Creating Content for a Boring Industry? No Problem

In digital marketing, we talk a lot about content. Emphasizing the importance of quality content and then sharing our tips, tricks and the latest tactics can make content writing seem exciting and sexy. But the truth is, some topics and industries just feel boring. As a writer or the person in charge of writers, how can you turn boring subjects into good content?

Back in February, I spoke at the SEJ Summit in Santa Monica about this very subject, the creation of engaging content marketing for boring industries. It’s something I know all too well, as I got my start in this industry as a writer. I wrote on everything from LED billboards to personal injury to self-storage units. I remember what it was like to listen to fantastic presenters talk about the magic of writing great content. Then I would go back home, sit in front of my laptop, and the reality would hit me again — my topics were b-o-r-i-n-g, or at least they were to me.

3 Takeaways for Writers

The presentation format at the SEJ Summit required each speaker to give the audience three takeaways. While it was a challenge to boil this topic down to three actionable takeaways when I could probably come up with a hundred or more, I picked the top ones that worked for me when I was writing content and then later managing writers: develop real-life stories, keep your eyes open for inspiration, and focus on being practical and personal. You can see the full presentation here:

If your subject matter is dull as a doorknob, follow the tips below.

1. Develop Real-Life Stories

The book “Think Like a Freak” does a great job describing the power of stories:

“Why are stories so valuable? One reason is that a story exerts a power beyond the obvious. The whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts—the facts, the events, the context—that a story creates a deep resonance” (Levitt & Dubner, 2014).

Storytelling has been around forever and it works. I recently had someone on Twitter comment to me that storytelling is so overrated. I couldn’t disagree more. His point was that consumers want to be heard. There is no reason you can’t listen to consumers and also tell them stories. We eventually saw eye to eye on that point.

When you recall a presentation you heard, what will likely stand out the most in your mind is the story used, if there was one. I demonstrated this fact at the SEJ Summit by starting my point about developing real-life stories with one of my own personal and somewhat embarrassing stories (something about rats and my car, but let’s just move on). It caught everyone’s attention and from the feedback I received, it was memorable.

We love stories. They entertain, teach and demonstrate our points. From a writer’s perspective, when you tell your readers a story, they will start to project themselves onto the character. It’s human nature. They will think to themselves, “That’s how I would feel too” or “I would have done the same thing.”

If you are creating content for a business, develop stories that illustrate how customers have successfully used your product or service. Focus on their initial problem that was then solved by your company. Think of it as a testimonial, but instead of a snippet of information, it is the full picture.

2. Keep Your Eyes Open for Inspiration

I explicitly remember one afternoon several years ago when I was under a tight deadline. I had to produce two articles for a company that contracted me to write. It felt like I spent hours sitting in front of the blank computer screen and trying to come up with something to write that was unique and interesting. It’s a horrible feeling. Eventually, I figured out how to overcome my writer’s block.

Preparing ahead of time is one of the keys to getting rid of writer’s block. I used to keep a file in my desk labeled “Content Topics.” Anytime I would come across a newspaper article, magazine feature or any other content I found remotely interesting, I would store it in my file. I would reexamine every piece of content and ask myself if there was some type of angle or insight I could provide my audience. My Content Topics file is also something I used to advise the team of writers I managed years ago. Sometimes it was a matter of reshaping concepts and ideas into something new that was more relevant to the intended readers.

There are many sources of inspiration you can draw from. Several of my favorites include newspapers, magazines, social networks, blog comments and even junk mail (some of that junk mail is intriguing and can inspire you!). Of course, there is a wealth of other inspiration available online from Google Trends, BuzzFeed, Buzzsumo and Addict-o-matic.

3. Focus on Being Practical and Personal

Bring boring subjects to life by making them practical and personal.
Bring boring subjects to life by making them practical and personal.

Whether you are writing on a subject that you consider boring or not, it’s critical that you include points in your content that make it personal, but also practical, to the reader. For example, instead of just writing a “how to” or other type of piece that gives advice, explain how readers can fit the information into their lives. Where do they go? How should they buy? Is it something they can implement right away? Think about these things and spend careful attention on how you are presenting your message in order to make it practical.

Also, consider the concerns your readers might have as they are searching online. How can you make it simple for them to find help? You will want to determine what possible questions they might have too, as those are all potential topics for you to write about. Before you type one word, close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to be the reader. Spend at least five minutes to get in the right mindset, as doing so will help you empathize with the reader and create compelling content.

If your business offers a product or service that can solve their problems, use it as a call to action, but make it easy for the readers to take advantage of it.

One More Thing

When I gave my presentation at the SEJ Summit, I finished with one last point — no topic is truly boring. What might have been boring to me previously, such as rodent removal or extermination, all of a sudden becomes a very interesting topic when I am battling giant tree rats in my attic or car. I don’t know about you, but when I am faced with a new problem, I start to notice possible solutions all around me. I read articles I never thought I would read, because the boring topic is no longer boring to me.

For more great content marketing tips, be sure to check out the book Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals, by Bruce Clay and Murray Newlands.

Mindy Weinstein is the founder and president of Market MindShift, a digital marketing agency, and a marketing professor at Grand Canyon University. Formerly, she was the director of training at Bruce Clay Inc. Prior to jumping in head first into SEO, Mindy co-authored two books (one published by McGraw Hill!). She has also been interviewed on radio and television, and quoted in newspapers and magazines.

See Mindy's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (10)
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10 Replies to “Creating Content for a Boring Industry? No Problem”

The 3rd point is very important for all content creators.
Btw nice post, thanks for sharing this!!

Hey Bruce, I left the creative writing industry a few years ago and used to read your site then. Great to see youre’ still around. Looking to get back into it, as I’ve lost my due to the Coronavirus situation sadly. Any tips for 2020?

Paula Allen

Erin: Sounds like you have an alternative career you can develop as a writer. Good for you!
Personally, I have found lots of copywriting inspiration and help through Joanna Wiebe’s CopyHackers site (check out her Tutorial Tuesday recordings) as well as Ann Handley’s and Kaleigh Moore’s newsletters. And keep reading our blog to keep your SEO skills sharp! Best of luck to you.

I have always found myself in this situation. You know, after getting inspiration to write and you sit infront on the laptop just to discover that you have a less encouraging topic. But thanks for this post. It has really changed a lot. I also ready something interesting from this post – A great content is really king.

Mindy Weinstein

Tony, I love the approach you mentioned about imagining you are sitting down for a coffee. I think that such an approach would also make the content more personal and appealing. Thanks for sharing!

Mindy Weinstein

Thanks for your feedback, Putri! Knowing your audience is one of the key factors in creating powerful content and is what I based my last point on that “no topic is truly boring.”

Thanks for that Mindy. Great points. I do hear this a lot from people & I always advise them to think around the subject – turn it upside down & inside out & try to look at it from different perspectives.

One approach I use is to ask them to imagine we are sitting down for a coffee. I know nothing about the subject & I have a load of questions. These can usually be the basis if some great posts because they address customer needs or pain points.

Hi Mindy,
This is really good article, and I love it. I absolutely agree with your said here “no topic is truly boring”. And I will try to apply it to mine always.
Thanks again Mindy.

Mindy Weinstein

That’s great to hear, Ng! I think any topic can become interesting, if content is approached the right way.

I have followed this practice when I was working for “debt client”. In that project, I used to show student debt, country debt, average debt on citizen, etc…I received awesome response of such content, infographics, videos.


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