IF YOUR CHALLENGE is creating worthwhile content from material that is too generic or too short to use as it is, here are seven easy ways to customize it into effective articles, posts or copy. Based on my 30 years of making something out of nothing (or vice versa) in advertising, these techniques offer a handy repair kit when a co-worker or client finally delivers that long-overdue blog article or content ... and it turns out to be a real clunker, just a couple of empty paragraphs lifted from a brochure or Wikipedia.
But fear not. With a little tinkering, these simple hacks won't just make the content better. They'll make it yours.
Content Hack #1: Branding
Let’s say you're working for a bank or credit union, puzzling over a bland set of mortgage tips that could come from any institution. You know you’ll add your bank's name in the right places, plus the phone number and links for your mortgage team. What’s left?
- Well, you can work in your tagline or leverage an important marketing theme. These are easily placed in the introduction, or as a sign-off in the conclusion.
- Make sure it sounds like your brand voice. Do your messages typically use “you” and “us,” or a more corporate third-person voice? Are there approved brand personality traits that define your communications, such as “optimistic and dynamic,” “friendly and helpful,” or “caring and compassionate”? If you have formal brand guidelines, review them. They offer a useful reality check.
- Replace generic references (“first-time homebuyer program”) with your marketing names (“our SmartStart Mortgage”), so prospects know what to ask for.
- Check for violations of any internal “shalt nots.” Maybe you never use exclamation marks (one bank I worked with hated colons), or emphasize cost over service. You know what’s likely to raise red flags, so eliminate these offenders and stay consistent with your brand.
Content Hack #2: Editing
It’s amazing how often people simply copy and paste a mass of text and expect it to serve as a post. Beyond spell-checking, a few superficial edits can make that text dump a little more reader-friendly:
- Insert some subheads to signal key points and break up text.
- Eliminate obscure professional jargon and spell out unexplained abbreviations.
- Convert long paragraphs into quick bullet points.
- Repeat critical content in “Callout” boxes or large-print pullout quotes for emphasis, especially if you don’t have any supporting graphics.
- Make sure there is contact information on every piece.
Content Hack #3: Relating
Relevance, as my old boss Steve Trygg used to say, is one factor in a multiplication problem: if your message has no tie-in to the audience, even the greatest content in the world ends up as a big fat zero. So relate everything to your area, your customers or your offering. It's an easy way to fill out content -- and it has the benefit of being exactly what the original writer should have done in the first place.
For example, it only takes a moment to change “customers” to “our customers here in the Connecticut River Valley.” You can also relate content to relevant needs by inserting a simple drop-in. Instead of saying that remote deposit is a convenient mobile banking feature, lead off with thoughtful empathy: “With many customers in the Connecticut River Valley working or shopping in neighboring states, our mobile app with remote deposit is a convenient way to bank.”
Content Hack #4: Differentiating
What makes you unique, smarter or better? If it’s expertise, add a couple of quotes or tips from your top specialist (maybe it's you) and cite them as an authority. This evolves content and enhances your credibility. If it’s a technology or proprietary feature, cite its rarity in your service area, its prestigious brand or its ability to solve a problem others can’t touch. You don’t have to be different to differentiate yourself – just the first to stake out a position.
Content Hack #5: Leveraging
To increase the power of new content, mix in old content. Maybe you have an old case study or client testimonial that relates to the topic. If so, it can be added as a “for example” paragraph or section to illustrate what you're talking about. Or you might include a testimonial video or commercial that supports your topic while also making your content a lot more clickable. Don’t overlook what you already have. In the right setting it can be new again, adding substance and appeal.
Content Hack #6: Validating
Facts, figures, awards and results make content more convincing. These can often be extrapolated from ho-hum numbers no one thinks twice about. You might mention that 19,000 customers look to you for reliable service, that your product is critical to seven Fortune 50 companies, or that you’ve won Top Business Bank honors in your local newspaper poll three years running. As guerilla content pros, our job is to size up any established or approved fact and weaponize it with a new interpretation. These facts might be an unconscious or unstated part of your work, but they must be brought to light for people who don't know you.
Content Hack #7: Linking
Does your website have calculators, a learning center, free downloadable documents or a related post that has already proven popular? Use them to enhance your content, by inserting a “You can learn more” text link at strategic points within the body of your post. More visitors will click through to explore what you have to offer. Plus, your post will earn a higher search engine ranking because visitors are staying on your site longer.
SO THERE THEY ARE: seven no-brainer hacks to create fresh content from limited material. Like so many things in advertising, these bits of "Stone Soup" legerdemain are really just a reminder to follow the solid content principles we all know. But it's amazing how often the basics can make you look like a genius, so always keep them handy. | DC |