Friday, 30 May 2014

The Written Content Conundrum: Does Journalism Hold all the Answers?

Many of us by now have probably laid eyes on Econsultancy’s Periodic Table of Content Marketing, the smart infographic which breaks down all the key components (or elements) that are sure to be a feature and consideration of any content marketing campaign. While this pretty piece of content itself does a decent job of providing a colourful reminder of what most good content marketers know to be second nature, it offers up little more save for an unanswered chasm of what good content actually is.

I have a lingering habit of leaning towards various facets of idealism when considering good content, and would readily stake my view by saying something like: “it’s whatever you make of it, yeah?” before pouting my lips and asserting a slow nod of all-knowing in the general direction of whoever was asking. While that assumption may rhyme true to a degree, I’d like to press the claim that there are some key pointers that everyone should take into account when looking at the future of good content across various mediums.

Less lists, more thought

My own (self-appointed) medium of expertise is that of written content. From what I’ve seen so far in this industry, I’m of the belief that written content suffers from a severe lack of daring and panache in terms of harnessing true credibility and interest. Quick wins are all too often established in the form of robotic “top 5” blog posts and watery articles full of buzzwords and unfounded claims that may succeed on a short-lived, superficial level, but that’s just about all (folks).

Dorie Clark is one of several leading influential voices on content and branding who is of the opinion that the future of written content lies in understanding good journalism. In this respect, it’s key for companies to establish an authentic, credible voice when considering written content. Storytelling, genuine engagement with the audience and thoughtful, informed opinion are some of the key qualities that make up good journalism, and this is something which increasingly needs to be translated to any form of marketed written content.

Why you ask? Well, not only is high-quality, expertly-written content the way forward if you want to stand out among the crowd, but it also fits in with Google’s latest Panda update and its clear preference for unique content as a major SERP factor for the future.  

Key stats

Allow me to present some interesting insights (that’s right, in list form.)

·         70% of consumers prefer to get to know a company through well-written articles as opposed to standard ads.
·         A staggering 78% percent of consumers see customised content as a company genuinely attempting to forge good relationships with them.
·         Companies with well-written blogs generate 67% more leads than those without.

Now, these points stand at opposite ends with, for example, the dreaded aforementioned “top 5” or “list” types of written content found on almost any topic, many of which are either hastily put together or are simply recycled from one another. In terms of user engagement and trust, these all too often make whatever commercial website they’re featured on appear lazy and disinterested.

Mixing aestheticism with good reading

While I could ramble on all day about the importance of quality-focused written content, it’s important to strike an aesthetic balance as well. In our fast-paced modern world where information is digested as quickly as it is forgotten, it is perhaps no surprise that list articles have done well in the past.

In order to break the mould and provide content that is both unique, creative, holds the audience at heart yet is equally easy on the eye however, injecting features such as sub-headings, statistics, broken up text and relevant images is a must. It’s also well known that, on average, five times as many people are likely to read a headline as opposed to the actual body of the text, and like any journalistic piece of content, nailing an eye-catching title is of paramount importance.

One of my favourite examples of what I envision the future of good written content to be is LinkedIn’s Influencer Program, whereby key voices from a wide spectrum of industries pitch in their thoughts and allow their fans to get up close and personal. Despite my dad repeatedly telling me that he was friendly with Richard Branson during his Stowe days, I certainly feel like I’m more inside the head of everyone’s favourite roving entrepreneur than he may have felt following a round of fencing on school grounds (or whatever it is they do at private schools).      

In summary, I still dream of the day where Google offers me a solution in the form of a SERP swathed with thoughtful blog posts and astute articles as opposed to drove upon drove of lists consisting of no more than ten words per paragraph. Idealist till I die indeed.

Image credits: mkhmarketing, Selma Broeder  

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