When was the last time a digital experience like a webinar or company video had you feeling interested instead of absolutely bored out of your gourd?
Unfortunately, you can probably count them on one hand. Part of the reason so many of us are over virtual events and digital content is the hours upon hours we spent on video calls and conferences and all manner of virtual meetings during the height of the pandemic. The other part? It can all be soooooooo boooooooring.
Now, digital fatigue is a very real thing, and I’m certainly not intending to diminish it. Most of us spend huge chunks of time working at or interacting with screens every day, and at some point enough is enough for anybody. But that also means that asking your audience to spend more time in front of one, whether it’s for a webinar or event your organization is putting on, an app you’re releasing, or a video you’re sharing is a bigger ask than you might think.
If your content isn’t delivering information to your audience in an engaging way — if it’s just more stuff clogging up an inbox or floating by as people scroll on to more interesting posts — it’s not doing its job.
I’m not going to lie. Creating consistently engaging content is a challenge. And there may be times when good enough will have to do thanks to demanding deadlines, small teams, or any number of everyday obstacles. The danger is when we let “good enough” become the default.
With that in mind, I’ve got a few tips and tricks to share that I use as a content strategist to help elevate basic information and deliver better experiences for our clients’ audiences.
Our mission: transform a seemingly boring subject into amazing content For the purpose of this post, let’s say our task is to create an engaging piece of content for a B2B company that manufactures sewer grates and covers. (Don’t leave — we can do this.)
We have been given spec sheets, features and benefits lists, interviewed people inside the company and even talked to a few of their customers. We have persona and journey information, a good visual library, brand guidelines — everything we need to create something.
It would be pretty easy to take that information and write a few basic blog posts that list out some benefits, maybe a whitepaper for each audience persona type, and call it a day. But that’s just creating content for content’s sake. Our job here is to create engaging content. Let’s get started.
Make your persona a person The first thing I’d do is take a good look at the audience and their pain points, and match that up with a feature or benefit the product provides. For this exercise, let’s say the audience is municipalities that need reliable sewer grates that don’t clog up. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what our B2B company makes! Huzzah!
Of course, it’s not enough to just say that in a blog post or video or whatever vehicle we choose for our content piece. That’s not all that interesting. So the next thing I’d do is imagine what life is like for the persona as an actual human person.
I’d think about a person sitting at their desk in a city building on a rainy fall day. They’re starting their morning by checking email, dinking around a bit online maybe, drinking some coffee, when a call from the guy at the City Water Works comes in.
Dang. And he’s mad. Double dang. His crew is sick and tired of dealing with all these leaves getting in the grates every fall. He’s tired of standing out in the terrible weather. He’s sick of homeowners complaining to him every year. Can’t you…do something about these horrible grates?
Now it’s about more than spec sheet information. Now it’s about helping our poor city employees have an easier time of it.
Give the content a higher purpose With our specific situation in mind, think about what would feel like a weight off of our persona’s shoulders. What if they never got a call about grates from the Water Works guy again? What if the Water Works guy never had to deal with clogged grates in freezing cold rain? What if the grates worked so well that they never had to think about grates again?
OH SNAP. Looks like we found ourselves a theme for our content! Because legal and compliance teams exist, we’ll take that big aspirational idea and make it a little more realistic:
Our Grates: If you don’t notice them we’re doing our job
A little clunky but let’s go with it.
From here, we get to actually start making some content. And, because we spent time thinking beyond the basic nuts and bolts information, we get to make some content that’s a lot more interesting than parroting out features and benefits from spec sheets.
Start by thinking big What kind of content we make will depend on our budget, where the audience is, and our team’s capacity to produce said content. (This is where documenting a content strategy comes in very handy.)
Let’s start big first. If we had unlimited budget and time, what could we do?
One big fun idea that comes to mind for our sewer and grate company is a simple video game built around the idea of clogged grates. Maybe a character has to unclog grates and replace them with functional versions from our grate company. The more they replace, the more they score. Replace the whole city and win!
That’s not boring. It’s unexpected, interactive, and almost certainly attention-getting.
And, it has legs, meaning it could extend out into all kinds of media like digital ads and social posts that lead to a dedicated landing page, downloadable and shareable infographics, and so on, all held together by our theme’s cohesive look, language, and feel.
Basic does not need to equal boring “But I never have a huge budget, my team is two people, and time is always tight! What then?”
I hear you. But just because resources are limited doesn’t mean our imaginations need to be. Breaking format is a relatively easy way to make your content less boring. If your company has a blog or resources area, that’s a great place to start looking for opportunities.
Breaking format for your blog content could look like:
Interviews with experts/customers
Post a series vs. one long post
Using photos, graphics, gifs, animations or other visual components are all ways to make text-heavy blog posts easier to read and more interesting for the viewer. Anything you can do to make your content something someone would actually enjoy consuming should be on the table.
That means the content vehicle almost doesn’t matter as much as what’s being delivered. If you decide a webinar is the right fit, or an eBook will be a great piece of content for your prospect sitting at their desk after getting chewed out by the guy from the Water Works, you have to make it interesting.
When creating your content, ask yourself hard questions like, “Would I read/watch/click if it wasn’t my job to read/watch/click this thing?” and “If a colleague shares this on LinkedIn and credits me with creating it, will I feel good about it?” Those aren’t hard, data-driven KPIs of course, but if your content doesn’t pass your own gut-check it’s worth it to figure out why, and make some adjustments.