This article by Senior Writer Craig Corbett originally appeared on Entrepreneur Magazine
Boring articles are like terrible party guests. If you’ve ever sat next to someone that just goes on and on about nothing in particular, you’ll know what it’s like. But sometimes coming up with interesting new content to share on your blog or contribute as a guest article can seem like pulling blood from a stone.
Since content marketing became popular, writing for the sake of writing has become far too common. Instead of spending time creating interesting content which adds to the wider conversation, companies are churning out rushed, bland, click-bait articles, littered with links back to their website and previously published content much to the annoyance of editors and readers.
But if you feel you have exhausted all interesting avenues, or your industry is highly technical, it can be incredibly difficult to come up with new ideas which offer value to the reader, while remaining interesting and engaging at the same time. That said, if you invest the extra time and energy into writing a more in-depth piece which really delves into a topic and is backed up by real experiences or data, then people are more likely to engage with your content and read until the end.
But where should all these new ideas come from? Look no further than the people sitting around you.
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Steer clear of promotional articles.
When creating content of any type, be it a thought leader article to pitch to a leading publication or a community piece to post on your blog or social media, it is always important to ask the following questions: Is this new and interesting? Does this offer value to the reader?
Before you put pen to paper — if any of your millennial employees even bring a pen to work — it is important to ask yourself, “why am I writing this content?” If the answer is “to sell more products” or “to get more clicks on my website,” then as much as it pains me to say so, content marketing might be the best route for you to take.
However, if your answer is “to establish myself as an expert in my industry,” “to build my reputation with investors,” “to share insights and ideas based on my expertise” or “ to inform and educate readers,” then you are on the right track.
While promotional articles might be the first that spring to mind, they are written for your company’s benefit, not that of the reader. The most useful types of articles are those which benefit the reader by offering actionable advice or “takeaways” which they can use in their own lives, explaining complex processes which they might not be familiar with, or sharing experiences with a lesson to be learned.
Deconstruct your process.
Instead of leaving it to one over-worked copywriter or intern to come up with all the ideas, managers should involve all of the members of the team in the planning for content. Each team member from the junior marketer to head coder to COO has their own area of expertise in which they are more knowledgeable than someone else.
The first step could be to approach team heads from all of the different departments and ask them, “Which parts of your process are the most interesting?” Which parts do you feel would be confusing to a client?” and “what are we doing which is different to our competitors?”
After you have received feedback from each individual member, you should gather different teams together, and conduct a brainstorming session where people discuss their answers and suggest new ideas. It is easy for teams to become “siloed,” only focusing on their own specific task, and having very little idea what other teams do at other stages of the process. Bringing the team together and brainstorming ideas together will offer an interesting insight into the work of the rest of the team, and offer a bonding experience.
When someone from the production department starts explaining new technology, or a marketer discusses how Hubspot or MudRack can save them time, the chances are that other team members will engage and ask questions. This offers an insight into the mind of the potential consumer, who will probably have the same doubts and queries. It also offers a means of rooting out topics which are too boring, niche or technical. If too many people are left scratching their heads, it’s probably better to let that topic go.
Lean on real experience.
Publications like Fast Company, Business Insider and Entrepreneur magazine regularly publish articles based on the experiences of CEOs and founders.
However, it’s not only the CEO or founder who has a valuable story to share. Regardless of whether you are the head of sales, or a junior writer, none of us fell into the position that we are in today; we had to work hard, learn, make mistakes and improve constantly to get there. As a result most members of your team will have experiences which they have acquired on their learning curve, which readers could find interesting or useful.
If you work in Fintech, a customer service representative could share ideas on “How to keep customers calm in the event of a market crash,” your CEO could share experiences of “How my training as an accountant prepared me for being a CEO” and your editorial team could write “Knowing your audience, how to explain complex accounting jargon in layman’s terms.”
Look back at difficult times and how you overcame the problem and came out on the other side. Bad experiences are equally as useful as good ones, as long as you offer actionable advice for how to rectify the situation.
Give everyone their moment in the spotlight.
While your CEO or founder has the most chance of getting an article picked up by a leading publication, due to their social proof, there is no reason why other members of your team can’t author articles too.
At Publicize all of our team members are encouraged to contribute content which will be published on our community page and social media sites. Everyone likes seeing their name in print and it gives everyone on the team the chance to feel special and share some of their expertise. It also offers clients an in-sight into your company, and an introduction to your team, which goes a lot further than a two-line intro on the “who are we” team page.
Whether the content ends up on the Wall Street Journal or your company’s Facebook wall, it gives the member something which they can link to on their LinkedIn profile and other platforms such as Twitter and, as a result, adds to their social proof as a professional.
Motivating all team members to be involved in content creation also improves your chances of providing readers with a steady flow of interesting articles. If you publish content sporadically, people will lose interest and stop checking your blog or site for updates, however if you publish regularly they will keep on coming back for more.
You can’t expect everyone on your team to be a wordsmith. Writing a guest post will probably be as much of a nightmare to a coder and coding would be to a staff-writer. So make sure that people are not forced into writing when they don’t feel comfortable to do so. Instead allow team members to work together, or simply pass over detailed plans to those who are capable of doing a better job.
If your company gets covered on a leading publication, celebrate. Your company parading in the press is a great moral boost for your team. It makes them feel part of something and gives them things to proudly show off to friends and family. Aside from boosting your brand image, improving SEO standing and adding to social proof, creating interesting content as a team can bring people from different areas of your business together, to interact and work towards a common goal. If creating content is made into a shared experience, getting media coverage will become a shared achievement too.
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