Guide to creating great content

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Content? No – we’re not asking if you’re satisfied. This guide is all about the noun ‘content’ and what it means in a digital world.

It wasn’t so long ago that copywriters were on their uppers, short of work and only servicing the print and advertising industries. When the web came along all of that changed. Suddenly there was demand for a new form of copywriting – writing for the web, and the challenges of attracting someone’s interest in 5 seconds and making text appeal to both humans and search engines.

Introduce the social media era and a new copywriter was born. The ‘content writer’ has become something of a hybrid, using copywriting skills, PR skills, and diary writing to create a new form of content.

“Content isn’t King.
It’s the Kingdom.”

Lee Odden

What is content?

The transformation of penning a 3-page long marketing letter in the 90s to tapping out a 140 character tweet in the noughties has been a stark transformation. (Thank goodness we can write a whopping 280 characters now.)

But is that what content really is? In truth in the modern context content is anything that communicates a message – and this could extend to:

  • videos
  • infographics
  • vlogs
  • blogs
  • social media
  • traditional marketing such as direct mail, letters, brochures and more.

Of course content is what ‘makes’ a website. After all, that’s why we’re all building websites using ‘content’ management systems.

The content turkey

One form of content is the written word – and this is what most people think of when they think of content. We’ll look at graphics later, but anything from a web page to a social post needs words. Our content team will be thinking about the right way to write for each medium, and also where one core message needs to be rewritten to suit that medium.

We like to think of one piece of content feeding others. So, let’s say we write and distribute a press release for a client. That piece of content can be used to feed a wide range of other media.

  • Redraft it to make it a web news article, or perhaps a more personal blog.
  • Turn it into a company LinkedIn post, and perhaps also make a post for the CEO or MD to put on their LinkedIn profile.
  • Summarise it as a tweet on Twitter – and perhaps two or three if there’s enough content in it.
  • Make it a more consumer or recruitment-friendly piece for Facebook.
  • Turn it into a customer or prospect-facing email – and perhaps also include it in an email newsletter.
  • Tease it out via SMS and drive people to the website or social channels to read more.
  • Draft a letter and post it.

Re-using a press release is a bit like cooking a Christmas turkey. Your main objective is having it ready for Christmas lunch, but then it can easily feed the family for a few more days – as the main part of a salad, fried rissoles, a sandwich, and the inevitable turkey curry. You can even boil the carcass for stock, so nothing goes to waste.

content turkey
Think of a roasted turkey, and you’ll think about how content can feed your marketing!

It’s the same with a press release or, in fact, any main item of content. For example you can derive lots of content from a brochure, a white paper, a blog and so much more. It’s just thinking about how to make best use of the turkey.

The importance of imagery

Certain media channels are geared up entirely for imagery – such as Instagram and Pinterest. But wherever your messages end up, people need to be engaged by great photos and illustrations, alongside the written word. When they’re well-crafted they become a powerful form of content.

So just why is imagery so important? Well, it really comes down to basic marketing principles. If you can grab someone’s attention, you’re half way to getting your message across.

In the digital world this becomes more important, simply because of the volume of content people see in the course of a few hours. Once upon a time people would see some glossy ads in a magazine, or 50 pieces of direct mail on their doorstep. That has largely been replaced by web pages, social channels and email.

If we assume people spend at least 10 hours of their day consuming media (Neilsen), they could be exposed to several hundred images a day, all vying for their attention. That ignores video.

What does great imagery achieve?

The best images must:

  • grab attention
  • be relevant
  • communicate effectively
  • generate a desired outcome.

That outcome could be simply reading the piece that accompanies the image, or learning something from the image, or acting upon it (buying something, visiting a web page, sharing it).

The ultimate synergy is making the image work with the copy to make the outcome you desire more likely to happen. We see this work at its best when we see ‘click bait’.

Yes, you’ll have been enticed by this before. Those little ads on web pages with a mysterious image and copyline that says: “You won’t believe that Trump bought one of these!”.

You can’t help yourself. Bought what? Why? When?  I… must… click…

Apply the same thinking to your marketing – emails, social posts, ads – and you could get  great response, so long as you don’t let people down once they’ve responded!

trump news as content
Drive clicks and engagement with content – but keep it real!

The rise of the infographic

Infographics are nothing new. For decades they’ve been used as a means of informing people and changing behaviours. You could even say that prehistoric man used them on their cave walls.

Back in WW1 the UK and US Governments used infographics on posters to keep people informed and encourage certain activities, such as avoiding food waste, buying locally or staying healthy. Some great examples are shown on the Smithsonian website in relation to food.

infographic as content
The infographic has been around as long as marketing has

In a modern age when people have busy lives and (seemingly) little time to absorb information, the infographic has risen again. This is because it’s easy on the eye; it gets messages across quickly; it distils complex thoughts into simple ones; it can focus people on one core take-away.

Some research suggests that people are 30 times more likely to read an infographic than a paragraph of text. So you can see how powerful content that uses both can be.

Infographics can also be branded – so that it’s clear it’s coming from your business. When people share it, then that’s great brand building.

The different types of infographic

Infographics can also take various creative forms:

  • Simple charts and graphs
  • Mixed charts and graphs
  • Timelines
  • Lists of stats with graphics and icons
  • Comparisons
  • Maps and stats.

By way of example, we used infographics in a white paper we published recently, which are shown below.

oxygen infographic 1oxygen infographic 2

Video captures content

If a picture tells a thousand words, then video is the novelette of marketing. It’s an essential content tool, because people now expect to see video. After all, we all have smart phones that enable us to capture high quality video anytime, anywhere.

Again, there are various forms of video that you can embrace to achieve your marketing goals.

  • Making it personal. Using video of the team, the premises, your events to engage and create a ‘human’ side to your business.
  • Vlogs. Video blogs are great to engage people in hard-to-grasp concepts, and to send to publications when you have news or opinion. Some basic examples we’ve made here:
  • Corporate videos. The videos that explain what you are as a business.
  • Product and service videos. Putting the features and benefits out there.
  • The animated infographic. Yes, an infographic that moves. These are simply animations, but can be powerful at getting messages across quickly. Here’s an example we created:
  • Motion capture on you website. Video can enhance first impressions as a background or in sliders on your website, as well as supporting your written content. See an example we created here:

You can also use social media to ‘go live’ and create content that is up to the minute and engaging, which is useful for events in particular.

One of the key elements to great video is the storyboard and script, as well as captions, so the content writer plays a core role in their development.

What to do if you have questions about content

Oxygen can help when it comes to all forms of content, so come and speak to us about where we can help.

Visit our contact page

Thanks for reading.