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Breathing Life Into Your Content

Posted: January 3, 2013 at 3:43 P.M.
by Nicole Hohman

Take a moment.

Peel your eyes away from your smartphone. Don’t refresh your email feed. Stop the search for the perfect filter for your latest iPhone picture. Refrain from formulating a witty 140-character tweet. Log off your Facebook account. Shut your laptop.

Think about it.

Why do these distractions hold your interest?

The most logical answer is that each of these items caters to our unique interests. We can personalize what we want to see and when we want to see it. We control who we friend on Facebook, who we follow on Twitter and what emails we decide to answer. We have the power to exercise selective hearing.

This can pose a serious problem for PR professionals. With so many technology-based distractions, how are we expected to captivate and hold the attention of our audience?

Compelling content is a subject often brushed aside. This is mostly due to the lack of attention paid to the creative process. Creativity could arguably be the most significant force in public relations. Not only can creativity ensure quality over quantity in your work, but it also plays a vital role in adding extra flare to your content — whether that be an infographic, article, campaign, lecture or a personal/professional social media account.

So, what exactly is compelling content? Is it simply content that is compelling?

Though the exact definition of compelling content is uncertain, Jeff Barrett, CEO of Status Creative, believes that you must create content that stands out from the mass of information to get an audience to receive your message.

“Compelling content is different for everyone. We all find different things compelling,” Barrett said. “The key is to create content that is widely accessible to varying interests while making that content original enough to make people stop and look.”

From crafting a blog post to putting together a presentation, it is essential to find a way to relate to our audience. As PR pros, we are encouraged to focus on starting the conversation. We are challenged to engage an audience, find out what hooks the members of that audience and discover unique ways for them to interact with one another.

“That’s the goal. You’re not trying to say ’here’s our content, now go do something with it.’ That’s the mistake that is most often made in social media,” Barrett said. “Ask questions; get people involved with your brand; have them touch it, feel it, interact.”

The most successful users of compelling content concentrate on knowing who their audience is and how to address them. Once you determine your target audience, you can then efficiently determine what content or platform is appealing to that audience. After assessing what your audience needs to hear, you can create eccentric yet directed content that incites a response.

“You have to change your outlook. Creativity doesn’t only apply to content,” Barrett said. “It also applies to how you go about engaging an audience, how you find ways to connect dots, leverage your network and find beneficial interests.”

Implementing creativity in content creation can captivate an audience. Most content is devoid of any personality. It is much more feasible to relate to content when you can pair it with a face or attitude.

“Make sure your personality is known in your writing and presentations. It’s what sets you apart and makes you different,” Barrett said. “Define yourself to the point where when someone hears you speak, write or present they know it’s you. Look at what your competitors are doing; find and create your niche. Make sure that niche is authentic and comfortable.”

Mike Little, advertising and PR instructor at The University of Alabama, also believes that participation in your content stimulates an audience.

“Compelling content is content that engages, but that also gives an opportunity for sharing,” Little said. “You must interact with it somehow. You become part of the content. There must be reaction and back and forth.”

Little, a creative thinker with a knack for unconventional advertising, revealed his primary focus when coming up with unique tactics to engage an audience.

“The secret is what the audience deems the single most interesting topic . . . themselves!” Little said. “If they can somehow be integrated into the content it makes them a lot more interested.”

When dealing with compelling content, Little emphasized the “what’s in it for me?” evaluation. If the audience personally considers the content usable and relevant, they will retain the information. If not, the content will be brushed aside.

“You must make your content more alive,” Little said. “Don’t have dead content.”

In a post titled “The Seven Essential Elements of Compelling Content” on The @Steveology Blog, Steve Farnsworth reveals the many factors of effective content. Some of these factors include relevance to a reader’s interests, intriguing or provoking material, and a personable approach offering a distinct voice.

Content generation is definitely case-by-case, but understanding what seizes the attention of your target audience and grabs them is a primary launching point.

“The key is understanding the audience, and the most important thing to them is THEM,” Little said. “Know them; then you can build your content around them.”

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