Good content is just good writing. It uses the voice of one person talking conversationally to a single, highly targeted reader, explaining and convincing by force of example and enthusiasm. It always tells a story, because readers are drawn to stories. If the content is highly technical, technical jargon is quickly explained and acronyms spelled out, because the assumption the reader already knows what X or Y means is dubious, but a reminder never hurts.
Great content is information-rich, but not overwhelming. This is a distinction from traditional copywriting, which framed selected points of information. To write good content, a writer needs to understand an industry, its technologies and products in order to engage in a seemingly peer-to-peer conversation. It takes a lot of grinding research to write with that confidence.
Great content has never abandoned the primary characteristic of good copywriting: creativity — the headlines that cajole the reader into actually reading the content, or, since most people only read the headlines, explain the product or point of view just by scanning the headlines.
Visual concepts — the combination of a surprising or incongruous visual with a headline that makes the connection — continue to grab attention and draw a reader into content, because, as always, the objective is to wave content’s arms in the air and get attention.
Engaging — Yes, a white paper can contain humor and lively writing in explaining complicated issues. No, a product brochure does not have to be a catalog of equipment models; it can be about the problems your company can solve for other companies, without showing the latest models. Videos do not have to consist entirely on testimonials and technical animations. Whatever the medium, great content engages.
90 Percent Is Crap (Or Something Like That)
Following Sturgeon’s law, great content is fairly rare: a 10–90% ratio. Content, as understood by too many, is filler. You can see this for yourself: the brochure copy becomes the web copy; the web copy fills the Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. White papers and articles draw from the brochure and web copy. Advertising draws from the opening paragraphs of the web pages and brochures, and web banners are a stack of subheads. This is called repurposing. It has the benefits of: 1) being fairly quick to throw together, and 2) making everything your company says is absolutely consistent. The primary disadvantage is that there is no reason to read the content, because too much repurposing equals crap for copy. And once etched in stone, it rarely changes.
Content Is Obligatory. Great Content Is a Strategy.
With much overt agency-aggrandizement, TriComB2B tends to produce great content. Not for the sake of self-indulgent creative, although we create a lot of creative work and take pride in it. No, we need great content for strategic reasons, at an agency where every client strategy is different.
Take the tricky field of demand generation. It’s a discipline with an underpinning of best practices: CRM, marketing automation, and actual, real, bona fide metrics as feedback. Done well, a demand generation program delivers messaging with tools as mechanized and scheduled as a Class 8 truck. But a multi-stage, inbound and outbound communications strategy involves producing content with changing objectives — awareness, consideration, influencer communications and advocacy — all of which require a change in conversations building from the last. Moreover, at each stage, customers are reached by the media options that make sense for their environment.
Every piece of content at every stage of the demand generation process has to be fresh and new: a new chapter in an evolving story that reinforces a growing message without being redundant or overbearing. For the content writer, this can mean finding ways to capture attention, engaging with and conducting one- and two-way communications with numerous approaches. The machinery will distribute the content. But it better be good content.
Based on TriComB2B’s track record, it’s good content. If I were to define what we’re putting in all those buckets, I’d probably call it writing.