How To Create Content That Runs Away From The Word ‘Expert’
I am quickly realising that to be recognised as useful resource in the content marketing discipline, having a bigger appetite is better than saying you finished the meal.
Let me get straight down to business, I have said that I feel uncomfortable with the word expert. I have made this clear in another post on why the word ‘expert’ is such an empty phrase, so I won’t labour the point here. Basically, the world of digital, social and content marketing only holds a very few true experts. What it means for the rest of us is that some are a little further ahead than others with what we currently learning, applying and then sharing.
Doesn’t it feel better when we accept that we are all exploring this stuff together, rather than self proclaiming that we are the guru/rock star/ninja/thought leader/maven, just because it’s now easier to put this down in writing within a channel for others to see.
Where This Article Started
I am writing this because it dawned on me during the Once Upon A Time event last week, when my co-creator (Matt Desmier) said whilst we were both on stage, that we were effectively ‘winging it.’ I have to agree with him.
By winging it, I don’t mean a total lack of preparation (trust me, we put the hours in for this to work), but by working on a format that many people are not familiar with (and to some extent neither are we). All I know is that we are currently doing this with heart and have a passion for sharing with others that an afternoon of learning is worth more than a man that you’ve never heard of before telling you why you need to invest more time on LinkedIn. The whole event is based on chat show format and whilst many say I look like Alan Carr, then someone else can be my Dolly Parton/Kanye West on stage to interview.
THE ONCE UPON A TIME FORMULA:
CREATE LEARNING – RANDOM MAN SAYING ‘LISTEN TO ME’ = REWARDING EXPERIENCE
The afternoon works where four brands are invited to share how they deliver their story and how businesses are now taking the role of a content brand. For instance, B&Q are now investing heavily on educational content to show how the world of DIY can be easier if we listen to those who have already done it. They are using an ex-tradesman (Project Pete) to be the face of all their video content, where we’re now seeing personality. This is a far cry from pure product and price benefits that many retailers still propagate. As an aside, we’re also seeing this approach (away from product but to personality) in the shape of Lidl and their recent gastro pub advert with the focus on the overall value experience.
The Inclusive Approach
Creating a passionate, inclusive approach is in a totally different direction from taking the role of an expert and telling people specifically what to do. This is all about sharing experiences and not sounding like you know everything, but becoming someone (or business) who is relentlessly inquisitive.
The content I create, you are probably seeing now that it is a case of bringing other people in and asking them how they see the world. As you can see I co-create an event, I co-present a podcast (with Ian Rhodes on Marketing Homebrew) and the Talking Content Marketing project has included opinion from 59 people. All I am searching for is the truth and by doing this and sharing we can strike a better chord with someone else (this in turn can help build an audience).
The more we converse with others and share knowledge, the better. This is far more genuine than bottling up and bringing out for special occasions in the form of a hotel networking event where you have the front of a room for 20 minutes to present Powerpoint slides. The days of clambering to be seen as an expert is meaningless. Others seeing the dedication in what you do is far more meaningful. This could be from writing regularly to producing video content, it matters more to being purposeful within a niche rather than accepting that you know everything and try to keep the search engines happy by creating a shopping list of everything content related on a footer.
Being Better Paperboys/girls
Whilst the world now encourages us to take the form of journalists and paperboys (and girls) to create and then distribute, we don’t have to be fully trained within a discipline. What we need to show is a genuine interest in the professions we are part of, how the industry is developing and the roles we play within it. Perhaps it can be said that the journey we are all on is far more rewarding than approaching the finishing line.
I can remember a friend who ran the marathon last year and mentioned that the biggest buzz was running through the streets with the noise, music and cheers rather than reaching the end when someone wrapped a foil heat sheet around them and that was it. If we take the approach that we’re here to soak everything up, rather than say ‘done it,’ then it becomes a better leveraging tool to get other people to run alongside you (meaning your audience).
I am saying that it is time to stand up and create work that gets us all fired up. People would rather come and follow you/subscribe to you/share you, if you are excited about the industry that you are part of.
The Paperclip Company Analogy
I totally appreciate if you come to me and say that you work for a paperclip company, what is exciting about that? Lets look at it from another angle, who are the people that have got up every morning for the past 10 to 20 years and gave their careers to the paperclip company? Who are the customers who have come back time and time again for the bulk orders? When times were pretty tough and other competitors fell by the wayside, what is it that kept the company resilient? How can something so small, be used by so many for generations?
What I’m trying to highlight is that it is better to be inquisitive, challenging and to constantly question rather than accept that you have to do everything the same way as everyone else. You don’t have to call a section of your website ‘news’ just because the competition are. The story about Alan (who has worked at the paperclip company for 15 years, but screw the story of longevity) and raised £85 for a charity because he came into work as a clown three months ago, merits something that others are interested in, the majority are not.
So, What’s The Answer?
If you are looking at committing to a content marketing mindset and encouraging others to adopt this approach by creating and distributing stories and information, the big question is ‘does it excite you?’ If it doesn’t then best to move to one side as the worst thing you can be is the company that says something along the lines of ‘we haven’t updated our site in four months, lets get something on the news page. I know did Alan come dressed as a clown the other month?’
The best work comes out of us all when we accept that we’re not here to be judged on how knowledgeable or clever we are, but create from the heart.
I find that I start on a topic or something that I have seen/read that is bugging me and let it flow. By ‘flow’ I mean writing an idea down as soon as it comes in my head (I’m getting better at using Evernote). I have lost so many great ideas over the years by thinking that I’ll remember it and not bother writing it down.
When you can add to that initial few words that forms a topic and develop it, by still being fired up, you are on your way to creating content that is from the industry heart and not from the industry textbook. The chances of engaging with others now stands a far higher chance.
Rather than thinking that the £85 raised for the charity is worthy of a press release, getting on the ‘news’ page and writing a tweet that says ‘we support the Thirsty People Charity,’ can be totally flipped on it’s head to write about Alan (who raised the money). The money he raised could be: from a deeper purpose and a reason why he supports the charity; his story and why he comes to work in fancy dress every year. Or even on a more industry related level, how he has seen the marketplace change over the 15 years he has worked for the company.
We are here to engage with people and if we can give them an insight into how we work and the challenges we face, what’s wrong with that? Being better at creating content is about seeking for the truth. It has nothing to do with creating content that is glorified self congratulation but everything about acknowledging that we are all learning about new ways to be more captivating and engaging to others.
Once you accept that your role is not as an expert but as an inquisitive participant within your marketplace, the landscape begins to change.
Image courtesy of Dar’ya Sip