By James Scherer published June 24, 2014

3 Strategies to Stand Out From the Content Creation Crowd

regular lightbulbs with one different oneI wish I could say that standing out from the content creation crowd is something that I excel at, but I can’t.

I like to think I write intelligently, quickly, and well, but all that does is make me a pretty good content marketer. It doesn’t make me a content marketer who stands out from the crowd.

So perhaps I need a special something. Perhaps we all do.

Your competitors are creating content. They’re competing with you for the top of the search results and they’re doing it at an ever-increasing rate.

It’s no longer enough to simply write content. Everybody’s doing that. Your local spa is blogging. Fashionistas, coffee shops, photographers, law firms, warehouses, outdoor stores, salons, and haberdasheries (okay, I’m not 100 percent sure about that last one, but you get the point) are all leveraging content creation to market their products and services.

What’s the question your business answers? Type it into Google. Is your website or content at the top? If not, then this article might be worth a read.

Let me give you an analogy:

Let’s pretend you are in a fast-flowing river with about 100 other people, standing in waders up to the thigh with white water pushing against you, trying to knock you over.

A rescue helicopter comes over the ridge, with room for four or five people in its cabin.

What do you do?

Now, you could wave your arms and scream until you’re hoarse. The problem with this tactic is that about 90 of your fellow rescuees are doing the same thing. With their screaming and the roaring of the rapids, the helicopter wouldn’t be able to hear a thing you’re saying.

Or, you could find a nearby rock with its tip just above the water. You could climb on top and get a bit closer to the helicopter, standing out from the crowd by finding a place that seems a bit less dangerous (finding your “content” niche). This would be a good call.

But there are a dozen other people who have managed to climb onto your rock as well. You’re pushing and shoving as there’s not quite enough room, and the helicopter is getting closer. It’s sweeping over the frothing water, coming fast and low.

What else you can do to get its attention? The helicopter only fits four or five people and there’s a dozen of you on this wet and slippery rock.

Here’s what I suggest: Raise a flag. Start singing. Start stomping your feet and clapping your hands. Take your shirt off. Take your pants off. Throw a shoe. Throw your pants.

You need to get off that rock, and sometimes that takes extreme measures.

This article will give you three strategies (and 25-odd specific ideas) on how to stand out, be memorable, and generate a personal brand that people remember.

Before I dive in, I want to warn you that the suggestions I give below are just that: suggestions. Many of them have never been tried before (that’s the whole point). If you like an idea, test it out for a month or two and measure your results. (However, if you get fired for going too far with one of my suggestions, I’m not accepting liability.)

1. Find your “thing”

In person, it’s far easier to have a memorable personal characteristic that people will take away from meeting you. Do you have pink hair or a face tattoo? Do you have a ridiculous laugh or do you sweat profusely when you get nervous?

Online is harder. You need to find the pink hair within your online persona (I’d try to avoid the sweating profusely, if you can). You need to translate your ability to charm people in public into an ability to charm people with your content.

Here are a few suggestions on finding your thing:

  • Go current and relevant: Start a weekly write-up of sector news or relevant posts.
  • An actual persona: Create a character and write whole articles as that person. Or, create a memorable mascot and have it feature consistently in your content.
  • POV: Feature an odd point of view (for instance, you could try to write as the Google algorithm rather than just about it).
  • Go super visual: Use images, graphs, screenshots. Make your content visual on a whole new level.
  • Find the niche within your niche. Let’s say you’re a Facebook marketer, and within that niche you’re also a Facebook advertising expert. But how about becoming a Facebook targeting expert? Nobody knows Facebook targeting like you. You’ve done it all, seen it all, and are on the very cusp of every development and update. You’re the guy or gal when it comes to Facebook targeting, and everybody knows it. Use this distinction to propel your content above that of your competitors. 

Finding your thing is up to you. Get creative. Are there real-world characteristics about you that could work with an online persona? Brainstorm with your friends and family, colleagues, anybody who knows you. What do they think is your primary characteristic? What stuck in their head the first time they met you?

2. Write differently

Most everybody can write content. It mostly just requires a couple hands and a basic understanding of language. Theoretically content marketing also requires a bit of knowledge about your subject, but that can be faked pretty effectively. Nope, it’s mostly about two hands (hell, even one works) and the ability to string words together and finish off with a period.

However, not everyone can write differently. Not everyone can write content that is memorable a week or a month down the line. It’s the people who can, however, who are encouraging brand recall, social sharing, and commenting and are, thus, boosting their readership.

I’m not saying that each article you write needs to be a diamond ring, carefully polished, honed, and perfectly positioned in its setting. Spending three days on a single article is not good for your content marketing ROI, and it’s likely your boss (even if that boss is you) won’t appreciate it either.

Instead, what I’m saying is to focus on writing differently:

  • Write controversially: When Matt Cutts said guest blogging for SEO is dead, I took the opposite point of view. When Veritasium released a YouTube video stating that “advertising your page on Facebook is a waste of money,” I responded quickly and emphatically that they were working with incomplete information and that their conclusions were hasty at best (and downright dangerous at worst).
  • Write in color: I don’t actually mean greens and blues and reds (thought that’s not exactly a bad idea either). I mean write with flavor. Cuss. Write a poem. Write an entire article in iambic pentameter. Or, more realistically, write in a fun or anecdotal, sarcastic, or satirical way. Write with skill and talent and engage your reader in more than just subject matter.
  • Write something new: Theories and hypotheses go viral (so long as they’re seriously backed up and make sense). They create controversy themselves and increase your reputation as a thought leader.
  • Write something old in a new light: Take something that people see as understood or take for granted. Turn that thing on its head. Go against the status quo and write an article about using email marketing for lead generation (prompting your existing clients to tell a friend) or using phone calls for webinar sign-ups.
  • Write honestly: Empathy goes a long way. Talk about the struggles you’ve had in the past, and how you overcame them. Play around with talking about your current marketing efforts. Be honest about failed A/B tests, failed marketing campaigns or advertisements. Talk real numbers and show actual shots of your analytics. 

Something else to keep in mind is that not all writers are created equal. I have a degree in English, read constantly, write constantly simply for fun, and was employed as a copy editor before jumping head-first into the world of content creation. If that’s not you, don’t worry about it, but do put some time into mastering your craft as best as you can.

People who blog for business may want to start with a short creative writing or English literature course at a local community college. Focus on persuasive essay writing or short stories (the two combined plus statistics equal 90 percent of blog content). Also consider taking a typing course. I type about 110 words per minute and, I can tell you, it makes my job a whole lot easier.

3. Create differently

Content marketing isn’t just about writing, it’s about consistent content creation: case studies, white papers, presentations, infographics, videos, podcasts, webinars, eBooks… the list goes on.

Creating one of these that stands out from the fast-flowing river is what’s hard.

How do you make a webinar that doesn’t send people to sleep?

  • Host it over coffee with your guest, and (if you know your subject matter), don’t script it at all. Don’t even edit it. This creates an honest interaction with your viewer.
  • Answer questions live and prompt people to ask whatever they want.
  • Keep doing it even if the first 15 times suck. Webinars take more time to catch on than other pieces of content but provide a high ROI and the greatest influence on your reputation if they do. 

How do you make a podcast that people will actually want to listen to?

  • Have a running theme of podcast Fridays where you also provide a recipe for your favorite mixed drink.
  • Create a persona you argue against. For example, if you’re a fan of Facebook Ads, create a persona (or bring in a friend) who champions AdWords.
  • Bring in a teenage kid to talk about social media and how they relate to it. Make it a bi-weekly or monthly conversation. 

How do you make an infographic without a full-time graphic designer and an original report? 

  • Use Google Presentations or Canva and free photo-editing software like GIMP.
  • “Borrow” ideas from your competitors, but put your own flavor on them.
  • Compile stats from case studies, reports, and other infographics. Copy graphs into your own colors (and remember to source!).
  • Create a SlideShare presentation instead (with PowerPoint if you absolutely must, though Google’s presentation tool is better). 

How do you make a YouTube video that gets more than 41 hits?

  • Choose a topic that hasn’t been done a thousand times. Consider the content ideas I’ve given above (controversial, opposing views, characters, etc).
  • Put time and energy into it. Spend time on the script and speak with more excitement and slower than you think you should.
  • Buy or make a green-screen (they’re crazy cheap).
  • Include transitions and edit the intro and outro (Premier Pro should come with your Adobe subscription).
  • Fashion a prompter so you’re not umming and ahhing constantly. 


This has effectively exhausted my creativity for the day. I hope you can take one of these suggestions and work with it. I hope one of them inspires you to use your own creativity and find your own stomping, clapping, pants-off combination that helps your helicopter seek you out amongst the crowd.

Taking a page from my own book, I’m going to be entirely honest with you, reader. I am still looking for my own “thing” that makes me as a content creator memorable. Excellent writing will only take you so far. I need Stelzner’s casual ability to podcast like a boss, Mari’s omnipresent sunny disposition, Godin’s content prolificacy (and baldness), Kawasaki’s inexplicable ability to make mediocre content go viral and Pulizzi’s… I dunno, vision for starting this whole content marketing shindig in the first place?

I’m open to suggestions — let me hear them in the comments below.

Looking for more inspiration on content creation that helps you stand apart from your competitors? Read CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook: 24 Epic Ideas for Connecting with Your Customers. 

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: James Scherer

James Scherer is a content strategist at Wishpond and author of (among others) Investing in your Online Sales Funnel: The Complete Guide for Real Estate. Connect with him on Twitter and Google+.

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  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Truly Nice one, I found many post same as this but this post is really best for me, I like this way you write and explain each and every point. People are dealing with noise more than ever before and learning how to filter it based on the quality of the content entering their feeds. Accordingly, they are demanding more from the brands that solicit their time and interest.

    • James@Wishpond

      Absolutely right Jitendra. It’s no longer just enough to write content, you have to present it louder than your competitors. Being loud is about creativity, syndication, influencers, and a thousand other elements. Thanks for reading!

  • Josh Schonwald

    I agree with all of your points. My favorite is finding a niche within a niche. Sometimes doing this will provide you with quicker ROI as the competition will be weaker and thus the market share for the niche is yours for the taking. Extensive keyword research is the best way for finding a niche within a niche.

    • James@Wishpond

      Great points Josh! Keyword research is absolutely essential when starting with content creation. Thanks for reading!

  • Jade Davis

    This list is fantastic. One way to sum it up might be, “be creative.” Everything you talked about starts with creativity. You need to think outside the box, concentrate on things that you’re good at that other people might not have thought of before. I love it, because way too often people are afraid of being creative or “outside the norm” because it might be risky. But if you don’t take risks, then you’ll never get anything done!

    • James@Wishpond

      Exactly Jade! Don’t just know more about your subject than your competitors, you have to present it in a different way. It’s also about learning and developing constantly, so your creativity and your knowledge can work together. Thanks for reading!

  • Rob TheGenie Toth

    “A rescue helicopter comes over the ridge, with room for four or five people in its cabin.”

    Try to balance myself, gain footing or otherwise stabilize first (put on my own oxygen mask, as it were) and then see who I can grab nearby to help stabilize them as well so that I support the rescue mission instead of just being 1 of the 4 rescued while 96 others drown.


    But yes. Stand out with your content marketing. Agreed.

    • James@Wishpond

      Very noble of you Rob! Thanks for reading.

  • Linked Media Group, Inc.

    “All Right” “All Right” – well done Jim and I love this: informative, creative, compelling and you worked a “meme” into it at least partially. #awesome

    • James@Wishpond

      Thanks! It was a fun article to write for sure. Cheers!

  • Paul Cypert

    “Or, more realistically, write in a fun or anecdotal, sarcastic, or satirical way.”

    Sarcasm online? People write that way online? 😛

    Sorry couldn’t resist. But honestly I bet just a full on authentic non sarcastic, non snarky article would gain more readers at this stage of the internet. Look at how the content on upworthy is vaulting to the top…

    • James@Wishpond


      Thanks for commenting! The primary point of this article was to emphasize the need to get creative and stand out. Everybody can (and is) writing non-sarcastic, non-snarky articles. I’m not saying they’re bad, or that they won’t work for you and your business (honestly, I haven’t written a snarky article in my life and wouldn’t even know how).

      What I was saying is that content creators need to push their own limits. Try new things in new ways. I’ve yet to read a well-written, humorous and yes, sarcastic, article about the fall in organic reach on Facebook – but, if done well, it could be awesome. And I bet I’d remember it far longer than I have every other article I’ve read on the subject in the past year.

      Anecdotal we already know works – integrating personal stories, experiences, or simply a personal tone into content increases readership and sharing. Fun we know works too (integrating the metaphor of white-water threatening to engulf content marketers has already garnered attention for this article from a few sources).

      Beyond that, the point is that everything is worth testing. A point I hoped to make in the introduction.

      Thanks for reading, Paul!

      • Paul Cypert

        I guess you’re coming from more of a business writing angle with this article. My sarcastic joke, which seems to have been missed, was aimed more at the entirety of the other internet which is nothing but snark, cynicism and sarcasm.

        I’d say everyone needs to quit trying tactics and lists and just write an authentic article. Sure try something out for fun and maybe you’ll find your style if you haven’t already…but often people aren’t getting read not because they’re not varying things up, but because they’re just not writing anything interesting to begin with…

        • James@Wishpond


          You’re absolutely right – I was coming at this from a blogging for business angle (content marketing as opposed to simple content creation).

          This article assumes a certain basic understanding of blogging best practices: write for your reader, know your subject, write authentically, etc. Once those things are grasped and put into practice (concepts which, perhaps, are more difficult to do than they are to say), then we get into this article’s point of how to stand out when all your competitors are already doing those things as well.

          But you’re absolutely right that so many bloggers and content creators aren’t getting read simply because they aren’t writing for a particular reader or on a particularly interesting subject.

          Thanks again for reading and getting involved in the conversation!

  • Justin Belmont

    Thanks for the suggestions, James. We at love your tips about being different; that’s really the key to standing out. If you approach the questions in your niche from an interesting angle, it’s much more likely that your content will go far. Great post.

    • James@Wishpond

      Thanks for the comment Justin! I absolutely agree with you about niche marketing – (and niche within a niche for that matter as well!).


  • Lee Pettijohn


    See I took your advice. Can I get on the helicopter now, please!!! =)

    Great article. Will be passing on and sharing.


    • Lee Pettijohn

      PS – I can’t throw my pants. I still need them. 😉

    • James@Wishpond

      I’d say “awesome!” if it couldn’t be construed as me being overly-excited that you’ve taken off your pants.

      Screw it. Awesome! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for sharing as well!
      – James

  • Kelsey

    Thank you for these ideas! How would you go about using creative ideas for a company which is traditionally corporate in its voice? I desperately want to begin including more off the wall content while still keeping with the culture.

    How do you entice those would enjoy the creative change while not scaring away the company’s traditional community?

    • James@Wishpond

      Kelsey, great question!

      Remember that the content I talk about in this article is focused on generating new customers and readers, not necessarily your brand communication. Creating content that stands out will increase the chance of a new reader finding you or your brand name being spread more widely. That same tone/style may not work across the entire breadth of your brand communication.

      Consider that people want different types of communication at different stages of your sales funnel and customer lifecycle. “Off-the-wall” content will get a business noticed, but once a customer has engaged they may prefer the traditional communication you refer to.

      However, if you’re looking to start generating off-the-wall content, I’d recommend you start small and test intensively.

      A couple preliminary ideas:

      A/B test your RSS subscriber emails (or even your merchant emails). Write an off-the-wall subject line (funny, outlandish, etc) and test it against the traditional.

      Create a Slideshare or Infographic (content that naturally lends itself to color, vibrancy and even humor) with a mascot – I recently found success by explaining retargeting from the point of view of “Petey the Pixel”, kind of similar to the “how a bill becomes a law” PSA from a million years ago.

      Re-write your “sorry to see you go” unsubscribe page with humor or melodrama. For instance, feature a sad puppy or your entire customer service team/CEO crying. Get creative with your unsubscribes and your leads will leave with a better memory of your brand than they might have. (This is actually just standard best practice, but is still a great way to slowly but surely make your brand more engaging and memorable)

      Basically what I’m saying is to go slowly. The last thing you want is to shock your long-term and loyal customers. And definitely focus on off-the-wall content for your marketing efforts more than your brand communication.

      Hope that helps! Thanks for reading.
      – James

  • George @ EagleEyeStrategies

    Loving the ideas. DO you have any suggestions how I can empower my writing team to get out of their box when writing content content and they are afraid to be controversial or even taking a stance on a particular topic?

    • James@Wishpond


      Great question. I gave a few suggestions to Kelsey in the comment below, so be sure to check that out. As far as empowering your writing team goes, it’s an interesting point. I find it very easy to formulate an opinion on marketing concepts, as I guess I’m pretty well informed (and being informed tends to equal being opinionated).

      For instance, I’ve written extensively on the business benefits of Facebook Advertising. When Veritasium created their video condemning Facebook Ads I had to seriously rein myself in from writing a “rant-post”. My knowledge of the subject was what inspired my controversial stance.

      So I’d recommend you encourage your writing team to learn as much as they can. Encourage them to read controversial articles (Matt Cutt’s stance on guest writing, Mark Schaefer’s Content Shock article, the endless arguments for Facebook Ads vs Google Ads, discussions about how SEO works, or just generally articles that elicited a million comments or social shares).

      I’d also point out that controversial articles don’t necessarily equate with huge success. Once you go beyond a certain point of controversy (controversy for the sake of controversy,let’s say) readership and engagement actually decreases. So be careful of that.

      Hope that helps!

      – James

      • George @ EagleEyeStrategies

        Thanks James.

        It’s definitely an interesting point and I don’t agree with Matt Cutts about Guest blogging. There are so many people in other niches that don’t realize the opportunities it brings on and now that am in Kenya. Thanks again!

  • Jay Kapor

    impressed, I must say. Very rarely do I come across a blog that’s both
    informative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the
    head. Your blog is important; the issue is something that not enough people are
    talking intelligently about .

    • James@Wishpond

      Thanks Jay! It was a fun article to write and I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Cheers for reading.

  • SAM

    Your irreverence and wit made this a fun piece to read. Keep at it!

    • James@Wishpond

      I’m glad Sam! I really enjoyed writing this article – particularly the analogy section – and, though it exhausted my creativity for the day, I’m happy people are responding to it. Hopefully it was informative as well as entertaining. Thanks for reading!

  • mlunell

    My praise might simply pile on at this point since most of my views have been nicely touched on below. So, instead, here is a nice blog from a haberdasher for you:

    • James@Wishpond

      Hahaha! Awesome find and I’m so glad you shared it! I’d say that’s officially case closed – everybody and their grandmother is blogging! Hopefully these tips will help people stand out from their haberdashery competition. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • David Boozer

    My hats off, and you lied! You are a great writer James, loved this post….and plan on getting even more well, “colorful”.

  • Alys Milner

    Great post with lots to think about. Thank you. MaAnna at BlogAid sent me.

    • James@Wishpond

      Thanks for reading and commenting Alys!

  • Charly Suter

    Fantastic Job, Great article!

    • James@Wishpond

      Cheers Charly! And thanks again for the Twitter share today!

  • Sydney Rose Silvera

    Love it!

    • James@Wishpond

      Thanks Sydney! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Najee Chua

    This is so helpful. I’ve never heard of Canva, and will check it out soon.
    Gimp is awesome too (I already have some stuff in my website that’s Gimp-created), but the learning curve is pretty steep. Sometimes I wish we could download these skills like we would an app. :)

    (But where’s the fun without the hardwork, right?)

    Thanks, James!

    • James@Wishpond

      Exactly Najee! Part of the fun of content marketing is getting to come into work every day and learn something new (some days that’s easier than others though…). Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you found value in the article.