Writing is a talent, much like art or music. Even when it exists digitally, across websites and social platforms, read on screens instead of pages, words still matter. I get it; I know I’m not over here writing the next New York Times bestseller, I’m writing a blog for my company’s website, using the clickbait-y “odd-numbered list of things” type headline, but even marketing materials should have a certain standard of quality.
Over my years in content marketing, I’ve seen content be the most valued and most undervalued part of a marketing organization. While everyone knows they need content to sell products to customers and prospects, to build brand awareness, and to fuel the “personalized, omnichannel experiences” we talk about customers demanding all the time, there are a lot of misconceptions about how to produce and leverage that content.
Anyone Can Write
It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t at least written a term paper or two during their school years. Technically speaking, content can come from anywhere (freelancers, other parts of the organization, partners, customers, user-generated content, and so on), but this decentralized approach adds a number of variables.
The first and most obvious one is quality. Technology and spellcheck and social media has made writing seem easy and accessible but it’s still a skill. I had already been working as a content specialist for a year before I could finally stop burying my ledes. The best writers understand their audience almost intuitively and can adapt quickly when changing from one subject to another. A great writer is a modern day storyteller; their words pull you in and make you want to read on, circumventing the short attention spans developed in the digital age.
So what do you do if you don’t have a stable of amazing writers? There’s a few things:
- Have an amazing editor on staff to make sure that the language, tone and messaging is consistent for your organization and on brand. And also, readable.
- Create guidelines so that no matter who is working on a piece, they at least know your content strategy, how to speak to your audience, and how to frame the narrative appropriately
- Work with people! One of the things I love most about my job is helping to empower people to become better writers. Give solid, constructive feedback and work with someone to develop their storytelling abilities. Be a coach, not a critic.
More, More, More!
Nearly every online interaction we have is fueled by some type of content. This isn’t limited to just text; obviously rich media has a huge impact on engagement. But with so many digital experiences to populate and personalize plus new social channels coming (and sometimes going. I still miss Vine), there is always a pressing need for more content. But more content doesn’t necessarily have to mean new content. New content takes time, it costs money and sometimes can take a while to gain the traction you want.
Instead of maintaining a constant churn of “new new new,” explore your own inventory. Look into your analytics and see what has good engagement. A refresh on a top-performing piece is easier to turn around than starting from scratch. Also the obsession with new content assumes that your audience remains the same. An eBook or even a blog series might not be new to you, but it’s new to any unique visitor that just found their way to your website. Or maybe you totally called it on a future trend that’s just now going mainstream; resurface that. Your content inventory can be like your own Antiques Roadshow. Dust it off … it could be worth a fortune now.
If You Post It, They Will Come
Even the best, well-optimized, most beautifully written piece could benefit from some promotional help. If you spend the time to write a whitepaper for example, you should spend the time crafting an activation plan. Will it be used in email campaigns or as a follow up to a webinar? Will it be shared on social and will there be any budget to run some campaigns around it?
As cheesy as it sounds, every piece of content is an opportunity to build your audience, to entertain those loyal customers who’ve stuck with you, to introduce yourself to someone new and share who your organization is and what they’re all about. Just sticking it on your website with no additional activation is doing your author and your organization a disservice. And if you don’t think it’s worth using in a campaign or sharing out, then it probably shouldn’t be up there anyway.