Your Valuable Content Isn't Original: Tell the Real Story
Let’s get real: there is absolutely nothing new under the sun. All new ideas are typically inspired by old ideas, all new methodologies are based on things we already know about human behaviors, and everything we’re saying to one another has already been said by someone else first.
Why am I taking some hard shots at original content? Well as a marketer or a small business owner, we hear the same message over and over again: “Provide value”.
While this isn’t wrong, how can you possibly be valuable if someone else (or 1,000 someone else’s) have already beat you to the punch? Do me a favor…. Before you write your next blog post, type your topic into the Google machine and see how many results come up.
Still feeling original? I’m guessing not.
I recently read a piece by Seth Godin where he basically said the content he produced when he first started his business was crap; but it still performs well because it was the first of its kind and it’s been around long enough to score some serious SEO points. Most of us today won’t be able to reap those kind of benefits, no matter how awesome our stuff is.
Seth’s solution, however, is simple: start getting real.
Telling the real story
What’s truly valuable to other people is your experience, so instead of writing, making videos, or podcasting a listicle on industry how-tos, start telling them YOUR story. Yes, your content can position you as an expert, but the real value lies in the journey you’ve taken. Your low moments. Sharing the things that didn’t work and what you learned from them. Just sharing the “end product” of your experience simply isn’t enough anymore.
I’ll give you an example.
I had a fantastic writer putting together an About Page for a client of mine. I know she’s exceptional, but I was super disappointed upon reading the first draft of the material. It was so generic. It could have been anyone. Seriously, no one was going to care about this company when they read this page.
In truth, she did the best she could with what she had to work with. The founders had given her the “after school special” version of their story. It was an extremely professional read, and it didn’t do anything to showcase how cool their startup story really was.
So I called up the founder and said, “I want you to tell me how this company started, from the beginning, don’t leave anything out. Record yourself talking and send it to me.”
Two days later I got a 13-minute audio file with all the messy details. They had worked hard. They had made mistakes. They had found a fresh new market that was better suited to their product. These founders had a really great story…. And so we we told it. The journey they had taken to get where they are today not only made them special, it showed how in tune they were with the needs of their new audience and how eager they were to serve them.
We don’t have all the answers
The hardest part of being authentic with your content in this way is admitting that you don’t have all the answers. And so, we tend to lean on anecdotes and language that we believe showcases how amazing we are because we think that’s what people need to hear. What we’re really doing, however, is setting unrealistic expectations.
When I’m talking to prospective clients, they always want proof that I can help make things happen in their business. (Who wouldn’t?) But it’s not that black and white, I tell them.
What I do for each client varies on what their goals are for their business and the niche of their business. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, ever. So I send them to my case studies to get an idea of what I’ve done for clients in the past to help them meet their goals. Hands down, potential clients enjoy this one the most. Why? Because I talk about how some of my strategies flat out failed.
Instead of only talking about my wins, I talk about what I tried for them that didn’t work, what we learned from it, and how we pivoted. The lessons learned from the failed strategy kept us moving forward and we still had some amazing outcomes.
Was it easy to share this? No, but it was necessary, and it shows that I know what I’m doing not because I’m right all the time, but because I’m willing to innovate for my clients AND pivot to new strategies to make their marketing work for them.
How we express our ideas matters
Most people put out content that the *think* is going to make them look good. (Think being keyword here.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to tell clients to stop trying to write something “professional” and start writing something relatable.
Big words don’t make you sound smart. They make it difficult for people to hear your message.
Listing your education, certificates, and the like doesn’t necessarily make you look credible. Everyone has that kind of stuff these days; you’re just blending further into the crowd.
Talking about your accomplishments doesn’t actually tell people how you might serve them. They’re losing interest.
So next time you’re about to create some content, I challenge you to really think about what your message will be. You could create another tips listicle that will be irrelevant as soon as it drops off the Facebook feed, or you could dig deep and teach from your own experiences in a way that provides value, builds trust, and keeps your audience coming back for more.
Shauna is a Marketing Director or Fractional CMO helping early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.
As a vocal advocate for women in business, Shauna is on a mission to redefine what it looks like to be a working woman and to support other women doing the same. She spends her free time traveling with her husband and four kids while drinking Coca-Colas. Connect with her on Instagram at @shauna.armitage.