If we go by recent industry statistics, we will find that two sectors are set to create the maximum number of jobs. One is analytics, the other being digital marketing. It is the latter of which content writing is an integral part. Not surprisingly, many agencies have started offering content writing services, given the huge rise in demand for quality content. The key word here is “quality”. Most agencies do pretty well when it comes to delivering content in large quantities. All it requires is hiring writers who churn out content that ranges from mediocre to outright abysmal. The fault doesn’t really lie with the writers.
Most digital marketing agencies manage to fool clients, who do not have sufficient technical knowledge, that just posting keyword stuffed content is good enough for high search engine rankings. Let us get one thing damn straight — churning out a whole lot of garbage content is totally pointless, no matter how many times you keep inserting keywords.
What matters (also) is the quality. Of course, nothing beats quality andquantity. But at the end of the day, it is difficult to keep producing high quality content in very large numbers, unless you are a really big agency and you have ace writers, with the ability to weave brilliance with words whenever you need it. The next best bet, however, is not to keep delivering mediocre content; to try to make up for lack of quality with quantity.
It will create a bad overall impression about your or your client’s website or blog.
Yes, I am asking you to take a route that is unconventional, the track that is not beaten often.
What I am proposing instead is conceptualizing content not as keyword-laden material full of filler sentences that add little value to the user. There is a reason why the who’s who in the digital marketing industry keeps advising ad nauseum that one must write for humans and not for search engines. With the latest algorithm updates from Google, it is increasingly becoming clear that algorithms can “think” or “read” like humans.
That this is quite possible is evident even from much more “accessible” digital products that all of us in the digital marketing spectrum are familiar with. Take Grammarly for instance. How does it function after all? It functions by scanning sentences and makes intelligent suggestions for improvements in word usage or for making the write-up more grammatically correct. In other words, its algorithm aims to emulate the human reader and it does it pretty well.
So what has changed?
In the early years of the decade starting 2010, lot of agencies started hiring writers who would be asked to write keyword stuffed low quality articles in bulk. It should be clear from the foregoing discussion that content should be more about connecting directly to the real human user, with all their emotions, imperfections and idiosyncrasies.
I will now argue that digital and web content writing need complete rethinking as digital public relations and/or brand storytelling. Neither of the two concepts is new. What is novel is the application of these approaches to content writing as a whole. Instead of suggesting that some content, often referred to as cornerstone content, should be at the level of brand storytelling, I am asking you to re-conceptualize digital content altogether, as an extension of the PR and branding initiatives.
So what changes am I suggesting?
In simplest terms, that is the suggestion on offer here. Do not create just for the heck of it. Content creation should be done with a purpose. We know how eager you are to make your page rank high in search engines, but frankly, somehow managing to rank high alone will never be enough. If the website or blog does not have sharable, good quality content, all that traffic that you may get due to the ranking will not lead to conversions.
Ultimately, there must be some business goal or objective that you are trying to clinch when you are spending all those dollars for running a site. Having content whose sole purpose is to fool the search engines will never appeal to real human users. As a result, the traffic or potential leads will not convert. They will seek whatever services or products that the website seeks to promote elsewhere.
Think from the perspective of the user.
Your content should create the right image about the brand. Every single piece of content that is present on the site. It is only when your content is great, when the user experience is great, that the user will be interested to consider trying out the products or services on offer from the brand. Even if a user does not end up converting, high share-ability of the content will mean that the visitor will be more likely to share the content with their networks.
So the word gets spread; people who are in some way or the other interested in what you are offering, will come to know about the website. What is this if not PR? However, just content getting attention should not be equated to digital PR. There are a number of brand elements that must be borne in mind while creating the content. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
ü What does your brand offer in terms of value?
ü Who form part of the target audience?
ü What are the demographic and aspirational features of the target audience?
ü What is the expectation of the target readership from your website?
Let us take a few steps back at this point. You actually should have done the homework on your brand already. What is it that you or your client wishes to convey? What image does your brand have or if there isn’t any yet, what is the ideal image that you or your client wishes to create? Once you get the answers to these questions, you can get down to creating a web content strategy for the website.
Storytelling is the art of communicating a message in the form of a story.
Brand storytelling, then, is about crafting the brand message through stories. Not just any stories, but ones which can establish that emotional connection with the target audience. After all, emotional connection is what communication is all about, isn’t it? The content should “speak” to the users, guiding them along the path that they enjoy and one which also leads to the destination point that ends in conversion. In other words, brand storytelling hits that sweet spot in communication that corresponds to a win-win situation for all the stakeholders: the brand as well as the reader.
Brand storytelling helps create the right kind of aura that you should have around the brand. When done right, content can act as a form of brand storytelling. By content, I am not just referring to textual content. Instead, I am speaking of visual and video content as well and indeed, everything that goes into creating a great user experience.
Most importantly, digital content can qualify as brand storytelling only when it is in harmony with branding activities across other platforms, whether digital or otherwise. A consistent message must be sent in all forms of communication. Whatever your content is about, on reading the same the user should get inspired or emotionally aroused the same way when he or she is exposed to the brand’s communication in some other channel.
Make it about the user and not the brand
It may sound a bit counter-intuitive, but it is true: brand storytelling is really about putting the spotlight back on the user. It is not a license to keep bragging about how good your brand is or how awesome the quality of your work is. You can of course showcase your work, but that can be done separately, preferably as part of the section on case studies. Brand storytelling will be ideally done through the regular blog posts, social media content and other forms of engaging content in the form of videos, infographics or anything with an aim of connecting with the user very directly. It should have a direct impact on their lives.
Brand storytelling should give the brand essence through the art of storytelling. Needless to say, we are not talking about writing literary fiction. What we mean instead by brand storytelling is that the article should have conversational tone, just like an informal chit-chat with a stranger. It should happen in such a manner that the exchange creates a favorable impression about the brand in the minds of the customers, without necessarily having to resort to talking about the brand itself. It can be a simple motivational post expanding upon the concept inherent in a quote.
It can be a strategic position on a social issue that has been trending recently. Perhaps, even a controversial one. This can not only generate the necessary buzz but also present an image of the brand as one that cares, that considers itself a stakeholder in matters that are important to fellow citizens. Brand storytelling can make the brand stand out among competitors as the most human, the most approachable, and the most accessible. This is the best way a brand can establish differentiation through content.
Brand storytelling in a digital context
While digital content has some dependencies on technological factors, it is ultimately not too different from other forms of content. Take for instance the way Amul has been able to carve out a name for itself as a brand that makes witty interventions in topics of general interest, most frequently, contemporary political developments on a national and international scale. Everyone may not be buying Amul’s butter, but many people know what Amul as a brand is all about by now. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the followers of the brand Amul look forward to the latest wisecracks from the butter giant. That is the strength of powerful content that engages in brand storytelling.
It can help the brand go beyond the immediacy of the communication. Most marketing copy fails to do this, because it’s purpose is, well, to make the brand more marketable. Content as brand storytelling also falls within the ambit of marketing logic of course, but in a far more subtle and nuanced manner. When content makes the brand communicate through stories, it is as if the brand is speaking its “mind”. Brand storytelling lets people get up, close and personal with the “soul” of the brand. It is far more relatable, more intriguing, more engaging and most of all, it helps build the trust.
Let us take another example. You must have seen the commercials of life insurance companies. If you have seen them, surely you have moved by at least a few of them. Why? Because the commercials tell a story. Let us understand that content marketing can do an even better job with brand storytelling. This is so, since content as brand storytelling does not promote any product or service directly and therefore can generate an even greater level of trust and emotional bonding with the users. When marketed well, the content-led storytelling exercise can also generate a fair amount of buzz.
When it comes to the digital medium, some special considerations are in order. Digital content is increasingly being seen as interlocked, as one united whole, consisting of textual as well as visual content. Therefore, feel free to play around with different forms of content. For some storytelling exercise, you can look to use infographics; maybe in another case, you find video to be more appropriate.
One thing is certain though, irrespective of the form of the content being used, when you use content for the purpose of brand storytelling, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.