credit, she didn’t roll her eyes at my corny answer (or at least I don’t think she did — the conversation took place over the phone). Instead, she listened to me expound on why I believe those two values are essential for successful content marketing.
I’ve been doing this a long time (before people started calling what I do “content marketing”), and while much of the game has changed with the rise of all things digital, the essence of quality content has really remained the same. I could give you a checklist about format, word count, headline length, keywords, SEO and all the technical stuff that goes into successful content today. While they’re certainly all important, they don’t speak to the fundamentals of what makes quality content.
Here are the must-have ingredients that I believe you need in order to cook up successful, quality content in any format, whether it’s a blog, article, press release, meme, tweet or Pinterest post:
1. An intimate understanding of who’s consuming your content.
Ever said something you shouldn’t have said to someone whom you wished never heard it? For example, you mouth off at the office party about what a jerk the CEO is … only to find out you are speaking with his wife. She may or may not agree with you, but either way you look like a jerk.
If you engage in content marketing without knowing who your audience really is, your efforts will not only be ineffective, they could actually harm your brand identity. No one wants to come across as clueless or uncaring. Before you craft any piece of content, know exactly who you want to have consuming it and tailor your message accordingly. Your audience will feel cared for and more receptive to your message — and your content will be more successful.
2. The ability to speak their language.
Of course, it’s not enough to just know who you’re conversing with. You need to know how they like to be talked to. That means many things when it comes to content marketing, including the tone of your content, and how, when and where you present it.
For example, if you want to market banking products to Millennials you probably want to do so through their mobile devices, whereas a well-established, high-asset baby boomer might prefer a personal phone call.
3. A story that they can care about.
You can know your audience and how they like to receive information, but if your story isn’t one they can care about, your content is still useless to them. Notice I said “can care about,” not just “care about.” It’s far easier to create content for an audience you already know is receptive, but as a marketer you can’t afford to always talk to the same group of people; you need new blood. You need to be able to communicate your content to prospects that might not yet care about what you have to say, but have the potential to care. Is your story relevant to them and their lives? Is it interesting, informative and engaging? If you can answer “yes” to those questions, then you can make those new people care about what you have to say.
4. The ability to tell that story well.
A lot of crummy content is out there in the world. What’s more, so many qualities qualify as “crummy” — from poor grammar to overblown prose and uninspired metaphors — that avoiding all those pitfalls can be overwhelming.
Quality content doesn’t just tell your story, it tells it well. It’s smart, engaging, informative, funny, inspiring and empathetic. It’s joyful (remember, that was one of my core values) in its passionate pursuit of excellence. If you don’t love your content, how can you make your audience love it?
If you’re not able to tell your story well on your own, it’s time to turn to professional content marketing writers (like me) to help you!
5. A willingness to be human and share your humanity.
A few years ago, all the talk in the content marketing industry was about SEO and how to use it to game the search engines to favor your content. Because the word nerds at Brandpoint live and breathe stuff like this, we had many impassioned discussions about just how much weight we should give to SEO. The conclusion we came to was that digital considerations should never trump human ones — and that’s the direction we’ve seen the industry take.
Technology is the amazing, all-powerful tool we use to broadcast our content marketing out into the world, but we should never lose sight of the fact that we’re marketing to people, not machines. People make the decisions we’re trying to drive with content marketing — to buy, donate, enroll, borrow, join, etc. Your own humanity should always infuse your content marketing, because that’s the element of quality that people most respond to.
Evelyn is Senior Content Editor at Brandpoint with over 30 years of experience in journalism, public relations and media. She served as chief copy editor for 14 weekly Forbes publications, founded her own public relations agency, and spearheaded publicity campaigns for internationally recognized brands.