Just Say "No" To Content

Mitch JoelPosted by

Learn how to say “no” when it comes to your content.

We live in a “content is everywhere” world. This was great news for the people attending Content Marketing World and HubSpot‘s Inbound events last week in Cleveland and Boston (they were both great events… and, I am grateful to have attended and presented at both). Content Marketing World had over 3500 people, and Inbound cranked past 15,000 attendees. That’s a lot of people, representing a lot of companies… and that’s a whole lot of brands and individuals pumping out the content. There is often the argument that content is quickly becoming crippled, because there’s simply too much of it (the old quantity over quality thing). If there are a billion people on Facebook on any given day, it’s safe to say that this isn’t about too much content, but – maybe – that the quality of the content is simply not there. Can we have too much great content? It’s doubtful.

Your brand needs to step away from the content marketing machine. 

It’s not that there is too much content out there… there’s not enough good content out there. Brands seem to be publishing “because they can,” instead of “because they have something interesting, unique, compelling and important to share.” They’re still pushing specials, instead of pushing something special out there. It’s easy to be critical of this practice. It’s hard to define what is great content… and how often to publish it. It’s all very messy. 

Take a lesson from those who create the types of stuff that lasts a lifetime. 

Like you, I have “content on the brain.” As an alpha Infovore, I am constantly on the hunt for a story to share. I have the proverbial, nose for news. That itch has been there since I was sixteen years old. Perhaps it is my background in journalism, or perhaps my studies of media, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for the publish button. Whether it’s 140 characters, a blog post, or even a photo on Instagram. Consumers are inundated. I don’t want my content to be a part of the problem. Still, brands do feel like they can (and should) publish anything. That all of this content isn’t even meant to be consumed. It’s just impressions. Like ad impressions. Some of those impressions are free…. some of them are paid. So, what goes into that impression (the content) often doesn’t even matter that much. It gets diluted, edited by groups, pushed through legal, part of a greater ad campaign, and more. The content loses its life. With that, many brands can’t seem to find their niche… or their voice. What are they truly adding to the world?

Think small. Think niche. You can’t do everything.

Experience tells me that a lot of brands feel like they have carte blanche to put – almost – anything out there. With that, they never develop a true style, voice or brand narrative. The content seems centred around some kind of campaign that lives in a brief moment of time. They approach content as a container to the campaigns, instead of content as the story that the brand can tell. With that, brand managers will often confide in me how limiting it can be to tell the brand narrative, because of how regulated the brand platform is. It forces these people to not create the best work possible.

Think differently about your content. Think differently about your creativity.

Are you rushed to get your content done? Does your content have to reside on a specific platform because of how the media was purchased? Either way, I am often reminded that you have to use these constraints as the true gateway to creativity. Famed musician, Peter Gabriel, has an amazing quote about how he thinks about his music’s creation:

“The worst thing you can say to a creative person, I think, is ‘You can do anything.’ That is the kiss of death. You should say to them, ‘You can’t do this. You definitely can’t do that. And under no circumstances can you do that.’ Then they’ll start thinking in a different, more creative way.”

Your brand’s content is the same. Your creative team (whether in house or your agency) must be directed in the same way. Asking for “something viral” is not the way to achieve great content. Box yourself in. Figure out what makes your brand exclusively right to publish something. Focus on this. Build it. Test it. Spread it. Leverage the data to tweak it. Listen to the feedback. Push forward by trying to refine the voice. These things don’t happen quickly. These things take time. All great things do. The best content wasn’t created because someone had all of the time in the world, to do anything that they wanted. Take all of the current limitations on your brand (some may be self-inflicted, while many may be dictated to you) and find your own, different and more creative way to say something of value.

This isn’t about more content. This is about content that is different, your own… and way more creative.