Storyation’s head of content, Lauren Quaintance (pictured below) is back with her first column for the New Year. Here, the content marketer argues if you do anything in 2018 make sure you do it bravely…
Here’s the thing I’ve learned in four years of content marketing: no-one is brave enough. We all know that we have well and truly entered an era of content saturation, that more content than ever is being pumped out by more brands than ever and engagement levels are dropping. And yet so many marketers insist on publishing the same stories as everyone else.
If you’re marketing to small businesses I’m willing to wager that you’ve run a story with a title that is something like “Top Tips for the End of the Financial Year”. If you’re in tourism you’ve got a story about the “Top Five Beaches In…[enter city/state/country].” And if you’re in the health or health insurance sector I bet you have a post titled “What to Eat When You Are Pregnant”. So far, so boring. But it’s evergreen content right? Everyone needs stories that are broadly informative and largely timeless.
That’s true if you are an SEO ninja and you can get yourself onto the top of the first page of Google’s search results. Or better yet into the coveted “Position Zero” aka one of the featured snippets at the top of a page of Google search results. But producing exactly the same story that has been written – literally – thousands of times before means pursuing highly competitive keywords and jockeying for position against major media publishers and other brands. It’s great if you can nail it but it is increasingly much more difficult to do.
When I think back to my time sitting around a boardroom table in daily editorial meetings at major media companies no-one ever said: “Let’s do that story everyone else has already done”. The discussion was almost always about identifying trends and issues before everyone was talking about them (or searching for them.) And if it was a story that had already broken then we needed to find a unique angle or an original take on the topic that would get our audience to read, comment and share. In content strategy we sometimes talk about looking for clear air. This is partly because it makes sense to avoid playing in crowded territory but also because when you create content that has original research or a unique angle or point of view it is so much easier to stand out from the pack.
At Storyation we use journalists for ideation because they are by definition reporters. They don’t rely on Google for story ideas – they speak to their contacts, whether they are financial experts or fashionistas, to find out what the next big thing will be before it’s a trending hashtag. Too often brands are publishing about Bitcoin or artificial intelligence long after the volume of stories on the topic is in the thousands – making it much more difficult to compete because as volume goes up, engagement goes down. If you can’t find your own “clear air” – a niche topic no-one else owns – the next best thing is to find a new angle on a popular topic. Ideally something no-one else has said. And then use paid social or content discovery to push it out safe in the knowledge that it will compete for attention.
So here’s my advice for content marketers in 2018. In a nutshell, be more interesting.