5 Ways to Get the Bullshit Out of Your Content Marketing

by Josh Ritchie

Have you ever slogged through an article only to find out it was a complete waste of time? We all have. The Internet is full of content marketing that is all fluff, no substance (or totally irrelevant). Frankly, too many of us have been guilty of wasting our audience’s time—and now we’re facing a bullshit epidemic across the Web. How can you avoid falling into the trap? Follow our content marketing tips to stay authentic and keep your audience engaged.

Why Is There So Much Bad Content Marketing?

This industry-wide problem became clear to me after reading Josh Bernoff’s book Writing Without Bullshit. The driving idea behind the book is what Bernoff calls the Iron Imperative: Be more respectful of your reader’s time than your own.

This philosophy seems intuitive, no matter what content we create, but the truth is we have become accustomed to BS, both consuming it and creating it. Why? Bernoff identifies four main reasons:

  1. We got the wrong training in school. We tried to BS our teachers into thinking we knew what we were talking about.
  2. Once we started working in the real world, we were saturated by jargon. From employee manuals to tech babble, we write in a language that only insiders understand.
  3. We soon learned that avoiding risk is critical. Writing clear copy means someone can disagree with us.
  4. No one edits what we read. As content marketers race to push content out the door, quantity takes precedence over quality.

Now we’re drowning in meaningless content, which is a huge problem. The good news? This is an awesome opportunity for your brand to stand out by creating A+ content.

The first step? Stop the BS and start focusing on creating high-value content that is worth your reader’s time.

5 Content Marketing Tips to Keep Your Brand Bullshit-Free

To get you on the right track, here are five things you can do to take the BS out of your content marketing ASAP.

1) Identify the value—before you create it.

This is the first (and biggest) mistake people make in content marketing: Their ideas are simply irrelevant or uninteresting to the audience. (In these cases, the content usually only serves the brand.) If you can’t justify why someone would read, watch, or download your content, it probably isn’t worth creating.

Tip: Before you undertake a project, ask yourself:

  1. Who is your audience, and what are their pain points?
  2. How will this content address those pain points?
  3. What is the end goal of this project?
  4. How will you measure success?

This ensures that the content you create will serve both your audience and your brand. Here are 9 more ways to know if your content is interesting and valuable. You can also try these helpful prompts to come up with strong content ideas.

2) Get to the damn point.

A good content marketer has one job: To deliver a story or message as succinctly and efficiently as possible. Yet we see so many “thought leaders” drone on and on in 3,000-word articles simply for vanity’s sake. Avoid their mistakes. 

  • Be specific. Know exactly what your topic is, build a strong outline, and say what needs to be said. Meandering content that lacks a clear point of view will only bore people.
  • Write to your audience. The content, message, and audience should dictate length and format. (Find out how different types of visual content can help you bring your story to life.)
  • Don’t write long posts just for the sake of writing long posts. Yes, we know search engines desire rich content. But good content is what people are ultimately drawn to. Channel your inner Hemingway, and share a concept as economically as possible.

Remember the Iron Imperative: Consider your audience’s time.  

Tip: Try our free brand messaging template to identify the key brand stories you want to tell, and how they connect to each other. This helps you ideate stronger ideas, stay on the topic, and deliver a consistent message across all of your content.

3) Avoid buzzwords.

Wheelhouse. Implementation. These buzzwords have become a plague. Sure, every industry has its jargon, but too often it’s used as a crutch to sound like you know what you’re talking about. Worse, too much jargon can confuse your reader if they don’t actually know what you’re talking about.

Your audience wants to connect with you. They want your knowledge and experience, so write the way you speak—like a human. When you do use the occasional buzzword, make sure you explain what it means. (If you still want your buzzword fix, check out our marketing gibberish generator.)

Tip: Be mindful of your voice, too. If you want to establish a clear brand presence (which you do), make sure your content reflects your brand in voice and tone. Not sure what that looks like? Try our tips to find your brand voice and personality.

4) Keep it on brand—but not overly branded.

This is a triggering one for many marketers. We’ve all seen that ebook or infographic that is more sales brochure than high-value content. (The telltale sign is when it has more logos and CTAs than actual content.) Strong branded content communicates your brand story seamlessly. From your voice to your visual language, it should establish your brand as a credible, trusted source.

If your content is overly branded—or inconsistently branded—it’s hard to be taken seriously.

Tip: See our tips to keep your content on brand, and build a proper style guide to make sure content is consistent, no matter who’s creating it.

5) Embrace iteration.

Most work that our agency does involves a good amount of iteration at multiple stages. That’s because we believe doing things right is better than doing things quickly. For example, our creative director is constantly telling our team to never go with their first idea. First ideas can be good, but if you don’t explore other ideas or carefully vet your initial idea, then you’re selling yourself short.

As Aristotle said,It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Don’t be judgmental when starting out on early drafts. Create, write, and draw like a wild person. Then put on your editor’s hat and edit mercilessly.

Tip: Create a proper editorial calendar, and build in timelines that allow for things like second drafts and copyediting. This will help you maintain quality without scrambling to publish ASAP.

Establish a Strong Process

Good content marketing requires the right team, the right ideas, and an efficient process to see those ideas to completion. That means planning, producing, managing, and reviewing content before it goes live. You can always make adjustments during a project, but having a basic process, which all team members can rely on, will make your life a lot easier—and reduce lag time on projects. To help things run more effectively…

  • Establish clear roles. Finding the right type—and number—of collaborators is crucial. The best creative work tends to involve additional perspectives, experiences, expertise, and creative thinking. Of course, too many cooks in the kitchen is a nightmare. Make sure everyone involved in content creation understands their responsibilities.
  • Document your content goals. Use our creative brief template to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Let the best ideas win, regardless of work titles. Your goal is to impress your audience—not yourself.

For more content marketing tips, see our guide to master content creation.

Above all, remember who you’re creating content for: your audience. Focus on delivering high-quality content that will truly help them, and your content will always be more successful. The more you demonstrate that you are invested in helping them learn what they need to know, the more they will look to you as a trusted friend and resource, and that’s the ultimate goal. 

Of course, if you need more guidance to get your content strategy in shape, consider using expert help. Find out what you should look for in a content agency, or reach out to us. We’re always happy to chat.

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