Resisting the urge to create content

An email from PR Week landed in my inbox over the weekend that really made me stop and take notice.

This is the quote that caught my eye. It’s from Lisa Jedan, Global Head of Brand PR at Bacardi-Martini:

When marketers say: ‘We need some content’ – you can just replace the word ‘content’ with ‘shit’ if people don’t know what they’re going to say.

Anyone who has ‘content creation’ as part of their job description is bound to have felt the pressure of filling a pipeline with great articles, videos, blogs and news to satisfy a hungry and demanding audience. But sometimes resisting the urge to churn out another piece of ‘content’ is the very best thing you can do.

Creating content for content’s sake, without having a clear idea of your message, aims and call to action will typically leave both you and your audience feeling uninspired, unenthusiastic and pretty darn disappointed. Putting out something mediocre or off-message can certainly do more damage than going quiet for a few hours.

I recently attended a fantastic CPD course about business storytelling which had this message (echoed by Lisa Jedan in PR Week) at its very heart:

“We need to find passion points for our audience.”

Taking the time to understand your audience then creating specific pieces of content designed to connect on an emotional level will ensure your work is actually adding value to someone’s day, and is not just created to put another tick in a ‘to do’ box.

So next time you feel the pressure to post “something” on social media to fill a gap, try taking a breath and really thinking about what you want to say before you start. If you don’t have anything specific to share, perhaps it’s better not to post at all. An alien concept for some, I’m sure.


The art of great content

I’m always on the lookout for great webinars and courses to continue my professional development so I was delighted when I spotted a tweet from Socialbakers about a free lunchtime webinar on The art of great content.Jonah book

Based primarily on concepts from the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger, here are my key takeaways for creating truly great social content:

1. Social currency

“You are what you share”. Focus on producing content that makes people look good when they share it.

Good examples of this are:

  • Behind the scenes photos and info – make followers feel like insiders
  • Put your fans in the spotlight – crowdsource content from your community. Engage with the user before you repost it to find out the story behind the image or video so that you can share that too and get even more engagement. This is a good example from GoPro who post a fan photo every day:


2. Trigger

Celebrate events that are happening right now (you can use a content calendar to look ahead and plan your activity) but be part of it, rather than trying to make it all about you.

There are some great examples of brands doing just this at events like the Golden Globe Awards (L’Oréal) and World Cup (Orange).

Focus on your brand values not your brand products. Invite people to join the conversation with you.

3. Emotion

When we care, we share.

“Emotion is one factor that drives sharing. We see lots of funny stuff go viral on YouTube, but we also see angry political rants get shared,” Berger says. “Any emotion that fires us up–humor, awe and excitement, but also anger and anxiety–drives us to share.” – Jonah Berger

4. Public

Recognise the power of social influencers to spread your message.

How do you find those influencers?

  • Use social listening tools to monitor for keywords relevant to your brand or campaign
  • Identify the most active and the most engaging content creators for those keywords
  • Ensure their style and their values align with yours

social influencer

5. Practical value

Think about how you can be valuable to your fans. Package knowledge and expertise in your content so people can easily pass it along.

A good example is a supermarket (e.g. Lidl) sharing video recipes with its fans:


6. Story

I’m a big believer in the value of storytelling in marketing communications. If you don’t believe me, check out this blog post on Storytelling: corporate buzzword or clever business?

When creating story-based content for social media, the key is to embed your brand into the plot so people cannot tell your story without mentioning your brand.

A good example of this comes from Adidas who told the story of the World Cup in Brazil from the ball’s perspective:

Brazuca 1Brazuca 2



How to create a content marketing strategy in five simple steps

Maintaining a steady stream of news and content is often priority number one for those of us working in communications roles. Most organisations have lots of content and most communications professionals have LOTS of ideas for more great content… but how do we make it work most effectively?

We could try to publish a new blog every day of the week to tell our story… but is that really possible with the resource we have? And is that much content really necessary?

Step 1 – Identify

What can we and do we want to talk about? Who are we talking to?

Think about the sector you’re operating in, which experts you have working in your organisation and what your customers’ interests are.

Step 2 – Decide

Make a judgement call on how much content you need/want and take stock of existing assets.

How many blog posts, social media posts, press releases and larger pieces of content (e.g. case studies, videos, whitepapers) do we want each week/month? How many do we already have and how many do we need to create?

Step 3 – Plan and review

Create a content calendar.

Content calendars prevent writers block, inspire and protect against content gaps. So long as you don’t over schedule, content calendars help maintain space for topical, ad hoc and breaking news stories.

Distribute the content you already have evenly across the year, ensure the right content is scheduled for the right time (relevance is key) and see where there are gaps. You can do this on an annual, monthly and/or even weekly basis, depending on the level of detail you want and your organisational needs.

Step 4 – Bolster and future-proof

Research national celebration days, holidays, announcement dates and so on to fill potential gaps ahead of time.

Today, for example, “National Lollipopper Day” is trending on Twitter with the rather lovely hashtag #Lollipoppers. If you work in the Education sector, this is an easy win as it lends itself so well to visual content (photos of happy kids with their ‘Lollipoppers’) and has a strong human interest angle.lollipoppers

There are loads of lists of national celebration days available online that will give you a great starting point then all it takes is a keen eye for relevance, a creative spin (so you’re not putting out the same content as everyone else) and plenty of forward-planning.

There are also lots of content calendar templates available online – or it’s very easy to build your own using Excel.

Step 5 – Review and improve

Finally, don’t forget to look back at your audience’s response to your content to see what really resonates and what doesn’t quite work.

Make measurement a priority. Collect data (automate where possible) and review regularly. Talk to and learn from industry peers. Be adaptable. Don’t be afraid of change.  And don’t forget to feed back to your contributors (saying “thank you” goes a long way).

How to create content when you have no news

I was recently asked, “If it was your job to create a constant stream of content but your client/company had absolutely nothing ‘new’ to inspire you, what would you do?”



I thought it was a good question but, although it certainly makes life easier when your client is constantly making new discoveries, launching new products and unveiling new technology, if you’re in the content creation business, you can’t let something like a slow news cycle phase you.

My answer was simple; I would reinvent. I would look for original content that was now out-of-date, irrelevant or inaccurate and use these topics as a springboard for new ideas. I would look to the competition to see what they hadn’t written about and where gaps existed. And, if all else failed, I would use some of the fantastic free tools that exist to inspire content writers and bloggers.

Econsultancy recently published a list of ‘17 fantastically useful tools‘ which I have now bookmarked for future use (I recommend you do the same). The list includes a ‘content idea generator’, and ‘readability test tool’ and even a ‘cliché finder’. If you’re ever feeling uninspired, I guarantee one of these will swiftly set you back on the right track.

It’s National Hug Day… but does anyone care?

If you follow any brands on Facebook, or listen to the radio as you drive to work, it will be hard to avoid learning about the numerous ‘national days’ that now exist on our calendar.

Today, for example, is ‘National Hug Day’. Unbelievable, but true, and all of these brands are talking about it (click to enlarge the image)

Many people believe that these national days are the shameless creation of marketers who needed a new way to sell more products… but can they still be an effective marketing tool when they are perceived in such a negative way?

Content marketing is all about creating and sharing content that will help you attract new interest and, ultimately, new sales. If the level of engagement on the examples above is anything to go by, these days can certainly be used effectively on social channels. They can work well for PR, too, if you need a way of making your story more topical.

If you start your marketing planning with a content calendar each year, these days are a reliable ‘fillers’ when there’s not a lot going on in your own sector or it’s a quiet time of year generally. Frequency of content – and variety, too – is vitally important and something this lighthearted and fun can reveal your brand’s softer side when shared amongst those ‘product pushing’ posts.

So, the next time you see a brand hopping on the back of a ‘national day’, take a closer look at how they’re using it and whether they have managed to somehow make it their own. If you can find your own angle, it could just be the piece of content that hooks an elusive new customer for you.