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The write stuff

When creating marketing content, the secret is to tell stories never heard before, Christina Goggi says.

Back in 2014, the Economist Group reported that 93 per cent of companies were planning to maintain or increase their investment in content creation.

Does that surprise you? I’m sure that at some point you must have come across the often repeated phrase ‘content is king’. As a content marketer, I still find it funny when someone quotes that phrase like it’s some novelty. Content hasn’t, all of a sudden, become king now – rather, content has been king for a good while. In fact, the quote itself dates back to 1996 from an essay by Bill Gates with the same title.

Before digital marketing, before social media, before online video content, it was the good old television that delivered content to people, having succeeded radio, print, scripts, and pigeons. Although the vehicle of content delivery has changed, brands developing and using their voices have always existed and what they said and how they said it always mattered.

Nowadays, as a company, you can have the most amazing brand, a great looking website and a budget most marketers would be jealous of, but if your content isn’t speaking to your audience and its needs, then you’re losing the game. Fast.

I’ve seen some brands selling a product that offers fewer features than that of its competitors, sometimes with a much bigger price tag, and yet blowing the competition out of the water simply because their content speaks to their audience’s needs better than anyone else in their industry. Content so relatable, so persuasive, that it’s almost irresistible for a user not to click that buy-now button. I myself have fallen victim to some of these brands – in some cases, consciously – simply because they told a story that mattered to me.

So how can you, the proud owner of what you believe is the best brand or company ever, develop this type of content?

Your first step is to define your brand’s story. What’s your mission? What are your unique values? What do you believe in?

Following that, it’s fundamental to have a clear vision of who the people you’re trying to reach are. What are their needs and problems that your brand can help them solve? Who are your prospective customers?

The more elaborate version of this process is called building personas. The end result is a set of actual people you’ll refer to when developing your messages and content. So a simplified example could be: “Anxious Alice is a 28-year-old married mother of two who struggles to balance career and family life and suffers from stress regularly.”

The new challenge for content marketers is to convince brands to invest in unique, engaging and dynamic content

It might sound silly, but being mindful of these fictitious people when you create your content can be very effective. It makes it a lot easier to relate to your audience, and create content that tells your brand’s story that much more effectively.

That will help you move on to the next step: which media should you use for these personas, to deliver your story and get their attention? Where does your target audience consume information? Do they look for reviews? If so where? Do they spend time on social media and do they watch videos on YouTube? Do they need in-depth information? Do they like statistics, and if so should you present that in a visual content like an infographic?

Once you know which digital media to use for your content, you are faced with an even greater challenge: how will you get that content to stand out?

We live in a day and age where digital media – blogging, social media channels, video – are so overused that people need to filter through the noise to find something of value. We’re past trying to convince brands to use content because it’s king – they know it and everyone is at it. The new challenge for content marketers is to convince brands to invest in unique, engaging and dynamic content.

I’ve come across businesses who have a blog on their site and someone churning out, say, about one or two posts a day; the posts being about a thousand words long, and so on and so forth. These brands believe that following the patterns content marketing experts say work will place them above their competition. If you’re one of them, I have some bad news for you: if you’re doing content for content’s sake, you’re wasting your time, money and resources. Do you honestly think that you’re the only brand following the rules? Content ‘experts’ are sharing that information so easily and you think you are the only one following the guidelines?

Chances are, you’re just adding to the noise that’s already out there and your content isn’t working for you.

The only way you will stand out is by applying a solid strategy behind your content that focuses on the audience’s needs, language and problems that makes you unique and stand out from the herd – and one that can be measured and improved. I could tell you to look at tools like Buzzsumo and the like to get ideas, and to try to improve what’s been done. That will probably work for a short period of time. But the sad truth is someone, just like you, will find your content and try to reinvent it. Don’t enter the vicious circle.

Here’s the secret no one will ever tell you (yes, I’m breaking the rules). The only way to stand out is to be daring. It’s to stop following the rules. It’s to break those rules and create your own.

While your competition covers the same news you’re trying to report on, and saying the same thing as everyone else because ‘that’s what works’, it’s your opportunity to find a completely different angle, present the content in a way no one else can and apply your unique brand’s voice.

Don’t be like everyone else. Dare to be different.

• Christina Goggi is a content marketing and SEO professional.

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