Resources  >> Trite, Banal, and Boring: How to Generate Content that Creates High-End Brands

About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  August 01, 2008

Trite, Banal, and Boring: How to Generate Content that Creates High-End Brands

Originally published for RainToday.com

Between the explosion of the internet, media outlets, teleclasses and webinars, professional service firms have many opportunities to showcase their expertise. Getting in front of our ideal clients with blogs, articles and speeches is also much easier. The challenge now: this noisy marketplace has raised the bar on creative content that demonstrates the “something special” all high-end brands have. Here are three ways to cut through the clutter.

Redefine what’s new

Why do so many experts say the same thing? Because they stay in general education mode too long. When a new challenge arises, the marketplace welcomes the heads-up and an initial environmental scan. But after identifying the problem, buyers move on to implementation mode. They want to know the nitty gritty of what to do next, and look for experts with the tools to make the move. Experts who give information that’s now conventional wisdom get left behind.

That’s why new is a moving target. Buyers define new based on comparison of what is already out there. Experts who archive the environmental scans and move with the market demonstrate that they are abreast of the issue. By staying ahead of the information curve, our content assumes conventional wisdom and attracts advance buyers by saying “What’s next is….”

There are two questions to generate content that rises above the fray. First, ask yourself: “What is the biggest challenge not being addressed on this issue?” Your answer forces your content to go into uncharted territory. Another great question: “What behavior changes have to occur in order to make the critical changes ahead?” Your answers will use what’s already out there as a springboard for your new insights.

Example: For the past couple of years, working with the Millennial generation has become a hot topic. Experts who jumped on this trend first started with general education: who these kids are and how they are different from the boomers. That kind of information is now free, so any expert with only general comparisons will be seen as a one of manyresource. What’s next now: insights and tools that change the day-to-day interactions between these two.

Inch Wide, a Mile Deep

In the spirit of educating our marketplace, it’s tempting to pack a lot of information into a single class or article. Restrain yourself at all costs. We’ve all sat through that boring presentation while the speaker reads a laundry list of recommendations from their 37 PowerPoint slides. And how many of us actually read that 50-plus page, white paper filled with bullet points we already knew? Giving too much content does more damage than good. Our audience is no longer willing to drink from our fire hose.

The 101 ways approach creates a commoditized brand. Why? The wide scope here forces skimming on a wide variety of recommendations. And the lack of space doesn’t allow an in-depth perspective on any action items. Therefore, you never show the audience that you understand the nuances. And it’s the nuance that creates intrigue.

Instead, narrow the scope and drill down. Focus on one top issue and redefine the challenge at hand. Limit your recommendations to two or three but give more specific information about each one. Readers assume that if you can discuss one aspect in depth, that you have just as much knowledge on related subjects.

Example: Instead of writing about the top ten recommendations in getting media attention, a PR firm distributes a white paper about the biggest trend: cause marketing and its impact on media relations and branding. Not only will this expert get more inquiries from those investigating this option, she will also brand herself as a resource for ancillary projects such as sponsorship and endorsement deals.

Go Beyond Conventional Wisdom

Another reason why content can backfire: the misuse of the “there’s nothing new under the sun” theory. Many experts use this saying as an excuse for intellectual laziness. Instead of probing into an issue for insights, they focus on that unique turn of phrase or funny story instead. High-fee buyers see right through the clever word play and perceive the expert using them as all style and no substance.

Yes, it’s true that much of our thinking has roots in the past. And thanks to the Internet, those roots are exposed for all to see. Given that these ideas are a dime a dozen, what separates the unique from the ubiquitous? More specific insights that change perceptions and create new understanding.

Two ways to shake up the buyers thinking:

  1. Discuss the “elephant in the room.” Everyone knows about what’s really going on but when you verbalize it, you give the animal shape and form. This opens the door for frank discussions and new perspective.
  2. Unveil the invisible. When you put verbiage around the emotional side of a situation, you just switched on the light in a dark room. Everyone can see their situation in a new light. When we learn what’s behind our behavior, we have a new understanding and new ideas on what to do next.

Examples: Best-selling author Jim Collins addresses a taboo subject head-on when he questions the motivations of many charismatic leaders. His views about the leader’s ego were controversial when his book From Good to Great came out years ago. Money guru Suze Orman was among the first to introduce the emotional side of overspending and debt. Her insights built a media empire that is still going on strong.

Stand Out

Special reports, webinars, media interviews and speeches are only as good as the substance they provide. The bar for creative content has risen. Imaginative word play without insightful thinking won’t make the phone ring anymore.

We can go from experts to gurus when we step out, stand up, and say what isn’t being said. How we redefine an issue and what we say about it makes all the difference. To be credible to high-fee buyers, we need to be willing to burn up some brain cells.

Filed Under: Branding, Content Marketing


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.