Content marketing is taking a bit of heat these days as marketers scramble to jump on the latest trend of thinking like a publisher. Chris Penn recently wrote a post that perfectly sums up the current state of content marketing: “If 2012 was about the power of content marketing, then 2013 has to be about making content that doesn’t suck if we want content marketing to remain a viable method of reaching and acquiring new customers.” I agree 100%.
The problem isn’t necessarily content itself; it’s the lack of quality content. The cookie-cutter SEO driven, keyword stuffed, generic regurgitated content is becoming a sort of white noise that blocks all of the real quality stuff from surfacing. It’s a problem that continually challenges Google to show the most relevant information, but it goes much deeper than that.
While there is no way in hell we can all instantly become great content writers and producers, we can all go back and revisit what in my opinion seems to be the root of the problem. I remember reading a great post about hiring a journalist for your content marketing strategy. While that may be a good idea for creating topical real time newsjacking worthy content, I would recommend just cutting to the chase and hiring a marketer who is interesting and writes well.
Writing sucks, and it’s hard. The people who enjoy writing are already making a living from it, they are called authors. For the rest of us we have to try a bit harder.
But that’s just part of the puzzle. To be a good content marketer you have to have a personality that shines through and resonates. Have you ever met someone who lights up the room in person but then writes a piece of content that could bore someone watching paint dry? It happens because it’s difficult for a personality to easily transfer to paper.
Writing sucks, and it’s hard. The people who enjoy writing are already making a living from it; they are called authors. For the rest of us, we have to try a bit harder. So what’s the answer? Start with the basics. Go read two or three books on becoming a better writer. Then read an autobiography from a comedian to get some tips on how to be funny. Take everything you learned from there and keep it in the back of your mind as you revisit your industry and your customer’s needs.
Add a fail-safe to your personal content creating process. After you write a piece of content, read it yourself. If you find that you can’t get through it all the way, then who else is going to? If you do make it all the way through, ask someone else to read it. Then ask them two questions. Was it helpful and was it interesting? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, you probably have a good piece of content on your hands, unless it was your mother who you ask to read it.
I am not a writer, nor am I a journalist. What I do have going for me is the fact that I learn very quickly, I carry around a copy of The Elements of Style, I read as much as humanly possible, and I hate sleep. As content marketing continues to be a necessary tool for marketers across the gamut, let’s all make a commitment to be a good writer first and a content creator second.