By Ian Alexander, Partner & Co-Founder, Eat Agency
Information without voice is like content without design. Unless someone is dying to read about what you are writing, you have to grab them with your voice/personality. And because many of the articles in the content marketing space are saying very similar things, making your voice (and the voice you give your clients) stand out is one of your biggest tools. Use it.
The way I see it, there are five flavors of writers in today’s content marketing world.
Dry Toast – All information, no voice
This corporate collateral is typically produced by smart people who know all the right marketing formulas and can juggle terms like the “integration of marketing channels” with “streamlining the optimization of sales collateral.” But when you’re done reading this company’s blog/newsletter or collateral, all that’s left is a vague memory of a PowerPoint slide gone boringly wrong.
Solution: Don’t be afraid to lightly ruffle some feathers with your voice. Your view/opinion is never going to appeal to everyone, but if you’re doing things right, you aren’t marketing yourself to everyone, anyway. Also, if you do an honest assessment of your collateral and realize you’re in the Dry Toast category, ask yourself if you’re still fishing for your core competency or audience.
Extra Sauce – All voice, no information
“Then, after I attended the Shiny Happy Convention hosted by Guy I Knowsowell, I parlayed over to the Social Media event of the year. If you weren’t there, you really missed out.” Really, I missed out. Because you reporting on your blog about the event you attended shouldn’t have been all about you. You know.
Solution: Talk to us, not at us. Keep your reader at the forefront of all your communications. If you’re going to write about every industry conference you attend, give us information we can use (not a blow by blow of your itinerary and all the cool people you saw).
French Cuisine #1 – Great design, little to no content
Flash is for advertising firms and art school. Everyone else put it away, now.
Solution: I realize it looks cool, but lets just face facts: Flash loads slow (always), the motion graphics detract from the content, it’s difficult to track (SEO), and sometimes customers and prospective customers already know what information they want and don’t have time for your two-minute splashy intro or your nav-bar to reload. Great design should breathe life into editorial content, not take away from it.
French Cuisine #2 – Great design, little to no content
Without great design, readers may come to your site, get what they want, and get out. Content needs great design or no one will ever notice it. Or if readers do notice it, they most likely won’t navigate beyond what they came to read. Case in point—I am a basketball nerd. Every morning I read Hoopshype.com and ESPN.com. Even though I have been reading Hoopshype for years, I couldn’t tell you who advertises on the site, the names of the regularly appearing columns, or anything about who runs the site—I’m in and I’m out. With ESPN, I read the NBA highlights, view an ad that catches my eye, and before I know it, I’m reading a feature about some champion ping-pong player from Guam. The content may have drawn me there, but it was great navigation and design that made it easy for me to stay.
Solution: Make sure your website looks as good as it reads. The truth is, Hoopshype has far better content than ESPN when it comes to basketball. But while the content delivers, the design doesn’t court me to stay.
Meat and Potatoes – No opinion information
Content that tells people what they already know gives readers the impression that the product is available elsewhere—and it doesn’t matter if they use company A or B. Telling me what you sell, what you charge and that you are the best is the same thing everyone else is doing. And in a contest of best vs. best I’m heading for the hills and looking for offbeat and good (at least they are saying something different and I will stand out amongst the crowd of same-osity). Remember, your clients can blend in safely amongst their peers all by themselves (sans your retainer fee).
Solution: Every brand doesn’t need to be as “voicey” as Jet Blue. But every brand does need a personality. Customers should be able to view an ad or read a piece of collateral and know who it’s from without even having to look at your logo.
Smorgasbord – A little of everything
Ever land on a website and wish you had a digital weed-whacker to knock back all the Social Media/Web 2.0 widgets that clutter the site? Welcome to the work of the “smorgasbord content marketer.” That old “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” mentality unbelievably employs people for years, but flies in the face of logic when you are in the business of measuring who read what, when, why and how it may lead to a sale.
Solution: Take a look at your site and then your competitors’ sites. Do those
widgets add value? Do they differentiate you from the pack? Or does your site look like a 2008 Jaguar littered with bumper stickers?
About the Author
Ian Alexander has held fancy titles like Director of Technology Projects and Director of Operations for New York City area technology firms before moving back to his real love, writing. He has managed content projects in affiliate marketing, publishing, outsourcing, and retail. When Ian’s not working, you can find him blustering about the relevance of quality Web 2.0 content on the EAT MEDIA blog or reading one of the 314 magazines scattered around the office, with post it notes close at hand. Ian blogs at Eat Media blog.