The 7 key traits of great content

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person-woman-desk-laptop-largeThere used to be a time when the ability to influence viewpoints on a mass scale was the sole prerogative of PR practitioners, journalists or politicians. The democratization of the media environment has changed all of this, creating a new world order whereby anyone who has the time and the ability to elegantly string together a few sentences to make an argument can be an influencer.

Corporations are sold on this opportunity to influence audiences. Why else would Cisco Systems fire more than 100 marketing and communications practitioners and hire 200 content marketers in their place?

However, with every major corporation vying for mind share, premium needs to be placed on creating not just content, but compelling content.So what differentiates great content from the mediocre? Great content often stands apart from mediocre content in a number of respects:

1. High impact headlines
Have you ever been at a convenience store, glanced at a really interesting headline in a newspaper and picked it up? Newspapers have a lot of news in them, and yet those few words on the front of the newspaper are what sells them. The same goes with any headline in the electronic space. The objective of the headline is to interest – shock if possible  to encourage the reader to want to read on.

2. Resonance with the audience
Readers will give short shrift to content that does not resonate or engage them. For content creators this means understanding their readers’ concerns and interests, and creating content that is of real use to their audiences. Engage in sales talk too early in your article, and you will find the reader quickly moving on. Instead, offer empathy and answers to the business concerns they are facing.  This could be advice on best practices, case studies, or implementation strategies, without too much product-speak.

3. What’s thematic right now?
Topics that are currently being followed have a better chance of getting eyeballs because there is already a captive audience for them. For the corporate content marketer, this often means hinging your content to a trending topic – i.e. a company with an interest in ensuring the cyber security of their clients could reference the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s servers in the US, while it is still a hot topic.

4. What’s new?
Your audiences are interested in what’s new – this could be a breaking news event or a new development pertaining to a currently trending topic. Some stories will have new developments on an ongoing basis or it may be complex enough to have multiple angles (each an opportunity to sell your company value proposition) which you as a content marketer can leverage.

5. Mass relevance
An article with ramifications for a larger number of people will always get more eyeballs, airtime and ink. For example, a major global accounting standard such as Basel or IFRS that is set to impact all banks globally will obviously appeal to a wider group of targeted interested parties – the finance, operations, risk, compliance and IT departments at all banks.

6.. Prominent individuals
References to CEOs, government leaders, and celebrities are likely to garner greater interest than others. Reference to a familiar individual establishes affinity with audiences. For example, a company focused on providing accounting compliance solutions could lead an article on the subject matter with reference to the Panama Papers scandal, where scores of well-known politicians and celebrities have been implicated –  famed footballer Lionel Messi, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and Ian Cameron, the father of former British Prime Minister David Cameron.

7. What’s in it for the reader
Many content producers, in particular product managers, write in a highly technical, process-oriented manner, without focusing on the benefits. It is important for content marketing piece to be benefits focused, albeit in a less commercial manner.

One of the evidences of having created an engaging, compelling piece of content is the number of eyeballs it has received, as well as the extent to which it has been commented on, and shared by your audiences in social media. Gaining mindshare in the digital domain is also dependent on the extent to which you optimize your content with key words that are likely to resonate with your audiences. Writing effectively, specifically adherence to concepts such as the Inverted Pyramid are also important – a topic that we will cover in our next post.

K. Dorai Raja is an ex-journalist and marketing communication practitioner with more than 20 years of experience in the media environment.