How do you craft remarkable content? Tell the truth.
by Lucy Seymour on 20 September 2018
Remarkable content is marketing 101 if you want to build relationships and establish trust in your brand. So what is the secret to reliably and consistently creating truly remarkable content that your audience will want to read? The clue here is in the question — you've got to put your audience first, by thinking less like a marketer and more like a journalist.
A journalist's job is to find the story and tell it — not to force their own opinions, preferences and experiences on the reader. As a marketer, finding an interesting story to tell can be a challenge, especially if you're routinely working within the same brand or product. So how can you keep it fresh and engaging for your audience?
Melanie Deziel, founder of StoryFuel, says it's all about telling the TRUTH. She shared this handy acronym in her talk "How to think like a journalist and create better brand stories" at this year's INBOUND conference:
Creating useful content that is of genuine value to the reader has always been a central tenet of the Inbound methodology — and it's no wonder, since our natural reflex in the technology age when we want to find answers or discover how to master a new skill is to Google it or look for relevant content on YouTube.
Deziel suggests creating "How to" style blog posts or video content to teach a new process or skill:
"A good barista knows how to craft the perfect cup of coffee every time, and they can do this with their eyes shut — so watching a video on how to do this could be boring for a barista, but fascinating for someone else." — Melanie Deziel
Next time you're setting out to create a brilliant blog post, ask yourself what the teaching point is for the reader. What can they learn from your content, and how will it enrich their knowledge or skill base?
Quoting other sources within your content is vital if you want to establish authority and trust. The more voices you have to back up your story, the more compelling your case will be. And the more diverse, the better — you don't become an influencer or thought leader simply by drawing from people who match your own demographic.
"There are people who don't look like you who share your values." — Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement
"The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is that they are not untrue, but they are incomplete." — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning novelist and one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people
Adichie avoids telling a single story with a varied reading diet, including publications targeted at different demographics to her own:
"I want to hear people I disagree with, and so even though my politics in this country is proudly left leaning, I subscribe to The Wall Street Journal... I want to know the world view of people who do not see the world as I do, because in that way I am better able to understand the world."
Next time you're setting out to create a piece of content, try starting from the opposite angle to the one that feels most natural to you. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in this way can be a refreshing exercise in the creative process, especially if you've found yourself in a bit of a rut and need to shake things up. Try it!
If you want your story to engage the reader, you've to find a unique perspective, says Deziel:
"How often have you seen a story in the news about a dog biting a person? How likely would you stop and read that story? What if the headline were "Man bites dog" instead? Would it grab you more?"
So when you're writing the title for your next piece of content, ask yourself if it has the "man bites dog" factor. If not, then what could you do to make it stand out more?
When it comes to telling a brand story, the holy grail is to have a 'first' or an 'only' to shout about. But don't despair! You don't have to be the first or the only to be doing what you do to tell this kind of story — the story could be in the way you are doing it.
Superlatives can serve as a helpful starting point to find your unique angle — you don't have to be the only organisation doing what you do, but you could be the oldest or youngest, the smallest or largest.
If your audience has chosen to read your content, that's a great start — but what will drive them to continue reading? For someone to really care about 'what happens next', there has to be an element of suspense, or something at stake. If you want to keep your readers engaged, you'll need to find the tension in the content you create.
Dramatic writer and actor Lena Waithe (Master of None, The Chi, Ready Player One) knows something about creating compelling stories that stand out and push boundaries:
"You can't just walk into a hospital and say — hey, I'm a surgeon! It's different with writing — anyone can say they're a writer. But few people can actually do it well. Good writing is a craft. If you want to stand out, you have to push people out of their comfort zone. Don't play it safe — be disruptive. I'm not interested in writing stories that help people to sleep better at night." — Lena Waithe
Digital content can get so easily lost in a world where we are constantly bombarded with emails and ads popping up on our social media feeds. A recent study by the McCarthy Group revealed that 84% of millennials trust word of mouth over traditional advertising. So how can you create the sort of digital content that will touch influencers enough for them to want to pass it on?
The key is to find the human connection in the stories you tell. You might have to dig deeper to find it, but surely that makes it more worthwhile, and therefore more shareable?
Founder of charity Water, Scott Harrison demonstrated the value of this beautifully in his recent talk at Inbound 2018 when he described hiking for several days to reach a remote village in Ethiopia just to find out whether or not a story he had heard (and told) was actually true:
This really is taking the phrase "going the extra mile" to a whole new level — but what a great way to inspire trust! Not only is Scott Harrison telling a 'true story', but he actually backs up this claim by telling the story of his own quest for the truth.
Your organisation may not have the resources to do this on the same scale, but there must be ways you can achieve the same result by changing how you approach content creation. Start by speaking to more people to get a broader perspective, and branch out in the content that you choose to consume to make your own understanding of the world deeper and your content more rich and authentic.
If you want to make your content more remarkable, the TRUTH acronym is a great place to start. We've now added a TRUTH check to our internal quality-assurance process for the content we create for ourselves and our clients, and I for one can't wait to see the impact this will have on everyone's metrics. Watch this space!