As the marketing landscape evolves, content takes center stage and media properties are publishing more contributed posts than ever before. Producing creative and engaging content has become an essential requirement for companies, which poses a formidable challenge: Deliver outstanding content, or fade into the crowd. Just how crowded is it? More than 27 million pieces of content are shared daily, according to AOL and Nielsen. It takes a strategic approach to write articles that influential blogs want to publish and people want to read and share. The key to this approach is engaging your readers with an unexpected argument that invokes conversation and relates to timely issues.
Establish a Unique Perspective:
Exceptional content stands out because it offers a distinct perspective and shares something new with readers. To create content worth reading, think beyond the topic itself and hone in on the unique story you can tell about that topic. Use narrative, research, expert quotes and visuals to reflect your brand's values and point of view.
While a strong perspective is the most important element of worthwhile content, avoid posing a contentious argument just for the sake of being edgy. A Wharton Business School study cited by Unbounce suggests that some controversy is good for encouraging dialogue, but there's no need to overdo it. The study, "When, Why and How Controversy Causes Conversation," found that some amount of controversy spurs discussion, but any more than a moderate level has a negative effect.
Engage your readers by building your content around big ideas and strong arguments. Develop content that sparks conversation or adds to an existing one, and be willing to have open, respectful discussions with people whose views differ from yours. Outstanding content encourages people to reexamine their beliefs while leaving some room for debate.
Marc Andreessen's piece in the Wall Street Journal about "Why Software Is Eating the World," exemplifies the directive of "inspire conversation." By taking a stance with a bold thesis, Andreessen encouraged readers and influencers to start a larger discussion. In doing so, he spurred incredible engagement and further established himself as an expert investor, entrepreneur and software engineer. His Wall Street Journal article prompted more than 440 comments and multiple high-profile op/eds. In terms of pure volume, a Google search for the phrase "Why Software Is Eating the World" garners 94,500 results.
Jump on timely issues to make sure that your content appeals to the topics that are most important to your readers at the moment. Evergreen content is safe, but it won't attract the attention of an editor or a reader in the same way as an article that connects to a newsworthy topic or current trend. If you still aren't feeling inspired, think beyond your industry and consider how your perspective relates to what else is going on in the world.
It's often helpful to look at examples of well-received content written by others in your industry. A great example of a timely contributed piece comes from P. J. Pereira of the agency Pereira and O'Dell. At the height of discussions about immigration reform in 2013, Pereira capitalized on a relevant and highly contested subject, contributing a piece to Ad Age about how the advertising industry should respond to the immigration policy debate. In doing so, Pereira engaged with people already involved in the conversation, giving rise to 431 social shares and a number of thoughtful comments both agreeing and dissenting with his point of view.
Content is more strategic than ever for businesses, but the market is also more saturated than it's ever been. Remember to combine the art of thoughtful storytelling with data-driven insights to make the most out of your content efforts. Share bold ideas that differ from the norm, express your brand's unique point of view and make the most of relevant, timely issues. Keep in mind that even the most thought-provoking content won't live up to its full potential unless you optimize and measure its performance. Follow these guidelines to elevate your content beyond your competitors', and create content that drives eyeballs as well as business results. Shoot for quality engagement versus quantity.