What differentiates good content from average content?

Jon Mowat
Managing Director | Hurricane Media
28th July 2015

As content marketers we have all had it drummed into us by now just how much content is being created online every minute of every day. But what are the consequences of all this content? At first it might seem that all this content could be a problem for content marketers, who are battling to be heard above all this noise.

Of course the best content marketers have learnt how to effectively leverage social platforms and mouthpieces in the digital space to project their voices over the rest and become more noticeable. Whilst this is undoubtedly a distinct advantage we cannot ever discount quality from the equation.

A consequence of content saturation is that an increasing proportion of the content being produced is actually pretty average and the more average content people have to wade through, the better they become at effectively differentiating the good stuff from the bad stuff. In other words; content saturation increases quality filter efficacy in the consumer. This therefore presents an opportunity to the content marketer. However depressing the figures around content saturation may seem, there are more opportunities than ever to stand out from the crowd.

Of course, the question of what differentiates good content from average content is actually more nuanced than it might seem. To boil it down to the basics then, differentiating good content from bad comes down to three things; what you are trying to say, how you are trying to say it and who you are trying to say it to (also known as the what, the how and the who).

Know your Brand, know your Audience (the who)

Connecting with your audience is dependent on a deep understanding of your brand and this in turn should inform all you do from a content point of view. My colleague John stressed before on this site the importance of spending time defining your brand and your target market from the outset, and how you intend to build a strong relationship between the two through engaging and relevant content.

To really understand your audience takes more than stats and figures. Take a little time each day to frequent the online spaces your target audience frequents. Read the content on these social spaces and learn from it. Contribute and engage but most of all look and listen. Ask yourself what’s popular and what’s not over time and learn from it. Record and rate the content you come across. Whilst you don’t want to imitate other people’s content, you should always be looking for ways you can build or improve on it, or offer a different spin on a popular theme. The best way to brainstorm ideas for new content is to look at what’s currently captivating and engaging your target market.

Redbull’s sponsorship of so many adrenaline sports has seen it become the world’s dominant brand in terms of funding, producing and distributing this kind of exhilarating, nerve-shattering and highly sharable content.

Tell Beautiful Stories and think like a Publisher (the what)

It should come as no revelation that the most successful brands are more and more likely to be successful publishers. The success of the old fashioned interruptive advertising model is giving way to a more on-demand and consensual model in which consumers choose who they consume content from and when. Key to exploiting this model is the ability to tell stories and create convincing and appealing narratives.

The ability for a good story to raise our heartrate with excitement, move us to tears, leave us open mouthed with shock, or have us rolling around with laughter should be understood by anyone that’s ever sat down to watch a good film or read a good novel.

The appeal of storytelling to the human brain has been well documented, but unlike cinema or literature, content marketers must somehow weave in a distinct brand message to the narrative without derailing the narrative appeal. As a result some companies have gone so far as to abandon branding entirely in some of their content marketing, but the danger here is that your brand message is lost entirely.

This may pay off if your brand is very well known but if you’re trying to carve out an identity then you still need to make sure you sell yourself at the end of the day. Whilst storytelling is important, unambiguous CTA’s are still a marketer’s bread and butter.

The art of fusing the natural appeal of storytelling to the more artificial overtures of marketing can be found through the successful marriage of emotion and logic. The type of emotional direction you take is largely dependent on your sector; with certain products lending themselves more to a comedic or light hearted approach and others a more weighty and serious approach.

The real trick here though, is balancing these emotional aspects with enough information about your product or service as to leave the viewer in no doubt as to what you are offering. Go too far and you risk popping the narrative bubble and alienating your audience, too little and you may obfuscate your message entirely.

Hurricane Media’s video for Airbus Defence and Space begins by playing off the emotive aspect of an uncertain future for the next generation, before presenting the company vis-à-vis a series of mission statements and compelling imagery.

Don’t forget to Shout from the Rooftops (the how)

How you promote your content is crucial to helping it earn the recognition it deserves. Whilst good content will always have a propensity to get shared a lot more than all that run-of-the-mill stuff, it’s all too common for the latter to outperform the former simply as a direct result of effective seeding. Good content not only deserves, but is arguably defined by, careful planning in terms of how it will be promoted and optimised post publication.

Everything you produce should be findable, sharable and optimised for the search engines. This involves promoting it to the people who are most likely to share it on the right platforms. Consistent and timely engagement on these platforms is essential if you are too maximise and capitalise on the talking points of your content. You should be looking to spark and engender discussions on as many relevant platforms and forums as possible and always attempting to measure success and conversions in the most accurate way you can. Establishing whether your content is a success or not amongst your target market is pretty essential if you want to emulate that success in the future. 

About the Author

Jon Mowat is a former BBC film maker and now runs British based video production and marketing company, Hurricane Media. Over the years he’s put together marketing campaigns for many clients across many sectors such as Canon, Sony, BMW and Peugeot. You can follow Hurricane on Twitter or Facebook or check them out on their YouTube Channel.


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