How do you stand out from all of the clutter and get your audience to take notice?
People are exposed to messages (i.e., content) consistently – so much so that it becomes noise.
There are fundamentals that have to be addressed, such as taking the time to identify and define your personas, but it is also just as imperative to know what type of content will grab their attention.
We’re often worried as marketers, business owners, SEO professionals, and content writers, of creating content that is different from everyone else in our field.
What if we lose our audience?
What if we’re too different?
There is a time and place for safe content, but there is also a time to be interesting, different – and even edgy.
To get an outside perspective of other ways marketers avoid safe and boring topics, I reached out to Dustin Diehl, Director of Content Marketing at Digital Current and Troy Pottgen, Co-Founder of Narwhal Stories.
The following are ways they keep it interesting with some of my own advice at the end.
1. You Aren’t the Hero of the Story
The minute you make your brand the focal point of your content is the minute you lose your audience.
Your customer is the hero — bring them into your brand story, show them the integral role they play.
Having clearly defined personas or customer segments help you identify what’s important to your customer and how to engage them.
2. It’s Not Just About Keywords
If your content creation strategy is based solely on keyword research, it isn’t much of a strategy.
You have to analyze your keyword research through the lens of your content strategy (the overlap between brand goals and audience needs).
Only then will you be able to determine which keywords are truly going to resonate with your audience and map back to your business objectives.
3. Stand Out from the Crowd
Is everyone creating content about AI? GDPR?
Sometimes the hot topics are unavoidable — but if you can’t provide a unique perspective on trending topics, you’re just contributing to the noise.
If you really want to avoid groupthink, take a look at what your competitors are doing … and do the opposite!
Filling a gap in the conversation is a great way to push your thinking and engage your customers.
4. Learn from Your Mistakes
If you aren’t measuring what content is working and what content is falling flat, you’re missing out on valuable signals.
If your recent listicle or downloadable whitepaper failed to get the traction you were hoping for, your audience is most likely trying to tell you something.
Rinsing and repeating will likely serve up similarly disappointing results.
5. Be Nimble
Evergreen content is an important part of any SEO and content marketing strategy — but it rarely has the opportunity to capture trending topics or cultural vagaries.
Leave room in your editorial planning for ad hoc content that taps into themes important to your audience at specific (and perhaps fleeting) moments in time.
6. Mix Up Your Editorial Planning
Are you creating editorial calendars by yourself, or with a go-to team of strategists and writers?
It’s time to mix it up.
There are wonderful content stories hidden at every level of your business (or your client’s business) — you simply have to create an environment where they can flourish.
- Invite a member of the call center to your next planning meeting.
- Ask a product marketer to contribute some topics that excite them.
- Plan an interactive editorial brainstorm.
- Invite a representative from every department to participate.
Getting outside perspective is a great way to add diverse voices to your content mix, and will have your editorial calendar feeling fresh and exciting in no time.
7. Why Is Great Writing so Important?
“Great stories happen to those who can tell great stories.” – Ira Glass
Great writing is important for exactly what Glass says, but also because a true tragedy for any business or organization would be to work hard to build a useful product or provide a meaningful service, but then fail to explain it in ways that resonate with stakeholders (not just customers, but employees, vendors, shareholders and the communities you work in and serve).
8. What Innovations Have You Seen in Your Sector?
Traditional approach has been to tell/show your products, give a call-to-action and wait for sales.
Now we share our story to talk about not only our what (product or service we’re selling) and how (process we use to make product or provide service), but also our why (reason for being).
We are seeing this more and more.
The sharing of your purpose through thoughtful storytelling and the providing of events or activities that show your brand understands and maps to the ways customers want to engage with your brand.
Doing this develops more immersive, emotional, and transactional experiences for your customers in both the online channels they are on and the offline experiences they appreciate.
9. What Are the 3 Biggest Things You’ve Learned Over the Past 3 Years?
Give yourself permission to ask “What if?”
You have a brain. It’s wired in its own way, uniquely for you. And however you’re using it right now, there are more applications, more uses for it. Have confidence in it and yourself.
I can’t promise you every other application of your creativity is better than what you’re doing now, but I can promise you there’s always another one out there.
Remember: the answer is always NO if you don’t ask.
Share what you’re thinking, dreaming, doing. Be honest. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
We are naturally curious people, and the good ones of us will get excited by that curiosity and look for ways to help. So tap into that curiosity and positivity.
It truly takes a village.
I’ve been honored and inspired through participation in programs like Valley Leadership that have shown me just how many great people and organizations it takes to fill in the gaps and keep this state running and its citizens supported through education, healthcare, public safety, conservation and other issues impacting Arizona.
10. Knowing the Whole World Would Hear It, What Plea Would You Make?
“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” – Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund
Edelman spoke at my college graduation at the University of Illinois, and these words have stayed with me throughout my life since then. Each of us has been blessed with certain gifts.
But I don’t believe they were given to us just for us – in fact, I would argue they are wasted on us if we only use them to serve ourselves. Rather, they were given to be shared with and used for the benefit of others.
11. Become a Hoarder
At one point in my writing career, I was producing more content than any one person should tackle.
If I told you how many articles, landing pages, and blog posts I was writing each month, you would think I was insane.
One of my secrets was a little green folder I kept in the drawer of my desk.
Every time I came across something interesting, whether it was a magazine article, mailer, advertisement, etc., I would store it in my folder for inspiration later.
If I heard something intriguing on television or radio, I would do the same thing — I would simply jot it down and save it.
Not all of these items were relevant to my clients, but they did inspire creativity.
When it was time to write, I would go through the folder and think of how I could use the topic, format, etc. for my own article.
Trust me. It works.
12. Break the Rules
Almost every activity has a set of predetermined rules and ways of doing things.
Some of the most famous inventors, artists, and writers weren’t afraid to break the rules.
Who says you have to write the standard blog that follows the format, topic, and style of everyone else in your industry?
Break the rules.
13. Look Outside Your Field
We’re taught to pay attention to our competitors and what they are doing. That is sound advice, especially when it comes to SEO.
However, looking beyond our competitors when it comes to content topics can help uncover a goldmine of ideas.
For example, if you come across a great article that has nothing to do with your field, dissect it. Analyze it. Re-mold it.
In other words, think of ways you can use that article as a guide to creating your own content masterpiece.
14. Embrace Uniqueness
This tip definitely depends on your industry, because it won’t work for all of them. Creating something edgy or shocking can get you attention, but both good and bad.
If you go this route, you need to first consider the risks and rewards associated with creating this content.
I would consider my target audience and reference my personas. Would they find this content intriguing and shocking (in a good way)?
Below is an example of what I am referring to. This company is the client of a friend Cathie Dunklee-Donnell at Ducktoes.
Her agency created a blog post for a plumbing client and decided to go for the shock value. The result was attention from the local media and countless reads.
Don’t fall into the trap of only creating safe and boring content. Stand out. Be bold. Be brave. Have some fun.