This week we’ve been advertising for a new writer at Engage Content. Some of the cracker cover letters that arrived highlighted for me how much skill is involved in creating good content. We talk a lot about content strategy, distribution and optimisation, but for all that stuff to work, you need that core of good content in the first place.
When we advertise for other roles, the majority of cover letters and CV’s are the same. Throw out the call for a skilled writer and the cover letters are frequently hilarious. And they should be—if you can’t engage and entertain me with your first impression, how will you do that with our audiences?
At the same time as the job applicants came in, I was also getting frustrated with the flow of content about content marketing in my inbox. My frustration is so much of the focus on content marketing is about the tools to create a strategy, buyer personae, distributing content and measuring it. Nowhere near enough focus is on creating the gold nuggets of content that will make this all work.
Content strategy by-the-numbers
Every other part of the process is paint-by-numbers stuff. Just about anyone can follow the processes, templates and spreadsheets and come up with a decent content strategy.
For a few thousand dollars you can have a decent WordPress blog and for less you can email thousands of people a nice looking email newsletter. Likewise, you can book some native ads that link back to your site and fling posts at your social media channels. And on it goes.
Everything else in content marketing is getting easier and easier except one thing—creating great content. That’s always been hard and always will be.
Years ago I worked for traditional publishing houses that had a specialist division who did custom publishing. We were engaged by big brands like banks and car manufacturers. Our clients recognised they made great cars but we made great magazines.
Perhaps it was that producing and distributing a magazine was more difficult than throwing content at a blog, but very few serious companies tried to publish their magazine in-house. They engaged us to bring great writers and designers who had experiencing creating some of the best newsstand magazines to publish a beautiful custom magazine that would work.
I also think it was the high cost of printing and mailing that hard copy magazine that made investing in the team to produce it a logical step.
Behind the content curtain
I’ve used content as a marketing tool for most of my 20+ year career. But I’m the first to admit, I can’t write. When I’ve written this, I’ll hand it to my colleagues who CAN write to edit it into something you might read.
Then a subeditor is going to correct my structure, grammar and spelling so this isn’t an embarrassment to our brand. After that a few of us will workshop a headline that will be SEO-friendly but engage you to read my rant.
There has been talk about the flood of bad content that is going to make content marketing harder. Please don’t be part of the problem. Invest as heavily (or more heavily!) in great content as you do in distributing, measuring and promoting it.
Just as crap banner and digital ads quickly saw consumers build themselves a filter for it and lowered effectiveness, I believe we risk letting down our audiences with crap content and that they will learn to filter us out and disengage.
The difference between typing and writing
I’m surprised the number of meetings we have where marketing teams inform us they can write, or they’ve hired a single junior content producer. We can all type words, but we can’t all write. If you haven’t had a passion for telling stories, uncovering truths and making people laugh or cry with your words since you first put pen to paper, then you’d be better bringing to the table one of the many passionate people who are sending us their CV’s this week.
Our company is a content agency. We’d never try to build a car, or some other product. So I’m surprised and frustrated by the number of teams who market those same products, who ruin all the work they put into their content marketing strategy with crap content pumped out from within the marketing team.
There is a case for harnessing the passion for your product or service that sits within your business. But get the greatest writers, videographers, photographers and designers to make sure it is content that will truly engage your audience.
Creating great content is the hardest part and the key to success. You need great content producers. They need to understand your strategy and audience but be are able to craft entertaining, compelling quality content. If you want to see our idea of what makes great content, start by reading this article.
Let’s protect content marketing with great content.