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How Brands Can Be More Human

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Content marketing is a pretty dry term and much of what brands churn out is so bland, so forgettable, that you can only wonder why they bother. Endless generic listicles about 'Five Tips for Healthy Living / Safe Driving / Negotiating Your Home Loan ' (insert just about any topic here), or self-serving corporate videos featuring the CEO talking about the company's latest profit results.

Too often marketing teams are simply too cautious, or their good intentions are spoiled by having too many well-meaning stakeholders involved.

But ultimately the content part of content marketing is a creative art – not a science – and it will fail if you cannot create content that feels human.

Tell The Story to Your Grandmother

Your content ideas might look good on paper, or on your colour-coded publishing calendar, but the test of whether they're actually interesting is whether you can get your grandmother (or wife or neighbour) interested. If you can get someone engaged in a conversation on a topic that's a good start, but then imagine that person is online and you have just milliseconds to catch their attention before they are distracted by an important email, a friend's holiday snaps on Facebook or a breaking news story on Twitter. Will your story attract and hold their attention long enough to get them to click?

Speak Like a Human Being (Not a Corporate Manual)

Your corporate tone of voice is not your content marketing tone of voice. Yes, there may be some over-lap but generally the way that you speak to someone to remind them that their bill is over-due – or to describe your products on your website – is completely different to the tone of voice you should use to tell a story. So ditch the 100-page corporate tone of voice guide, identify a few key guidelines and write the way that you speak. Be friendly but not over-familiar. You're not their best mate but you should strive to be a trusted acquaintance.

Write Enticing Headlines That Tell a Story

As recently as a couple of years ago headlines were short, snappy and written almost entirely to drive search results. (Example: Five Tips for Healthy Living.) With the rise of social media as a powerful source of traffic, the best performing sites have adopted longer, more conversational headlines that both convey what the story is about and paint a picture in the reader's mind. (Example: The Five Things You Need to Know to Live Longer Than Your Grandmother). BuzzFeed, of course, has perfected the art of this style of headline but plenty of other digitally native sites including UpWorthy and Quartz use the same technique.

If you want your brand's content to stand out from the millions of other generic blog posts – and corporate videos – that are saturating the web then it's absolutely essential to get in touch with your inner human.

Lauren Quaintance is Head of Content for Sydney content marketing agency Storyation www.storyation.com.

My time in the digital industry: I wrote a paper on the impact of the internet on journalism as a Reuter Foundation scholar at Oxford University way back in 1999, but my first foray into digital publishing was when I launched a magazine website for what is now Bauer Media in 2006.

My mission at Storyation: We are a content marketing agency and we believe in the power of stories to inform, inspire and ignite passions storyation.com

My special blog topics: Content, content and content.

Digital trend I'm most excited about: The shift away from spammy SEO content towards quality, shareable content (Thanks, Hummingbird)

Brand whose marketing I admire: At Fairfax Media I worked with Tourism Victoria to create content-led campaigns such as Spotted by Locals. They are always prepared to take risks and Remote Control Tourist is another great example of this.

Favourite digital campaign of all time: Nike Chalkbot.

Digital tool/gadget I cannot live without: It's boring but it's got to be my iPhone. I just wish it had a better camera.

If I wasn't working in digital, I would be: I'd write a book (the old-fashioned kind made from paper).


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Guest Monday, 24 October 2016