By Michele Linn published May 23, 2014

Ideas for Creating Content That Are Actually Unique

red figure-arms raised-crowdWith so much focus on the need to create epic content, not to mention the overabundance of “me too” content being delivered these days, the demands of creating content that is truly unique and valuable can often feel paralyzing. Add to that the need to keep this up on an ongoing basis and the challenge is compounded.

As this has been something on our minds, we recently posed this question in our #CMWorld Twitter chat:

With so many people creating content, are there many truly original ideas? Does it matter?

If you are looking for ideas on creating content that feels more original, organic to your brand, and impactful overall, consider the suggestions below:

Think about your passions

In the content marketing world, the cries of, “It’s all about your audience” can be deafening. For the most part, this does make a lot of sense, as your prospects certainly aren’t going to stick with you if your content pontificates on your features and benefits. But you need to make sure you don’t get completely lost in the mix, either.

Take the following tweet from Katrina Douglas:

@CMIContent A1: I prioritise based on what I’m most passionate about and also most relevant to my audience #CMWorld @KDADouglas

This was an aha moment for me, and an understated reminder to think about the intersection of our personal interests and our audience when creating content.

I think about this concept a lot in relation to parenting: Even though I need to be focused on my kids’ needs, our family is happier when our worlds don’t solely revolve around them. My husband and I make sure we cultivate a few of our own interests — some of which our kids have learned to enjoy, as well. It’s finding these overlapping interests that have made us a happier family.

As I’ve been mulling this idea, I came upon a recent post from Jay Acunzo: Why “Write For Your Audience” Has Become Dangerous Advice. In this, he makes the case that if you only think about your audience, you’ll likely start to sound exactly like all your competitors.

While your audience should certainly be front and center, there is a lot to be said for keeping some focus on your passions, as well. We can all discern which authors are truly interested in what they are writing about and which ones are just creating content to “check a box” in their marketing strategy (I don’t even need to ask which type we are all more likely to be drawn to.) 

Example: Marriott on the Move is a well-known blog authored by Bill Marriott, Mariott’s Executive Chairman. The blog is an example of how you can let your personality come through while supporting the needs of your audience. Bill’s viewpoints are something that no other brand can replicate, so they serve as a powerful differentiator.

gray-haired man-marriott on the move

Build off others’ ideas

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a particularly passionate person, no one has read or experienced things in the same way that you have. Twitter chat participant Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) reminds us:

@CMIContent As long as you’re building off other ideas, rather than just swiping them, it’s how art and thinking has always worked. #CMWorld

Just as people say that content marketing is not a new concept, neither is ideation. The best ideas are often those that are built upon other ideas. A personal story is something you can offer that no one else can — and it can help shape your audience in a unique way.

Example: This is a Generic Brand Video from Dissolve brilliantly pokes fun at its own description of the service it offers: “HD footage for today’s visual storyteller.” It was inspired by a poem from Kendra Eash.

Get your fans involved

One way to keep things fresh is to ask your passionate fans, followers and customers to create content based on how they feel about your business.

Getting great user-generated content is not easy, and you need a brand that people are passionate about. But, if you have the right product/service coupled with a marketing strategy that encourages contribution, original, insightful, and exciting content can result.

Example: There are lots of great examples of original content that comes from users, but one of my favorites is Betabrand. If you aren’t familiar with this company, it puts a unique spin on the clothing it sells — like its Disco Track Shorts — and many of its fashion ideas (and the content it creates to describe it) are fueled by its customers’ input.

guy on boat-nor'easter

I leave you with these words from John Hegarty, Co-Founder and Creative Leader at Bartle Bogle Hegarty: “Nothing is original, so strive for something fresh instead. After all, it’s how others respond to your ideas that counts most.

What else would you add? How can you keep your content fresh?

Looking to take your content marketing to the next level? Download our e-book to get ideas from dozens of creative masters: Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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  • Nikko

    Nicely done and well said. You have to find a common ground where your passion for a niche lies and the information your audience actually needs. Oftentimes I read articles that read like a disorganized rant from an author instead of the informative guide that I was expecting from reading the catchy blog title. Striking that right balance is key. Check out my personal favorite bloggers from a group of passionate freelance writers at hubstaff. They deliver great reading material with the right amount of passion and professionalism. –

  • ‘TC’ Teresa Clark

    Passion is important, we find the most unique content we get is when we interview a business’s customers. Customers love to be asked their opinon.

  • Andrea Goulet Ford

    This is great, Michele. Especially about aligning your passion with your audience needs. SO critical! When I work with clients on finding their brand voice sweet spot, we align three things: the organization, the audience, and the product/service. I think of it like an optometrist visit, you have to get all these lenses aligned in order to get clarity. I think of passion as the rims, it’s what holds everything together.

    • Krithika Rangarajan

      I enjoy your ‘optometrist’ analogy. Indeed, your passion, your service and your audiences’ needs should all be aligned to create content that is truly unique and long-lasting 🙂

      • Michele Linn

        Agree — great analogy, Andrea!

  • Melanie Davis

    Great post, Michele. I’ve found that if I think about the needs of my audience first and the form of the content later, I end up creating more interesting content than if I sit down and said, “Ok, blog post time.”

  • rogercparker

    Dear Michele:
    Fascinating post: I especially liked your comments about Bill Marriott’s blog, “The blog is an example of how you can let your personality come through
    while supporting the needs of your audience. Bill’s viewpoints are
    something that no other brand can replicate.”

    I’m fascinated by the way David Meerman Scott has twice converted lifelong passions into bestselling books that created win-win situations for David, his co-authors, and his readers.

    The two books are:

    * “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most iconic Band in History,” written with Hubspot’s Brian Halligan.

    * “Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo lunar Program,” written with Richard Jurek.

    In each case, the “passion factor” broke new ground and attracted new followers for David. Readers, of course, gained the most, in terms of making marketing interesting and memorable for readers presented from David’s unique perspective.

    I encourage you continue to explore the role of passion in sharing content marketing lessons.

    • Michele Linn

      Great examples with the David Meerman Scott books, Roger!

  • Kaloyan Banev

    I always aim for that, though I can’t say that I am very successful at the moment. Which leads to think about completely reforming my content strategy.

  • Ant Miles

    Great post – agree with Hegarty on originality.

    The question I’ve recently asked myself is how much of a piece of writing has to be ‘original’ thought or words for you to be able to sign your name to it?

    When creating something I use the internet as a second brain – confirming quotes, finding names, exploring trains of thought and going on journeys through links that lead to unexplored places.

    And, all the time, stealing – consciously and unconsciously – lots of little ideas.

    Should I say that none of the ideas here are my own? They are definitely a synthesis of many other people’s ideas. I only hope I have added something to them.

    • Michele Linn

      I like what you are aiming for, Ant. I love the idea of synthesizing ideas.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Hey Michele

    I am glad someone is bringing up this issue. Sometimes, I believe that the focus is ‘too much on the audience’ and ‘too little on the content creator’. If we are passionate about what we do and are able to effectively communicate our interests, our audience too will connect with us.

    Thank you for this wonderful recommendations to create “ME” and not “ME-TOO” content #HUGSS


    • Michele Linn

      I like your sentiment of creating “ME” instead of “ME-TOO” content. One thing we have been talking about a lot recently is to have a point of view, which ties into writing with passion. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • DyShaun Muhammad

    Thanks for the great article. I am currently working to sharpen the inbound marketing efforts for our businesses, so generating content is becoming a top priority that we can no longer afford to delay. I have struggled in the past to find a voice that would be original enough to add value worth publishing, so the perspective here is inspiring and motivational.

    Blurring the walls a bit between the “brand” and the humans behind the brand is not only expected by the consumer, but is required to ensure that what we are generating has the spark of relevance necessary to connect with our audiences. I suspect that a renewed focus on what energizes the content generator, in turn, energizes the content itself.