Content marketing has clearly moved from a “nice to have” to a necessity.
Yet even so, too many companies still struggle to get it right.
Some try to handle it on their own — only to find that, for a variety of reasons, this is not a workable solution. Others immediately decide to outsource the need, and misplace their trust in an agency with “content” on their capabilities list but not in their wheelhouse.
If you’re about to outsource, or change your provider, there are three things you should look for in a content marketing partner:
- A background in journalism: Trained journalists take a different approach to generating content. They know how to research, fact check, and be objective, an important trait in an age when consumers demand transparency and authenticity.
What’s more, they understand how to write for their audience. They consider not only reading level, but even whether an industry term will add credibility or confusion.
Journalists are also masters of the inverted pyramid – the ability to encapsulate the key points of the article upfront, with detail and color underneath. During an age when reading’s been replaced with scanning and the human attention span has dropped below that of a goldfish, this is an important skill.
- The ability to tell a story: Some writers know how to write, but not necessarily how to engage. There’s an important difference. Your content can be factually correct, comprehensive, and on brand, but if it’s not engaging you’ll be the only one consuming it.
Stories are compelling. They draw the reader or viewer in and don’t release him until the end. Skilled content providers can find the story, the drama, the angle, the irresistible in what you have to offer. They know how to craft an opening frame or an opening line. They will make your content stand out.
And if you don’t think your brand’s content needs a story, think again. Science has shown that the human brain engages with stories differently than simple facts or bullet points. When a person reads or hears a story, it activates multiple parts of their brain. For example, if the story involves motion, the motor cortex engages. The brain acts as if its owner is actually experiencing what she’s reading or hearing about. And this creates more of an emotional connection, embedding the information deeper. By contrast, reading facts involves only the part of the brain needed to process information.
- Working knowledge of behavioral science: Speaking of the brain, quite a bit of research has been done into how people make decisions. Decisions about what to watch or read. Who to trust. What to buy. And social scientists and behavioral economists have found that people rely on shortcuts when making decisions – certain automatic, reflexive behaviors that kick in with little to no thought. You’ll want the person who understands this to be on your content marketing team.
They’ll know how to wield the power of Loss Aversion (science shows people are twice as motivated to avoid loss than to achieve gain), the Scarcity Principle (people place more value on things that are limited), and the Authority Principle (people often accept without question what perceived experts say). They’ll also appreciate the power of a proper visual (our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text).
These are the people that can give your content that extra advantage.
So before you outsource this key initiative, make sure your partner has what it takes to raise your content above the marketplace noise. Because the content your company generates needs to generate some response of its own.
Nancy Harhut is the Chief Creative Officer at Wilde Agency. Her specialty is blending best-of-breed creative with decision science to prompt response. A frequent speaker at industry conferences, Nancy’s shared her passion with audiences from Moscow (as the only American on the speaker’s roster) to the U.S. Department of Defense (twice). Along the way, she’s been named NEDMA Direct Marketer of the Year, Ad Club Top 100 Creative Influencer, OMI Top 40 Digital Marketing Strategist, and Andi Emerson Award recipient. Prior to Wilde Agency, Nancy held senior creative management positions with Hill Holliday, Mullen and Digitas. She and her teams have won over 150 awards for digital and direct marketing effectiveness.