As an art director, I think in metaphors. As an employee of a content marketing agency and member of our in-house blogging network, I think in expletives because writing content is hard and maybe I shouldn’t have volunteered to do this. Especially because I’m surrounded by people who are really great at it. Luckily, working with a talented bunch of writers, editors and content creators has taught me quite a bit about making results-driven content. And more specifically, about dodging pitfalls, avoiding hazards and circumnavigating the often-troubled waters of content creation and execution. So, here are a few of them—in the form of metaphors, of course.
Stay Out of the Mire: Make Sure Your Message is Clear
If you were a kid in the ’80s and you watched primetime TV, you were probably terrified of quicksand. It was a true threat to humanity—at least according to the shows that were on TV at that time. Take the wrong fork in a dirt road, and before you know it, nothing is left of you but a safari hat—because the earth itself had swallowed you up! Content can be a lot like the man-eating mud of my childhood. And by that, I mean the murkier it is, the tougher it is for the reader to get through. Make sure your message is clear so readers can wade in and out easily having learned something along the way.
Some techniques you might implore to keep your message clear:
- When in doubt, stick with your brand voice. Going off the beaten path is good, but writing in a style that is way different from what your company usually puts out will make your audience feel lost in the woods (I really can’t seem to stop with the metaphors, can I?).
- Using too many flowery words or going heavy on the buzzwords can get exhausting for readers. Remember: Instead of frills, your content should be comprised mostly of, well, content.
- Have a good editor take a look. Not only does it mean your piece will be reviewed and picked apart by an expert, it also means you have someone to blame if it stinks (so please contact Courtney, our blog editor, with any complaints about this post).
Don’t Lead Readers Into Dreamland. Keep Them Engaged With Substance
Sometimes it may be tempting to create content that is entertaining and lighthearted. But beware: If the content lacks substance, it can quickly turn a solid brand message to fluff. Remember that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and Toto made it halfway through the field of poppies, and then spontaneously drifted off into what must’ve been an amazing nap? Sure, I like naps just as much as anyone, but if you’re on a quest to reach the Emerald City, you’re not looking to grab a few Z’s in the middle of it.
Just like the field of poppies, lighthearted content that lacks substance may seem like a great choice from afar, but it’s deceiving to someone who is genuinely interested in engaging with it. Whether it’s a blog post, infographic, how-to video or social update, lack of substance will only put them to sleep (or bore them to tears, at least).
Instead, have the courage to push the boundaries of your content, the heart to know what your audience loves and the kind of content they are looking for, and the brains to stay on track and ensure that it aligns with your guiding content strategy. Make it substantive, valuable and engaging to your audience, and it’s more likely to be shared.
Don’t Stir Up the Zombies: Stay On-Brand on Social Media
Engaging with negative commenters on social media is like stirring up a zombie onslaught. Fight all you want, but before you know it, you’re one of them. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage everyone who has something negative to say about your brand—quite the contrary. Instead, learn how to separate the blood-sucking complainers who just want to whine from those who are actively seeking a solution to resolve their issue. If a hater trolls your piece, take the high road. Leave that dirt un-churned altogether.
Retaliation can be incredibly tempting, we know. Anyone can trash-talk your beloved brand at any given moment and suffer no repercussions. It’s not fair! But remember, if you leave it alone the worst that will happen is that a very small handful of people may read their sick burn. Let the haters have their impact-less moment delivering an impotent blow to a content creator that doesn’t have time for shenanigans. Their bad attitude won’t make you look bad, but pointed retaliation from you will.
Don’t Fall Prey to Your Own Hubris
I didn’t pay much attention in Sunday school, but apparently there used to be this thing called a “lion’s den.” From what I hear, if you stumbled across one you should just keep on walking. These days we have the Internet, where everyone is subject to judgment and condemnation for pretty much any and everything we say or do. And the Internet lions are especially vicious to those who aren’t knowledgeable about the content they produce. A poorly researched and constructed piece will undoubtedly be torn apart by its audience—especially if they’re familiar with your subject. Don’t try to “wing it.” Prepare yourself by doing your homework (really), interviewing experts and verifying your facts. Done right, your audience will have no doubt that you’re a subject matter expert.
Sometimes, however, you may have to write about a subject outside our area of expertise. In this article, HubSpot explains how reading social media posts to get a sense of public opinion, hitting up Google and Facebook for general research, and accumulating reliable data and relevant quotes all help you write an article about something you previously knew nothing about. Guess you could say that you’ll be prepared to bound right into that lion’s den and grab that joker by the tail!
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Creating engaging content for your brand can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be akin to a walk through the Fire Swamp or a frantic swim in eel-infested waters. Keep these points in mind, and with a little patience, energy, research and maybe even a few metaphors, you too can navigate this treacherous landscape and live to tell the story.