If anyone knows how to create high-quality content, it’s Pixar. (Their 14 feature films have been nominated for 211 awards — although they only won 210.) A few years ago, storyboard artist Emma Coats tweeted 22 nuggets of storytelling wisdom she picked up in her years at Pixar’s studios. They’ve been retweeted, compiled into SlideShares, and blogged since then, but here they are – for the first time – with some practical SEO-driven content marketing applications.
Why? Because it makes them relatable, and authenticity speaks louder than accolades. This is why it is important to develop your brand voice, and continue to hone it through every piece of content you create. Share and celebrate your successes, of course, but don’t sweep your mistakes under the proverbial rug. Rather, tell us what went wrong, what you learned, and what you’re changing. (I’m looking at you, Nationwide. Please tell us what you learned from your 2015 Super Bowl spot …)
It’s natural to write for yourself — talk about yourself, drag out long illustrations, invent catchy references and phrases that only your college roommate will really get… Instead, get right to what readers want: data, visuals, applications, next steps, etc. Focus on answering their questions and easing their pain.
A content piece is never done the first time. Or the second time. Or maybe even the third time. Delete ruthlessly and proofread vigilantly.
In a buyer-driven market place, content that connects makes the buyer the hero of the story rather than the brand’s product. Use your content to tell his story. Empathize with his conflict, and demonstrate how your brand can come alongside him to win the day.
#Truth – even in B2B content! Write and rewrite. Then reorder, restructure, copy-and-paste irrelevant sections to new documents. Delete the junk. Then you’ll find that gem — that one idea or insight that steals the show.
The heart of this strategy is about overcoming conflict and the transformation that happens to the character, which is where your hero (your buyer) already is when they find your content. They’re not searching the web for answers they already have. They’ve clicked on your content because they’re being challenged, and they’re trying to deal. Create content that helps them overcome and transform.
Write your title first (at least a draft) to help keep your content focused, and then skip to the end and write down the solution or answer you are delivering. The rest is a map — from the headline that got the buyer’s attention because it speaks directly to his need, to the conclusion that draws a bold X over where he needs to go.
It’s been said that good is the enemy of great, but perfect may be just as deadly an enemy. This is not a green light to create mediocre content, but at some point your ebook – or white paper or infographic – has to be finished. You won’t knock every blog post out of the park, but a blog with a killer post every three months won’t build an audience either.
Helping your audience avoid further complications and problems is as valuable as helping them solve their current one. If there are gaps in your blog schedule that you’re not sure how to fill, consider what buyers should not do? What’s a really bad idea? What fails have you seen?
What blog post or ebook has proven to be incredibly helpful for you? Trying analyzing it through a new lens, separate from the topic or theme. What about the content was helpful? What made it easy to read? What made you want to share it?
Make sure there are deadlines on your content strategy. When will those blog posts be ready? When will you release the ebook? Work with someone who isn’t afraid to bug you about sticking to your schedule to make sure your ideas get shared.
Creating high-quality content means creating something with unique value. Whether you’re getting content inspiration from keyword research or social media spying, don’t just reword the first good idea that you find. Dig deeper and speak to a unique niche and/or offer unique insight.
Have an opinion! Disagree vehemently, question fearlessly, and support wholeheartedly. A little bit of controversy can be a good thing. Better to get attention – some good and some bad – because of a well-expressed opinion, than get no attention at all because of a collection of lukewarm content.
What will your readers miss if they don’t read what you have to write? What mistakes might they make? What opportunities will they miss? Let that be your driving force.
This is how you develop empathetic, effective personas. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What is the problem? What is at stake? Who is breathing down his neck? What are her options? Content created for those personas will naturally feel familiar and credible.
You don’t get to invent the stakes or the odds, but they’re already stacked. Draft compelling CTAs by reminding the hero/customer what happens if he doesn’t succeed.
You started to develop a theme or a series, and it’s just not working. Maybe you’re halfway through a blog or podcast series and your metrics are falling. You are allowed to jump ship. Keep that material in a folder for later, though. Maybe it just needs reworking. Maybe your audience will be ready for it in another year.
Don’t get so caught up in creating engaging content that you lose sight of what you’re actually trying to say to your unique audience. Keep a few notes on brand voice, personas, and strategy at hand so you don’t wander too far from your original intent.
You have to offer real solutions. Whether it’s your product, or the wisdom you’re offering for free in your content, your audience doesn’t need baseless hope or inspiring platitudes. Testimonials and case studies are great content pieces, but only if they display proven, tested solutions – not lucky breaks.
Ever read a blog post that did pretty good, but missed the mark? What needs to change to take it from good to great? Do it.
Authenticity, honesty, personas. Buzzwords become buzzwords for a reason.
What’s the elevator pitch for your content strategy? Who are you? Who are you creating content for? And why? Build out your content from that simple strategy.
Per your content strategy, Pixar’s rules are not necessarily in order. If you don’t have a strategy, or if it needs an overhaul, start at the end and outline the framework. If you’re out of ideas for content, try simplifying (#5) or telling your audience what not to do (#9). If your content just isn’t connecting, make sure you’re offering real solutions (#19), and try writing the ending before the middle (#7). And when all else fails, just keep swimming …