By Marcia Riefer Johnston published February 4, 2016

16 Common-Sense Reminders for Uncommonly Good Content

16-Common-sense-reminders-cover

I miss things that are right in front of my face. I spend long minutes scouring the parking lot for my car or searching the cupboard for a certain spice, only to realize – sometimes with the help of someone standing next to me – that the thing I want, need, and know like the back of my eyelids has been sitting in my line of sight the whole time.

Marketing can be like that. You want and need to create an exceptional content experience for your audience, and you know what it takes to make that happen, but you’re stuck, temporarily blind to some critical bit of common sense.

If only that bit could come along and nudge you.

This article may give you the very nudge you need most right now. Here, 16 experts presenting at the Intelligent Content Conference this March offer their common-sense reminders of things you can do to create uncommonly good content. Which one of these has your name on it?

Tell a rapport-building story

Exceptional content experiences come from exceptional storytelling. Some marketers focus too much on visual presentation (which is important) and not enough on building rapport.

Alp Mimaroglu, marketing consultant, Fortune 500s | @alpmimar

Bring people to the place where their goals meet yours

We all want to deliver the right content to the right people in the right place at the right time. Achieving this takes work – it may even seem impossible – but the formula is simple:

  1. Find the sweet spot where your audience’s (real) goals intersect your business’s goals.
  2. Determine the path that brings people to that sweet spot.
  3. Deliver each bit of content they need along that path – when they need it.
  4. Measure your results.
  5. Repeat.

Andrea Ames, enterprise content experience strategist/architect/designer, IBM | @aames

Get at the heart of a customer problem

The best content feels like it was designed for you. The author got at the heart of your most pressing problem and created something that provided the perfect answer. You can’t wait to share it because you want other people to get that feeling of connection.

Andrea Fryrear, content marketer and Agile evangelist, MarketerGizmo | @andreafryrear

The best #content gets to the heart of your problem & provides the perfect answer says @andreafryrear Click To Tweet

Answer a question that matters to customers

You can’t be more interested in delivering the brand message than in delivering useful content. Get into the head of your target audiences. Answer a question that helps people progress along a personal journey.

Buddy Scalera, a content strategist focused on healthcare and pharmaceutical communications | @buddyscalera

Work from a shared content vision

In an exceptional experience, finding content is frictionless. Consuming content is a delight. The content itself is relevant and salient.

It sounds easy, but creating this kind of experience is hard. Behind the scenes, a company must define a content vision and orchestrate the data, technology, and people to bring the vision to life – and sustain it.

Colleen Jones, CEO, Content Science | @leenjones

Model your content to adapt

To create exceptional experiences with content that’s relevant and timely – flowing across channels and devices in a personalized, adaptive way – teams must embrace the processes, platforms, training, and practices that support intelligent content. You start with the content model, the master key that unlocks digital transformation.

Cruce Saunders, principal founder, Simple [A] | @mrcruce

Treat content as a product

Don’t deliver content in addition to your products. Deliver content as a product. This kind of content goes hand in hand with your traditional products and services to “super-serve” your customers’ needs in a way that only you can.

Greg Verdino, managing partner, VERDINO & CO | @gregverdino

Speak as a human

Speak with passion and empathy, as a human, without trying to be something you’re not.

Greg Yates, chief marketing officer, InvestingChannel | @gregyates

Connect with people’s emotions

Have a point of view. Be engaging. Be visual. Be interesting. Create moments that connect with people’s emotions.

Jake Athey, marketing director, Widen | @jakeathey

Create ongoing content that people look forward to

Marketers too often set their hopes on driving an incredible experience through one-off, disconnected releases. For me, an exceptional experience builds over a series of things – blog posts, podcasts, videos – that I make plans to consume.

If you want to produce this type of experience with your content, look at the makeup of a good story; end your pieces with a sense of “to be continued” that draws the audience forward to the next piece.

Jeff Julian, chief marketing officer, AJi Software | @jjulian

Understand your audience’s pain points and pleasure points

We do persona modeling and research to understand what our audience might find interesting. Social monitoring and community building are key components of this strategy. Exceptional content from a user’s perspective is content that resonates with pain points or pleasure points.

Josepf Haslam, senior director #SocialSEO, EducationDynamics | @josepf

Test and optimize, test and optimize, test and optimize

Your brand needs to continuously test its content – digital, print, all of it – optimizing to ensure it:

  • Sparks an emotional response (interest, excitement, fun)
  • Is driven by what your audience wants to read about, not by what your brand wants to talk about
  • Varies in formats
  • Is unique in some way
  • Is timely, relevant, and fresh

Continuous testing and optimizing are the best ways to protect and enhance your content investment.

Kat Robinson, director, strategic planning, Vertical Measures | @katrobinson1

Meet individuals’ immediate needs

Add enough value to your audience’s life to earn you content karma credits that circle back as business value for your brand. To add the most value, content must be relevant to the individual’s needs and desires – and it must be presented appropriately for the moment of consumption.

Content strategy boils down to this: Achieve these deceptively simple things – without going broke – in a way that also meets brand goals.

Noz Urbina, founder, Urbina Consulting | @nozurbina

Support customers’ goals throughout their journey

Delightful content experiences leave the prospect or customer thinking, “Now that’s how it’s supposed to work.” To deliver that kind of experience, content must act in ways that support the goals of customers throughout their journey. Adopting intelligent content enables an organization to do just that and more.

Scott Abel, president, The Content Wrangler|@scottabel

Tune in to your audience’s motivations

Understand what motivates your audience by answering these three questions:

  • Who are the target readers?
  • Why do those readers care about your product or service?
  • When people use your product or service, what outcome follows?

Exceptional content motivates people to take action.

Vishal Khanna, director of digital marketing, Wake Forest Innovations | @bediscontent

Exceptional #content motivates people to take action says @bediscontent via @cmicontent #contentstrategy Click To Tweet

Deliver irresistible clarity and usefulness

Help people solve a problem with content so clear and so useful that the next time they have a similar problem, they come back to you.

Wendy Stengel, manager, web content strategy, National Association of Realtors | @wendywoowho

Conclusion

Which of these reminders is calling to you? Please tell us in a comment or share your own favorite common-sense tip for creating uncommonly good content.

Missed the Intelligent Content Conference? Don’t fret. You can purchase the Post-Show Video pass and catch these content strategy pros talks by signing up. Access is good for one full year and contains video, audio, and slide capture for the Main Conference sessions.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Marcia Riefer Johnston

Marcia Riefer Johnston is the author of Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them) and You Can Say That Again: 750 Redundant Phrases to Think Twice About. As a member of the CMI team, she serves as Managing Editor of Content Strategy. She has run a technical-writing business for … a long time. She taught technical writing in the Engineering School at Cornell University and studied literature and creative writing in the Syracuse University Masters program under Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaRJohnston. For more, see Writing.Rocks.

Other posts by Marcia Riefer Johnston

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  • Emma James

    Need to keep it in mind, thanks Marcia!

    • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

      Hi, Emma. It’s hard to keep all this advice in mind. Glad you found it useful.

  • Priscilla Donegan

    Lots of great advice here, but “Speak as a human” jumped out at me. In the consulting world we often get caught up in our own jargon. I’m always reminding people to write and speak in plain English.

  • http://www.wordspicturesweb.com/ Buddy Scalera

    Wow, this is such a cool list. Thanks for including me!

  • Afryrear

    I like Noz’s suggestions about meeting individual needs. It can be very easy to start thinking of our audience as an amorphous blob of people with vaguely similar demographics, but it’s always an individual who consumes our content.

  • jkings

    Another tip: Be Honest.
    Some of my favorite content and stories begin with “I made a mistake…” or “Things didn’t go as planned…”

  • Maribeth

    Here’s a question: I own a consulting company that serves multiple sectors but with the same basic group of services. The sectors are diverse – and content would vary significantly depending on the sector. (Imagine compliance monitoring: monitoring corporations overseas for compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is different than monitoring schools for compliance with educational regulations.) Whatever sector we go into, we get high accolades by clients because of our meticulous detail and approach. Here’s the challenge: if we launch an online campaign in one sector, won’t that muddy the waters/confuse the brand for the others? Do we have to choose a sector or can we run multiple campaigns at once? I’ve always thought you should be known for one defining attribute (e.g. Heinz and ketchup), but advisors tell me not to worry about that and run multiple campaigns at once. Thoughts?

  • Carly Schoonhoven

    “…driven by what your audience wants to read about, not by what your brand wants to talk about.”
    This is so important to keep in mind! I think it could be a whole article on its own. Too often brands forget that their customer isn’t exactly like them and may not find the same things interesting. Great tidbit.