Here’s how not to get left behind in the race for audience attention.
Content marketing is amazing. No, really. It’s a fantastic thing, providing valuable information to people who want it. And if they return the favour with their attention, loyalty or custom, then everyone’s happy.
The problem is that content marketing is such a tremendous thing that everyone is at it. The airwaves are becoming crowded. Differentiation is becoming difficult.
Also, a lot of the entry-level content, that which meets the most obvious needs and is easiest to create, is widely available. The challenge for today’s content marketers is originality.
Different types of originality
We tend to think of original ideas as being those that come from out of the blue, but ‘original’ can be interpreted in a different way. If something is original it is, by definition, the first. It has no predecessor. So a concept may not be mind-blowingly unlike anything that has come before, but if it is the first to do a specific job at a specific time, it can be seen as original. And that gives it value.
Let me give you an example for a B2B business.
The UK is about to vote on whether to leave the EU. Clever companies may think this could create an opportunity for some valuable content (as we suggested here). A standard piece of content might be a ‘10 things you need to do now that Britain has voted (in/out)’. You wait until the decision, commission a writer and hopefully get it up within the week. All well and good, but likely to be lost in the barrage of similar pieces.
One sort of original idea could, for example, involve an intrepid reporter, dressed as a Beefeater/onion seller, visiting clients around the country, asking what their concerns were and coming back with responses from your company’s in-house experts – all shared via carrier pigeons and town criers.
Be original – or at least be first
This sort of original idea is hard to conceive and hard to execute (as the ill-conceived example above clearly shows). So if you can’t be original in terms of a different approach or delivery, be novel in the sense of being first.
This form of originality is also not easy, but with the right resources it can be delivered efficiently and successfully. There will be a wave of brands trying to first to share content around a specific event. Being well prepared and ready to roll will put you in with a chance, but to get ahead of the pack you need to go niche.
Creating event-based content that addresses a specific audience or detailed issue will help distinguish you from the background noise of the pack. So you don’t just need to be in the first wave of content to go out, you need to address specific needs and/or niche audiences.
This isn’t too hard if you know what the event will be – but what about breaking stories where you have no idea of the evolving agenda?
This is where you need access to a wide range of specialist content creators. It won’t be good enough to have one specialist in each area as they may well by busy/having a baby/on holiday, etc. You’ll need fall-backs you can trust.
You’ll also need a system in place to run the commissioning, delivery and workflow for all this content. Speed, scale and specialism will be crucial to your success in creating content that is original in being first to address a particular audience and its specific need.
You may have an incredible little black book of hundreds and hundreds of specialist content creators. You may have an email system that lets you get in touch with them in an instant to check their availability. You may have a workflow in place that allows their work to be submitted, checked, approved and paid at the touch of a few buttons.
Or you may not.
In an increasingly competitive world, all content marketers are faced with the challenge of staying one step ahead. Ensuring we have the systems and support to be agile, adaptive and fast will be essential to our success.