The magazine of branded content
Does your content
pass the ‘boring’ test?
Juliet Stott
The Foundry’s Deborah Caldwell on the essence of great content
Juliet Stott
Nov 15, 2018

Deborah Caldwell is an executive editor and content strategist at The Foundry @ Meredith Corp., whose clients read like the Who’s Who of international brands including Bank of America, Dell, Emirates, Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, IKEA, Pantene, Ralph Lauren, and Salesforce.

The former journalist’s work has appeared in numerous publications including CNBC, FORTUNE, MONEY, The Huffington Post, New York Times Week in Review, Slate, and The Dallas Morning News amongst others.

Caldwell, who has been described as having the “Zeitgeist gene” talked to Content Magazine about current and future trends in content marketing, and shared her expertise about how to create a compelling piece of content.

Content Magazine: What does it take to create a great piece of content?
Deborah Caldwell: The first thing that you have to know is the purpose for creating the piece of content. Why are you doing it? Is it to drive sales, to enhance a brand’s mission, or to inform people?

Then you need to understand who the audience is. Once you know your audience, then you have to understand the themes you’re trying to get across with the content – what are the kinds of stories you’re going to tell?

What does successful content marketing look like and what does it achieve?
Successful content marketing is first and foremost audience first. It is editorially minded, and it will often look like magazine content—but it is clearly labeled as marketing or sponsored content. It’s content you would read or view even though you know it is labeled ‘branded content’.

It also must have a goal. This is a really important part of content marketing. The metrics can range from brand credibility, engaging with audiences, creating brand advocates or humanizing a company. And some companies just want to drive sales.

What are the current trends in content marketing?
The biggest trend in content marketing is that it’s here, and it’s not going away. They used to say that 2014 was the year that content marketing broke through, and I think it’s so clear that smart marketers really know that content marketing is what they’ve got to do to break through to audiences.

The second trend is that companies are increasingly focused on strategy. As the clients have matured, their expectations have too. Clients have become more sophisticated, and they want us to tell them why we’re creating the content, which platform it will sit on, which audiences we’re reaching out to, and what will it achieve.

Metrics are also becoming more important than ever. In the past brands didn’t really know what to measure, or why they needed metrics. But now CMOs know they need to measure, as they’re getting pressure from their board and they’re having to prove their worth.

Can you share five top tips for creating compelling content?

  1. Remember the audience first and be authentic.
  2. If you’re going to be educational, don’t make your content dry.
  3. Be humorous—if the content lends itself to humor.
  4. Use people as the center of your content—use storytelling—that’s a huge way to be compelling
  5. Make sure it passes the boring test, i.e. would you read it or watch it if you didn’t have to?

Looking ahead to 2019, what predictions do you have?
Content quality will improve drastically—that’s because marketers know they have to create meaningful content—they realize that content is now THE way to engage with the audiences they want to reach. All content creators will have to up their game.

More companies are going to adopt an owned content strategy—a lot of brands have been using social platforms to distribute content, which is absolutely essential, but I think in order to have a real conversation with your customers you have to own your own narrative on your own platform because, as we know, social channels continue to change their algorithms, and who wants to rent when you can own? That means companies are going to spend more money on their websites—podcasts, newsletters etc.

And finally, ROI will get more important because that’s what everyone is talking about.