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
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.