Content Marketing

Science & Art of Content Creation

Written by
Mads Krogh Petersen
Science & Art of Content Creation

With more brands serving up content, what do we need in the mix to get a bigger slice of the content-hungry market? Is there a science to it? Or is it an art form to master?

Baking the perfect cake is a work of chemistry. The fluffy texture is created by just the right amount of carbon dioxide released from a reaction between liquid, acids and bicarbonate of soda. Sucrose is heated to release volatile chemicals that provide a rich flavour and brown colouring. But if we think too much about the complex interactions going on in our coffee cake, there’s a danger we can become more chemist than chef.

Sometimes the science can take over

But Pierre Hermé, perhaps the world’s most renowned pâtissier, is no chemist — after all, he has been dubbed the “Picasso of Pastry.” Yet for all his artful flavour combinations, command of textures and beautiful visual execution, Pierre Hermé truly gets the science. He knows just what will happen if there is too much acid in his batter, or too little fat in his filling.

So no, the perfect cake is not solely a work of chemistry, but that perfect blend of art and science. The chemistry is what allows our choice of flavourings, textures, layering, colours and decoration to come together, and the art makes it blossom into something truly wonderful, becoming an experience that people savour, crave, and rave about.

Your content needs to do the same. Because that’s the only way to get the people to bite.

How to Avoid Half-baked Content

only 38% (B2C) and 30% (B2B) of marketers consider their organisation to actually be effective at content marketing.

When it comes to content, it seems that everyone knows what needs to be done. But not all of us know how. That’s why CMOs and marketers — who are putting increasing and significant amounts of their budget into content — are not getting results in equal measure. In fact, only 38% (B2C) and 30% (B2B) of marketers consider their organisation to actually be effective at content marketing.

Great content is like a good cake. It needs to be crafted according to certain rules. Rules which are elemental and easy to comprehend, but sometimes hard to follow without becoming a slave to them.

And that’s what we’re looking at in this article: how to make the science and art of content marketing come together in just the right way, so we can make content that gets consumed and enjoyed.

There are the 5 critical factors that need to go into the mix:

1. Getting Found and Being Relevant

Using search analysis tools to find popular keywords to stuff into a piece of content is like following a recipe without knowing what the ingredients taste like. SEO should be based on an understanding of why people are searching as well as what they’re searching for. When we know their search intent ­– not just the keywords they’re searching for — we find new opportunities to tune the content to valuable target audience segments and needs.

“Today it’s not about ‘get the traffic’ — it’s about ‘get the targeted and relevant traffic.’” — Adam Audette, Chief Knowledge Officer, RKG

Here are some tips to bear in mind for planning relevant, useful and SEO friendly content:

  • Use social listening tools to find out what your customers do and say online. In your industry, what do they really want to know about?
  • Get a download from your customer service team about the questions your customers ask. What do they want to know specifically from you?
  • Once you understand search intent, use keyword tools to examine search engine behaviours in the light of what you know. Then pick the hardest working keywords for your content.
  • Analyse content from your competitor brands to identify opportunities for keywords or phrases that they’re not leveraging but are resonant with your target audience.

Using this method will help you to uncover ideas, keywords and phrases that will answer audience needs and get your content found. Vertic employs all of these techniques in a unified activity called Digital IQ which you can read more about here.

2. Structure your Content

Those of us who build websites spend a lot of time talking about “user experience” and “structure.” But what some content creators miss, is that allinformation needs to be structured — even at the level of individual pieces of content. Whether it’s an infographic, video, or text, content should always be structured so that it’s easy to consume and share.

While there are too many types of content and best practices to go through in this article, the broad principles are:

  • Break content into-bite sized, shareable chunks
  • Write clear, easy to understand headers for each chunk. People usually ‘skip ahead’ through a piece of content to judge if it’s worth their time reading — headers make this easy for them.
  • Use headers, sub-headers, bullets and indents to create an instantly visible and understandable hierarchy in your content. As a reader what’s most important? What can your reader ignore or skip over when they’re busy but still get the essence of the piece?
  • Begin by stating your intent, end with next steps. You want your reader to know why they should read your content and what they should be doing next.

3. Be an Authority

Establishing your brand as an authority really helps you to stand out. In content marketing, the trick is to help people to learn more from you, not so much learn more about you.

“Your brand is not what you sell.” — John Iwata, SVP Marketing & Communications, IBM

You don’t just sell products or services. You’re an expert in your field. Years of serving different customers, finding gaps in the market and analysing the competition mean that you know your stuff. And the audience is eager to hear what you have to say.

Don’t just sell. Tell people things they want to know and be interesting while doing it.

But moving out of that product / services mindset, and thinking more like a journalist can be a challenge. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Do an audit of popular content from others in your industry, and think of what you can create in that area but with a unique spin that only you can give.
  • Find gurus in your organization and interview them for nuggets of wisdom
  • Interview the people on-the-ground: your customer service team or your sales reps
  • Find a story to tell from your (anonymized / aggregate) customer or sales data
  • Above all, make sure you’re being authoritative in an area that’s of interest to your audience (your social listening and search behaviour analysis should help you here)

4. Cook up a Strong Brand Flavour

Like the best pâtissiers, the best publications produce work that has a distinct flavour. As you’ve probably heard many times over the past year, in this brave new world of content marketing, we are all publishers now. The Economist has its own brand of wit, the New York Times is dry and factual, and you too need to communicate in your own voice.

Find your content voice in your brand and express it!

Whether it’s a blog post, social media update, infographic, video, or anything else, your content should be as much an expression of your brand as your advertising or your sales collateral.

Some key factors to look at for baking your brand into your content include:

  • Your content team should be well versed in your brand guidelines
  • You should have a clear mission for your content marketing that rises out of your brand purpose. For example, if you sell skin care products and your brand purpose is to make women feel empowered and confident, then your content should be focused around beauty expressed through notions of empowerment rather than just general beauty tips.
  • You should develop specific guidelines for each type of content you produce including tone of voice and design guidelines
  • Ensure that your content team is aligned. Usually more than one person is involved in the content creation process, and it can be easy for the brand voice to get lost if everyone isn’t reading from the same recipe book.

5. The Art of Engaging with Real People

By now, with all of our analysis and research, we know the kinds of themes and topics to create SEO-friendly content around, and we’ve found our unique brand voice. But, just like at a cocktail party, you have to find a way of making a connection with people before you can really get to the meat of a conversation. Having something valuable to say isn’t enough, we must first acknowledge our audience and who they are as people.

This is the spice and the frosting of your content: we have to create content with a high EQ.
People are probably more interested in their kids than wall coverings. Even if you sell wall coverings, start the conversation with the kids.

What this means on a practical level, is that the content needs to include specific points of connection with the audience. If we’re a brand selling blinds and window shades and a key consumer segment are young families, we could just dive in and talk about how to choose the most durable and washable solutions (after all, that’s the information they really need). Alternatively, we could begin by painting a picture our audience can relate to:

“You love it when your kids get creative. And when they get their hands on a box of marker pens, boy do they love to explore their creative side! You, know — on colouring books, scrap paper, floors, walls, curtains… and we would guess that the chances are, you don’t love cleaning as much as they love to ‘decorate’…”

In this way we form a connection that makes whatever we say next that much more impactful.

A good persona goes beyond cookie-cutter profiles of your target audience and really delves into the minutia of their lives.

To uncover the information we need in order to forge this more emotional, values-based connection, we create a “persona.” A persona takes the form of a simple document that details the profile, values, likes and dislikes of a representative member of each of our key audience segments. We even give it a name and a photo to make it feel more real to the content team.

Some key steps to building a persona:

  • Use your customer segmentation as a starting point
  • Do your research! (use data, interviews, surveys, online research etc.)
  • Flesh out everything you know about your target audience as an individual
  • Give the persona a name, an age, a job. Even a back story.
  • Get to know all about their attitudes, behaviours and habits.
  • Will s(he) or won’t s(he) use your product? Why?

So when the team creates any piece of content, they can refer to this document and use it as a common point of reference for making better connections in their work — they’re making content for “Bob Chua”, not “Young parent 28 to 34.” Everything should be created with him in mind, and he’s the one who guides the whole development process.

At Vertic, we conduct online surveys and face to face interviews in order to build these personas. You could make use of your customer data, secondary online research and informal chats with friends and family. The main thing is not to simply make a persona up — since they’re the foundation for how you connect with your audience, you’ll want to get it right! For a more in-depth analysis of this topic, see this introduction to Vertic’s Heart2Head methodology.

“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.” — Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

If you combine everything in your content recipe just right, you can use the science to make the art come alive.

At Vertic, we create content for our clients based on the 5 pillars. It is not always easy, possible or necessary dependent on the industry, topic, context, etc. But you could use the pillars as a check list for evaluating your current content or as guidance for your copywriter or agency.

Vertic can work with your organization to implement a full content marketing initiative or just help you with one or more of the key pillars:

Content / Digital Marketing Strategy: Large or small, insight-driven content / digital marketing strategies with training, full documentation, editorial calendars, implementation plans and processes that allow for implementation by either Vertic or clients’ preferred vendors

Digital IQ: Social listening, search engine analysis and customer journey mapping to identify the right content opportunities at every step of the customer lifecycle

Customer Insights: In-depth primary research through surveys and interviews to gain a deep understanding of your customer, their attitudes, goals and barriers

Content Development: Creation of articles, videos, infographics & social media posts

Written by

Mads Krogh Petersen

President and Co-Founder

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