What is the difference between good content and bad content?
Over the past few years we've been asking top strategists and creators this question as part of our Content All-Stars series of Q&As.
While there has been a range of different responses, something that's stood out is the remarkable overlap in the answers. Over and over, the same core things come up as being essential to success.
Specifically, our interviewees have repeatedly cited these four elements as the keys to creating good content:
- Good Content Evokes an Emotional Response
As consistently cited by the experts we interviewed, the foundation of good content is its ability to connect. As Ryan Bujeker of United Airlines put it: "Good content always evokes an emotion; whether it’s funny or cute or educational or informative, good content piques interest or taps into a passion point."
What qualities do emotionally-resonant content pieces have in common? Often they tell a good story.
As Kristie Helms of State Street told us: "To me good content is just a good story. It is something that makes you feel some sort of emotion. I don’t ever think of a good content as making an ad or writing a white paper; I think about the story behind what we’re saying."
Of course, good storytelling isn't simple. Daniele Kohen of Neo@Ogilvy highlighted that it often requires hard work from many people. As he said to us: "Storytelling comes from having the right content team: content producers, managing editors, content creators, you name it. It takes a village to do it right."
- Content Must Serve a Purpose for the Audience
While storytelling is essential, it is only part of the puzzle. A number of the experts we interviewed noted that good content doesn't just spark interest, it also serves an audience need.
As Monica Norton of Zendesk put it: "Good content has an audience-focused purpose. It has been designed and created with the benefit of the audience in mind. It’s something that they want or need to learn; it’s something that they can use in their job; it’s something that will entertain or excite them."
That content should have a purpose came up again and again in the Q&As, with different interviewees framing the idea in slightly different ways.
Claudia Cahill of Omnicom’s The Content Collective said to us: "Put simply: good content is something that consumers want to see. It cannot be forced. It cannot be inauthentic."
And Clair Byrd of Twilio noted: "The number one difference between good content and bad content is service: bad content doesn’t serve its user."
Why is this audience need so important? Because if content doesn't serve a purpose then it will leave people feeling unfulfilled.
As Noah Mallin of MEC Wavemaker told us: "Great content is something that’s compelling enough to make a person want to spend time with it and feel like they got some value from it.
Ultimately, that’s the most important exchange that we can help to foster: that exchange of attention for value."
- Content Must Serve a Purpose for the Business
A piece of content that tells a great story and serves an audience need can still fail if it doesn't also help the firm creating it achieve some goal.
As Ben Blakesley of Reebok said to us: "The last thing you want is to be creating content just because it sounds really cool or is the latest shiny object. Content that doesn’t help achieve business objectives is bad content."
Another way to think about this is that good content always spurs some audience action and/or reaction that is of value to its creator. This value can be judged in several ways - it could be to grow brand awareness (measured using a suitable content analytics tool onsite where where the content is published), it could be lead acquisition or it could be to demonstrate product value through case studies or testimonials
As Gary Stein of Eleven put it: "When a brand creates content, it needs to remember that it is doing that for a business reason. After exposure to and engagement with the content, the consumer must be closer to buying or believing."
How do you ensure that your content is serving a business purpose? Penni Geller of CA Technologies advised that creators should always ask some core questions before developing pieces: "[Good content] has to be something of value for your brand. It has to somehow connect to what you do and why you do it. Is it helping to drive awareness? Is it improving the perception of your company? Is it driving people to take an action? Is it improving customer loyalty? It’s necessary to ask those questions before creating any piece of content."
- Good Content Reaches Its Intended Audiences
While it is important to devote plenty of time and resources to content creation, it is also necessary to think long and hard about what happens next. Fundamentally, even the greatest pieces of content will fail if they do not reach audiences in the right channels, in the right formats, and at the right times.
As Steve Rubel of Edelman said to us: "The highest-quality doesn’t always win. It’s the folks who also understand the dynamics of distribution, how technology is changing, and behavioral patterns, who are the most successful."
The importance of mastering distribution and reaching audiences effectively is especially important today, as the Internet continues to drive rapid shifts in consumer behavior. John Lytell of Progressive Insurance noted to us: "Relevant brands, especially in the digital space, need to be where their audiences are in those moments of need."
Ultimately, good content is born from executing well across all these areas. What emerged from our Q&As is that success comes from a well thought out, data-driven content strategy that consistently produces pieces which connect emotionally, serve an audience need, do something valuable for the business, and that are distributed effectively.
You may be interested in: NativeAI's Complete Content Analytics Guide