If you were to look at my resume, you’d probably say I’ve always been a “content creator.” For me, Copywriter morphed into Content Strategist with a detour as Design Writer (a title I tried out for a bit while working at a design shop). Today, among the other hats I wear (Brand Strategist, Partner, Editorial Director), “writer of words for fun, profit, and the adoration of corporate clients” has settled to mean…content creator.
You know what, though? I hate the word content.
Or at least, what it’s come to mean in the world of marketing, inbound or otherwise. I hate it because “content” is the dollar-store, fast-food version of good writing – cheap, plastic, and empty.
It's the opposite of writing that grabs you by that spot in the chest where the panic attacks start and tweaks you just a bit. Writing that keeps your eyeballs glued to the screen even when Slack teases them from the upper right corner. Writing that makes you feel things, think things and do things.
Writing that companies want to put out into the world, because it makes people feel things, think things and do things in the name of their brands.
Content doesn’t give a flip about your brand, the why of your product’s existence, the nuance in your story. It just shoves keywords into blog posts like stovetop stuffin’ into unlucky holiday fowl.
Content gloms onto potentially useful things like lists, then procreates like rabid bunnies, creating “listacles.” And then everyone on the internet drowns in five things about everything.
Content is a blunt instrument of information masquerading as insight. It adds little to the world and sucks the air out of a good idea in about 600 words.
So, we’ve sworn it off, content. The word and the idea. And about a year ago, and focused on another angle. We call it Brand Journalism.
No offense to real journalists (of whom we are most certainly not; we serve a very different god), but the craft, intuition, creativity, investigative prowess and pure gravitas of your profession was too good to not borrow.
Brand Journalism is about quality over quantity. One really great article about a really important thing (plus the potential to peel it apart into twenty equally interesting points ripe for social snacking) trumps ten pieces with half an original thought to squeeze out between them.
Brand Journalism adds soul to utility, attempting with all its heart to speak to the beating red things inside your customers’ or clients’ chests, in the language that excites them most, with the information they crave woven throughout.
Brand Journalism centers, unsurprisingly, on brand.You likely worked hard to define that glowing big idea at the core of your product, but that place where why meets the where and what of content creation at the marketing layer is often where we see great brands go to glory – held upas beacons but largely ignored in the meat of what makes it to customers’ screens.
So, what is your agency writing right now? Another list? A couple hundred-word answer to a question nobody asked? Or is it creating something smart and lovely, rich and sexy and interesting; something you’d maybe even read whether you cared about your product or not?
Can they make your story better, or just simply heard?