Just like good or bad press, branded content can positively or negatively impact your company. The fundamental difference is you (fortunately) have much more control over the latter. But instead of mourning over poor editorial repercussions, follow these 10 damage-control tips to nip your content blunders in the bud before they become full-grown problems.
From packing paragraphs with buzzwords to neglecting to build distribution plans for blog posts, this list of common mistakes brands make when creating content will serve as your guide for what not to do.
#1--Stop talking about yourself.
It seems so simple doesn't it? But it's a fine line between being informative and obnoxious with regard to yourself, your products, you name it. We all know that the key to great conversation is listening, and listening begins by shifting your gaze from "I" to "You." Remember The Rule of Triple Cs: content is a conversation that leads to conversion. The key is to consider what problems or challenges your audience needs solved. Be helpful, be thoughtful and most of all, be useful.
#2--Limit use promotional language and other "sales-speak".
Save that for your email marketing, on-site creative, or other sales-focused marketing channels. Sure, your blog is a safe space for sharing company news, but keep in mind its true purpose and don't clutter your garden with weeds. If people sense that they're entering a littered space, they'll seek greener pastures.
#3--End the overuse of buzzwords: make your content robustly disruptive and mind-meldingly pioneering. So to speak.
You know that guy that's mastered the art of inserting slang into every sentence? He's the annoying party guy who, try as he might, will never replace a good conversationalist. Strip your content free of jargon. Include buzzwords when they strengthen your material or enhance your ideas, not just because you think they make you sound hip or smart. In actuality, buzzwords can make you look like a tool: not the sharpest one either.
#4--Stop writing blog posts just to increase your SEO.
I guarantee that you'll see a greater long-term value in creating authentic, high-quality, solutions-oriented content than you would with SEO blogs that sound like they've been written by robots. Whether your customers abide by brand loyalties or not, they're surely smart enough to notice the difference between thoughtfulness and seeding keywords. One will spur dialogue, the other will inspire disrespect for your brand.
#5--Stop creating content just because everyone else is doing it.
The sooner you admit that this isn't a strategy, the closer you are to creating an actual strategy that works. Now, back away from the edge of the bridge.
#6--Don't produce content without a distribution plan.
Outline how, when, and why you'll share each post on your various social and marketing channels and build a system for tracking your success. The car you built can only be admired and appreciated if you take it out of the garage.
#7--Quit using images without copy and copy without images.
People love images. If you can attach information to an attractive image, you make it much easier for people to share your content. Use copy for context, and be thorough about it. Conversely, longer-form editorial without at least a few visuals can be skipped over simply due to its length. Break up big groupings of text with images that offer your reader a refreshing breath between ideas.
#8--Learn to say "No" to content opportunities that don't loop back to your objectives.
This one is often a practice in checking your ego at the door. Whether guest-writing for a blog with an audience that's not-so-up-your-alley or committing to an interview with a publication that's too-small-beans for your current needs, don't feel obligated to take on every request just because it's there, or because it makes you feel like needed-wanted-special-sauce. You may choose to take on most opportunities at the beginning, but as your business grows you need to be more strategic with where you spend your time. If the opportunity doesn't boomerang back to your objectives in some way or propel you forward, why are you doing it?
#9--Quit ignoring comments, even when they oppose you.
Plain and simple: these are missed opportunities to engage. Reply intelligently, conversationally, and compassionately in hopes of igniting genuine dialogue. If a comment is negative or opposes you in some way, ask questions, and listen intently before crafting your response. Remember, content is a conversation, and opposition can create a space for healthy debate on topics that are core to your company. It's an opportunity to show your brand's true colors in real-time.
#10--Stop saying you don't have enough time for content.
We're all busy; make time for it. Everything we do (in business or life in general) is a choice. Choose to advance your brand through content. Choose to be a thought leader, someone who starts the conversation instead of just favoriting it.
In closing, I'll leave you with a few great examples of folks who do branded content masterfully...you can put these on your "Definitely Do" list.
#1--Dell's Tech Page One
If you haven't checked out Tech Page One, do yourself and favor and do so right now. Tech Page One is how Dell speaks directly to their audience. They bring a lot of voices together to talk about how technology enables people's lives. With a focus on what the Dell audience wants to hear about, Tech Page One is setting a brand journalism gold standard.
Wired Senior Editor Michael Copeland jumped ship in 2013 to lead content strategy at Andreessen Horowitz. Since joining, a16z's homepage has turned into a content ticker of epic proportion with owned media leading everything the company does. It's an interesting strategy for a VC to employ but then again, the16z crew has always been known for thinking outside the box.
Led by Tim Clark, SAP's unique process of cultivating employee brand journalists and broadcasting their best stories to sister sites has made them a formidable force in the brand journalism space. SAP may distribute content through publications like Forbes and Business Insider, but their approach starts on their own platform, the SAP Community Network.
If anyone is nailing quality content it's the HubSpot team. Their site is a bevvy of useful information, helpful hints, and interesting studies. Along with boasting an impressive volume of consumable content, they also score major points for their clean aesthetic and beautiful layout.
CRM giant Salesforce knows a thing or two about providing useful information. Their owned media channel is balanced blend of overarching industry discussions and product insights for their customers. They also have a killer blog influencer program that boasts some impressive contributing writers.
Now that you know what to do and what not to do, go forth and create some buzzworthy branded content of your own!