winter / 2015

The magazine of branded content
Eight Easy Steps...
Juliet Stott
01/26/16 Creating Unique, Useful, Needle-Moving Content.
Juliet Stott
Jan 26, 2016

Editorial director for Minneapolis based MSP Communications heath care group, David Burda has spent most of his career as an investigative business journalist, specialising in reporting on the healthcare sector. Now the hunter turned game- keeper, he shares his journalistic wisdom about how to create original, unique and useful content to increase audience engagement.

Step 1: Make it Honest:

The difference between copywriting and journalism is honesty. Journalists have been trained to find and develop a story, find an angle that resonates with the needs of the audience and the support it with facts. As David Grasso at Nike asked, “what’s the best way to unleash strong ideas and engage consumers in your story with a relevant and authentic experience?” One answer is make it honest, use a journalist.

Step 2: Say something new:

If you want to be a thought leader you’ve got to stretch yourself, say something new. Regrettably, saying something interesting is not necessarily a safe course of action for a company or brand with a conservative culture or trigger-happy shareholders. When you look at those brands who believe in creative disruption at any level, they’re getting more media attention and higher engagement It’s what separates you from the crush.

Step 3: Be accurate, fair and balanced:

When creating branded content you must follow the basic rules of journalism of being accurate, fair and balanced. That approach establishes credibility, and credibility creates trust. Journalists have a three part mission: inform, educate or entertain. As a content marketer your content should establish an ethical framework for the brand. As Lisa Ostrikoff at BizBox said, “brand journalism is about facts and balance. It’s about telling an engaging story and the goal is to educate rather than blatantly market.”your content should be honest and always offer solutions.

Step 4: Please your audience not your chief executive:

You should always begin by researching what your audience is interested in. What are they dealing with? What are their pain points, their needs, moods and wants? In a B2B world perhaps it’s issues around costs, revenue, safety or technology. Start with an audience survey to find out what their hot button issues are, and then create content that offers the solutions to overcoming those challenges.

Step 5: Create a larger piece of content first:

It’s economically smart to create one large piece of content that can be broken down into snack-able bites, a variation on the Create Once, Post Everywhere approach. It’s really about taking one piece of content and putting it into as many formats as your audience wants. Perhaps you begin with a whitepaper, that morphs to a a LinkedIn post, that converts to a video for use on social media or YouTube or a webinar—there are no rules. Give your audience what they want in the formats they prefer.

Step 6: Use service journalism to break up content:

Listicles, the bread and butter of successful publisher Buzzfeed, are popular because they’re easy for the content creator to write and easy for the audience to read, e.g., The 3 things.., the 5 best.., the 6 takeaways… are enticing headlines allowing readers to make an instant decision about whether they want to engage. Statistically service journalism approaches generate more initial interest.

Step 7: Take a multichannel approach:

I’m still a big believer in print. I know many CEOs who save up monthly or weekly print editions of their favourite publications and read six months of information at a time. In the B2B space CEO’s are less likely to access social media for that kind of information. At the same time there are others who are constantly checking their Twitter feeds for breaking news. It’s a mistake to avoid either channel. You really have to be everywhere on every channel that your audience is. For business audiences, LinkedIn is crucial. Twitter is crucial. Webinars are a great source of information for a business audience. Be. Everywhere.

Step 8: Use data to improve results

Data-driven content has become an essential part of content creation. If you’re going to be successful in content marketing you need to support what you’re doing with data. Your brand is hiring you to write great stories but also that optimize the relationship with the reader and user. Data is the most effective tool to get you there. Find a way to gain access to as much data as possible and then use it to craft how you communicate with your customers.