In our world of espresso-shot media, it’s tough enough to get customers to pay attention to a 140-word tweet.
When a reader opens a steaming, venti-sized, 1,000-word article, that’s special — it signals they’ve placed a certain trust in the author. They’ve been bitten on the bait — the title — that promises their five minutes spent reading will be well-worth the article’s insights.
But fluffy content tempts the reader, then violates the promise you’ve already made to him. Like a movie, satisfying content must have vibrant details, an interesting plot, and strong character. Or, as British director Rupert Goold puts it, “The best ideas are tested by their peaks and troughs. One truly great image or scene astride a broken mess is more intriguing than a hundred well-made clichés.”
So what’s your role in ensuring your content doesn’t let its readers down? We all want our content to deliver leads, but we sometimes forget to first captivate the reader. Company leaders, it’s all about arming your content team with real insights, fresh perspectives, and humanizing ideas.
And there’s good news — great content ideas are almost certainly closer than you think. Client compliments, a random email from a connection, an industry blog, or a blisteringly difficult phone call can lay the groundwork for exceptional content.
Let’s take a look at how great content is born — and how you can help nurture that content to become its mature self.
We all know what it’s like to get test anxiety. Every one of us has had the experience of looking at an exam and thinking, “I know all about syntax and grammar! I’ve mastered it! So why am I suddenly illiterate?”
When we contact our clients for knowledge sharing, part of our time-tested content creation process, many of them blank. They’re experts in their respective fields, but it can be tough for clients to give great answers when they’re put on the spot or stressing about work.
We know our clients have all kinds of experiences, ideas, and thoughts that would make amazing fodder for articles. Take the commute to work — seems pretty boring, right? But think a little harder, and you might realize how many interesting and unusual things you see on a single drive to or from work.
The reality is that thought leadership can be hard to summon during the 9-to-5 hours. While answers might come during the workday, it’s tough to find a quiet, relaxing place at work to tease out the best information. For us, great content happens when clients consider each question individually, spending plenty of time without distractions or stress.
This is the first key to successful content: time spent on knowledge sharing. It’s immediately apparent to me which clients gave the questions their full attention and which said, “I don’t really have time for this.” When we start with strong information, there’s a far better chance that the content will be published.
The second benchmark is a byproduct of that focused contemplation: nuanced, unique answers. Poor articles commonly contain answers that came exclusively from research, carry no personal connection to the topic, or are too basic, failing to offer an opinion. We can always reword a client’s Google search, but there’s no substitute for a client’s unique experiences and expertise.
For us, the content creation process is a partnership. We’re happy to assist our clients, but when they do their part to the fullest, that’s when the magic happens. The following practices are essential to brewing top-quality content:
If we return to a client for more answers, we’re most likely missing make-or-break information. If we can’t get in touch with a client for additional information, there’s a good chance that the article will fail or need to be redirected to a different publication.
Because it costs us time to contact a client for additional information, we tend to do so only as a last resort. If we can answer a question through additional research, we’ll opt to find the information ourselves instead.
A simple phone call with your content team can be all it takes to prevent great content from going down in flames.
The most interesting anecdotes are personal in nature. One of our clients was writing about soccer, and he told us that he’d become quite the youth soccer coach because it equaled spending time with his daughter. That’s an awesome personal connection, and we were delighted to include it in his article.
People don’t want every detail of their lives published online. But your readers want to know why you care about the topic — and it’s essential that you provide an answer. Content feels much more authentic when it’s coupled with, or predicated upon, personal experiences.
Great content requires our clients to capture their best ideas. There are plenty of ways to do it — keep a pen and paper in your pocket, use Evernote, or send yourself emails.
When you think of a topic you want to talk about or have a really cool insight about something, jot it down. It’s great when experts can tell us — or their internal teams — what they want to talk about.
Sometimes, clients who neglect to return answers on time or approve article drafts are all that’s stopping us from producing great content for them.
Keep — and regularly update — a list with the due dates your content team has provided you. This will help you stay on track with your content; it will enable you to produce better content and build up to more visible publications.
Great ideas rarely come from epiphanies. More often, they’re products of mundane experiences, such as watercooler conversations, phone calls, or commutes.
But the bottom line is that content must say something meaningful. This is paramount to becoming established as a thought leader and boosting your company to new heights. Leave your readers with new insights, not regrets.