We’re a creative bunch here at Bring Digital, of that there is no doubt.
For the Content and Outreach teams in particular, planning is key. What many companies fail to appreciate is that compelling, informative, well-targeted content doesn’t just magically appear on their websites – a lot of hard work is involved. In 2013, the Content Marketing Institute reported that just 44 per cent of B2B content marketers had a documented strategy in place, which again indicates that far too many firms still believe they can generate quality content on a whim, bringing a fresh wave of traffic to their site. It doesn’t quite work like this.
Since Bring Digital moved into its swanky new office in the heart of Bolton, everything has been put in place to get the creative juices of our immensely-talented team flowing. With an informal park area and an impossibly suave “Strategy Corner” at our disposal, not to mention an endless supply of coffee and fizzy drinks, we’ve certainly built an environment in which great ideas can be developed. That being said, everybody has an off day from time to time, and while it’s true that some of the weirdest and most off-the-wall suggestions can turn out to be content gold, there are times when you look at your colleague and think: “Did you really just say that?”
Having worked in content marketing for over four years, I’ve encountered plenty of ridiculous, albeit well-intentioned, content ideas that have thankfully never seen the light of day.
Here are ten of the worst.
Like them or not, articles that carry a number in the headline usually perform well. In my opinion, this is because readers know they can dip in and take information from a select number of bullet points without necessarily having to read the entire piece.
This graphic published by ConversionXL shows that this type of headline tends to be the most engaging.
With this in mind, the person who came up with ‘The Top 10 leaflet sizes’ article can be forgiven for attempting to do something creative that would encourage people to visit the website of a company that produces leaflets.
However, once the writer had covered A4 and A5 paper sizes (two of my personal favourites, as it happens), it’s hard to imagine the kind of journey the reader would have been taken on in this piece.
It’s always worth checking out what people are talking about on social media, as brands can offer their view on popular topics, striking up interactions with potential customers in the process.
Believe it or not, writing about industrial pressure switches is not the laugh riot that you might expect. It is possible to make mundane topics interesting, you just need to be creative and find a way to make people relate to the products or services you’re attempting to plug.
Unfortunately, trying to form a link between one of the world’s biggest pop groups and an explosion-proof pressure sensor did not result in a piece of content that will be talked about and shared for years to come.
Writing for a travel company can be really glamorous. Writing for a travel company that specialises in caravan holidays in West Sussex is less so.
While some might find this article interesting, the thought of researching 20 little-known, yet intriguing facts about Bognor Regis was less than appealing. My first rule of creating content is to not write something just for the sake of filling a word count, and by desperately shoehorning pointless facts about Bognor Regis into this proposed artcle, it would have been difficult to stick to my own principles.
I can’t say for sure, but I’m not convinced the HR company that we were producing content for would have appreciated this one.
While there are lessons to be learnt from the terrifying reigns of Pol Pot and the like, it’s doubtful that a modern HR business would look to the most barbaric dictators in history for onboarding tips.
It’s important to remember that just because your company specialises in a niche, or dare we say it, mundane, product or service, that doesn’t mean you can’t produce exciting content that grabs people’s attention.
In order to plug cardboard boxes – the large type that you use to transport your belongings when you move house – one content marketer attempted to sculpt said boxes into something dazzling. Rather than stealing ideas from the internet, the enthusiastic marketer opted to spend their entire lunchtime putting their ambitious plans into practice. There was even tentative talk of a YouTube video to accompany the blog post.
One hour later, and with one large box folded less-than-delicately into quarters sitting in the middle of the room (it was supposed to be a swan by this stage), it was decided that this idea was a non-starter. It makes it all the more difficult to stomach when you see so much passion and enthusiasm slowly evaporate from one of your colleagues, as they realise that in the intense war between humans and cardboard boxes, in this particular battle, the box won convincingly.
Always know your target audience.
While generating blog ideas for a high-end investment company, one copywriter suggested that the best way to cover the ongoing banking crisis would be to produce an article with a headline that included the term “banker-woopsy” – an amazingly subtle play on the word bankruptcy that also left the reader with no doubt that critical mistakes had been made by some of the UK’s most high-powered financial experts.
The article might have gone down well with the extremely wealthy investors that we were supposed to be targeting, but some may have found it a tad low brow. The snobs.
Go on, admit it. We’ve all been drawn in by a click-bait headline at some point.
I hate the use of misleading article headlines, as they do nothing but con people into clicking through to a website that they don’t really want to visit. That said, it is vital that your titles are intriguing and engaging, otherwise nobody will read your article, regardless of how good it is.
There have been a few planning sessions when some BuzzFeed-esque titles have been frivolously bandied around, and most of the time, those coming up with such titles have got their tongue firmly in their cheek – thankfully. In cases such as this, the article never lives up to the hype built up by the title, and it’s safe to assume that whatever happened to the man who used the services offered by a specialist umbrella accountancy firm, the results would not have been mind blowing.
This is bad form for any company, but for a firm that specialises in professional tax advice, it’s a catastrophic idea.
As a content marketer, you always need to protect the reputation of your clients’ brands. While you may generate plenty of hits by publishing controversial content – especially from certain comedians and singers in this instance – you’re playing an incredibly risky game.
It’s always a good ploy to offer useful tips that readers can take away from your articles. However, do you really know the type of questions that your target audience require the answers to? If not, you’re in a bit of trouble.
The most effective content tackles issues that people are genuinely affected by, so do your research and learn how to empathise with your readers. This article suggestion for a small construction company didn’t exactly provide a satisfactory solution to a quandary that had been eating people up inside for a long time.
In short, don’t bother writing something that people can just as easily find on Wikipedia.
Every company loves to have their products or services endorsed by a celebrity, but how likely is it for a small conservatory supplier from Carlisle to garner such powerful testimonials? Unless you have the budget to persuade the likes of Dave Benson-Phillips and Keith Chegwin to provide some positive feedback on your goods, it’s probably best to forget about a celebrity endorsement.
You certainly shouldn’t just make things up. While Cristiano Ronaldo might well have a splendid conservatory attached to the back of his Madrid home, stating this without the backing of any kind of factual evidence can land in you hot water, even if it is obvious that you’re trying to be funny.
This particular content idea came from an intern that I once worked with, and while it would have been remiss of me to clip the creative wings of such an enthusiastic young upstart, especially on their first day, it was nevertheless important that this article never came to light. On a serious note, it’s scary that so many people who publish online content don’t have any form of media law training. If you fail to ensure your writers and creatives at least know the basics, you’re leaving yourself open to potential legal action.
As the CEO of any major corporation will tell you, it’s never a bad thing for your team to present you with dubious ideas from time to time, the real problems start when they have no ideas at all. While some of the suggestions that I’ve shared with you can be put down to inexperience, over-excitement or a content marketer having a bad day, it goes to show that regardless of how talented and creative you are, it’s impossible to come up with content gold every single time.
Thankfully, the vast majority of ideas that come out of a Bring Digital content planning session tend to be right on the money.
Have you ever been forced to keep a straight face when somebody has started throwing bad content ideas at you? We’d love to hear about them.