Jan Gordon
August 20, 2015

Attract An Audience With Content People Actually Want

By Michael Brenner

“How To Make Content Real Good”

That was the original title of the presentation I gave recently to a group of communications and marketing professionals. It was kind of a joke.

Funny, am I right? I just couldn’t do it. My English degree and my somewhat latent OCD just wouldn’t let me. (My kids broke me of both I think.)

And so I presented How To Make Content People Actually Want.

The real worry about presenting something like this is that I had met so many people in my career who had no interest whatsoever in creating anything people actually wanted…

They created stuff because their boss asked them to. They did what they’ve always done. They created stuff because they resigned themselves to just creating stuff.

Create Content That Matters

(Personal story alert!) My Dad passed away 5 years ago next month. We found out he had lung cancer two days after Father’s Day. I starkly remember kissing his bald head and wishing him a great Father’s day, not knowing it would be his last.

He was gone less than 8 weeks later.

My father spent his life making stuff. He never complained. He provided for all of us – my Mom, and I, and my 3 siblings.

We knew he hated going to work and loved coming home to us. I recall how happy he was when I helped him plot the economics of his retirement to occur as soon as heavenly possible.

My parents never went to college. They never really pushed us to go either. They could hardly afford to help my oldest brother (now ranked one of the best college professors in America!) with his first few years in school. And yet, away we all went, with ambition to succeed, to get a degree, and to chase our dreams.

While the encouragement was never spoken, I think much of the ambition I’ve felt in my career was based on the quiet sadness of seeing my father toil away doing work that he didn’t particularly care for. Those were different times. And I know he felt lucky to be able to provide for his family.

When I graduated from college he told me to get a good job. I knew he wanted me to find something that mattered to me. To contribute something meaningful.

Why am I offering this rare and slightly awkward glimpse into my childhood?

Because I believe that life is too short to just do what you’re told. To do what your boss asked you to do. To do what your company has always done.

Life is too short to stay in a job you don’t love, doing things you don’t care about. Or partnering with people who would rather vote you off the island.

I really enjoyed presenting “How To Create Content That People Actually Want” because too many of us are just clocking in.

Because so much of the content we create is wanted by no one. Promotion. Propaganda. Tech Sheets. Brochures. Talking head videos.

I like challenging marketing and communications people to dream bigger, to create content people might even love to consume or share, and to make stuff they love to create.

I enjoy helping people do stuff they love. Can I help you?

But Everyone Creates Content

One of my favorite defense mechanisms by traditional marketers and curmudgeonly executives is “Content marketing is just the latest buzzword. Everyone is creating content. To rise above all that noise, we need to present our unique point of view.”

But here’s the problem. I am interested in your unique point of view . . . said no one  . . . ever!!!

Your customers are looking for solutions to their problems. They are looking to be informed and maybe even entertained.

They are looking to laugh and maybe even to feel something, well, human.

That’s the bar.

And yet my secret is that it’s not that hard. Just answer your customers’ questions.

Remember that behind each one of those likes and tweets and page-view stats is a person like you and me. A person with a job, maybe a mortgage, or some kids. Probably a boss they don’t love. Or a job they wish they didn’t hate. Just help them!

All it takes is a little bit of empathy. But . . .

How do you explain empathy to an executive who has none?

This was the question that came up in a conversation I had recently with an accomplished storyteller. The answer: Fear!

  • Hey boss, check out how our competition shows up first on Google.
  • Hey boss, check out all these high-volume search terms in our space that we don’t use to inform our content plans.
  • Hey boss, check out all these influencers and publishers and competitors who are better at attracting our audience with great content. Because they made it their mission to do so.
  • Hey boss, check out how much money we spend on paid search for brand search terms because we don’t rank organically.
  • Hey boss, check out how much money we spend on unbranded search terms in our category because we don’t create content to answer those queries.

If you can’t attract an audience with content people actually want, then show them how your competition is doing exactly that.

3 Tips For Creating Content People Actually Want

I have 3 relatively simple yet surprisingly challenging tips for creating content people want:

  1. Create content for real people based on real questions they ask. You can find this on Google.
  2. Create the types of content people love to read and share. You can find this on each and every social network.
  3. Have some fun. Be human. And maybe even a little funny. Try it. Who knows, your audience might love it.



Michael BrennerMichael Brenner is Head of Strategy . Former VP of Marketing and Content Strategy . Speaker, Author and Blogger .

This article was previously titled “How To Create Content People Actually Want” and posted on LinkedIn and is republished here with permission.


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