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You Have Your Content, Now Where’s Your Style?

There’s a little flip book of inspirational quotes that sits on my desk (in addition to the piles of files, hand-written notes and haphazard to-do lists) opened to a page that reads, “Content is of great importance, but we must not underestimate the value of style” (Maya Angelou).

But as any writer knows, sometimes “style” is hard to incorporate into your corporate messages.

A good content marketer must always be focused on telling a great story (we all know this — it’s why we visit the CMI blog) to get your company messages out to a broader audience. But let’s face it, some corporate marketing pieces can feel tired or even dull. You get so caught up in what statistics to include, where to distribute the piece, how to make it SEO-friendly, and how best to socialize it that you can end up feeling like a monotonous writing machine rather than a creative thinker. Blog entries can feel like chores, case studies and white papers can feel formulaic, and social discussions soon become stale or robotic.

Still, the best and most successful content is the kind with style and flavor; it has a little piece of your voice and passion in every fiber. So here are some ideas on how to ignite that style even on the darkest, non-inspiring days (yes, even Mondays).

Use a blog to talk about your products and your passions

If you adhere to an editorial calendar, you know it’s important to write something — anything — at least every day. This is why so many of us have blogs. But what do you do when you’ve written about all you can about… say… paper stock for one week? Easy. Take something that you love and incorporate it into your regular blog entries to give your readers a pleasant surprise (and your brain a break).

Take a bite out of this blog for example, by David Byrd of Broadvox: “SIP and Serve by a Foodie.” His latest article, “OMG Crab Cakes and Bing”, is a great example of finding a way to incorporate something you love from your personal life (in this case, cooking) with a discussion of your industry news, or even your company’s products or services.

Take a few minutes to think about what you read, watch, listen to or explore in your spare time, and consider how you can connect it to a weekly blog entry. Your creative side will thank you for it.

Think — and interact — outside “the cube”

I’m fortunate to work with some pretty cool (and smart) people, but some days I barely get up from my desk to even say hello to them in passing. I’m so nose-deep in my writing that I forget there’s an untapped creative resource just beyond my cube.

Here’s an idea: Think of a question and go around interviewing your colleagues to see how they would answer. You’ll find that by exploring different departments, you’ll get some unique insight you may not have considered from your marketing perspective. Jot down the answers, and you’ll have a week of blog entries and tons of discussion starters for your social sites.

Seriously, don’t take yourself too seriously

I loved this article by Heidi Cohen about diving into content marketing, especially Number 5: “Entertain people.” Some of the smartest, most “sticky” campaigns I’ve seen (like the hilarious Old Spice commercials) are the ones that don’t take themselves too seriously. Now, this is usually more common in a B2C environment than B2B, but regardless of what you sell — from the latest soft drink to the newest call center software — you still need to make a connection with the person you’re selling to so you can build trust.

If you add an element of fun or personality in your white paper, or you start your webinar with a joke, you”ll break down some of the company-to-consumer walls, which will make your company real, personable, and accessible to your audience. And the more at ease your audience feels with you, the more comfortable they’ll be investing in you over time. Plus, no one’s above having a good laugh now and then, right?

Use social media for what it’s good for: Socializing

If you’re using social media, that’s great. If you’re using it to just re-post your content, that’s not-so-great. Why? Because social media isn’t just a place to add link value or re-post your existing content; it’s a place to initiate conversations around your content. Think of your company website as the hub for your content.  It’s where it lives, and it’s a library for the volumes of great content you’ve written. Your social networking sites are where the content pieces really come alive (which includes your blog) and gives your readers a chance to engage with you in a two-way dialogue.

For every piece you re-post on your social site, take a few moments to generate  questions around it that will spark someone’s interest. Then, take another few moments and scour your social connections’ pages and LinkedIn groups and post content that’s relevant to them or respond to one of their posts. This extra step of proactive posting may be just the right thing to get a conversation going and encourage other people to do the same on your site with their content. The next thing you know you’ll be engaged in a healthy, interactive exchange of content that builds not only your linking power but also credibility in a broader community.

What are some ways you find inspiration or bring style to your content marketing initiatives?