What Makes Content Great?

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When I started working at FortyFour, I was the only member of the newly established content team. But FortyFour is growing. Since the time I’ve been here, we’ve practically doubled in size and what was once a solo content venture is now a solid team of three.

As both our team and agency grow, old ways of thinking and doing must be amended with, if not outright replaced by scalable ways of ensuring our work is original and value generating for our clients. As FortyFour’s content team matures, so has the need to create frameworks that enable us to sustain the high quality of work it has become known for.

When I set out to create a broader framework for effective content creation, I started with a simple question: What is great content? When I read, watch or listen to a great piece of content, what are the attributes that actually made it good? I’ve identified four characteristics that are nearly universal in great content.

  1. Great content is compelling.

    It speaks directly to the audiences wants and needs. It entices and enthralls. It leverages shared experiences and common truths to shape narratives we identify with. That may sound a little epic, but it need not.Nike’s unexpected, even daring Find Your Greatness campaign spoke to the desire in all of us to strive for excellence. But Dos Equis’ charming and iconic Most Interesting Man in the World campaign was equally if not more compelling even though it sprang from a humble idea: The notion that even those of us that aren’t big beer drinkers still want reach for a cold one from time to time.

    Great content probes for and magnifies those truths, and sets the stage for the second attribute that great content possesses.

  2. Great content is conversion- or action-oriented.

    It moves people, emotionally and mentally, closer to the point of purchase, ideally through an action that is trackable such as clicking on a link, signing up for an email newsletter, or adding an item to the cart.Being conversion-oriented is not the same as being salesy. Yes, “Everything must go” is conversion-oriented, but it’s not compelling. It tells me that products are available, not shows me why I want them.

    A better example of conversion-oriented content is the Now is the Time brand campaign developed by FortyFour for CREDO Mobile, a San Francisco-based cellular carrier that donates a portion of every month’s revenue to progressive political causes. The Now is the Time campaign leveraged the political urgency of our current moment, marrying the company’s products and services with clear messages around how joining CREDO made a social impact. The campaign was a huge success, helping CREDO to expand brand recognition and surpass its critical 4th quarter sales goals.

    CREDO Content
    CREDO Mobile “Now Is the Time” Campaign



  3. Great content is extensible.

    It’s unlikely your marketing program only uses one channel to distribute messaging. It’s key that the content you’ve invested in be structured in such a way that it can be easily extended to the various media types and platforms consumed by your audience on a regular basis.This is similar but not identical to virality, that elusive but highly desired event in which general users help your content spreads like wildfire.Creating content that is easily shareable is of course a good idea. But the core belief underlying content extensibility is that the concept needs to be easily extendable to other media by the brand, not by its audiences. It needs to be shot, written or recorded in such a way that it can be repurposed for different channels and repackaged for new platforms without large additional investments.

    In other words: Make your white paper into an audio white paper, or a webinar. Put your webinar presentation on slideshare. Take the content you’ve invested in, and find ways to stretch it. More so, think about where you’d like to extend it to before you even begin concepting.

  4. Great content is resilient.

    Create content that is of enduring interest to your audience. Your brand should have pillars: key subjects that highlight the ways your products and services provide value for your customers.Good brand pillars will enable resilient content: They will be rich, powerful subjects that can be explored in-depth, in a variety of ways, and over time without losing the fascination of the audience. General Electric’s daring and inventive approach to content creation is driven by the strong brand pillars that they are able to leverage.

In future posts, we’ll explore our approach to ensuring these attributes are present in all the content we create.

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