Author and humor columnist Dave Barry once acknowledged his fear of covering a stock-car race. I’m paraphrasing here, but his idea of how he might cover such a race went something like this: “The red car was in front. Then the blue car passed the green car. In the end, the yellow car won.”
He simply didn’t find cars driving in large ovals to be riveting theater, even if they were making left turns at speeds often associated with EF5 tornados.
Tens of millions of fans believe NASCAR racing is as exciting as it gets. Others? Not so much. Some believe baseball is too slow, hockey too fast and football too violent. You may think ballet or a symphony orchestra concert is the apex of entertainment while your spouse may consider them the reasons flasks were invented.
Just because it’s boring to you …
It just goes to show that “exciting” and “interesting” is in the eye of the beholder. You’re not likely to find Miss Manners penning an essay about moose hunting. Ernest Hemingway wasn’t known to wax poetic about personal finance.
Marketers don’t always have the benefit of picking and choosing topics. Content creators may find themselves tasked with producing a series of blog posts or an ebook on “smelting.” Regardless of whether the specific definition involves melting iron ore or netting small fish, it may not be the assignment that made you want to become a man or woman of letters.
Fret not. We’re here to help. Consider these four tips on how to make compelling content marketing out of potentially yawn-able topics.1. Move your feet is a phrase I use even when I’m only moving my finger while directing my touch pad. It means finding out everything you can about your subject. I believe you can find something interesting to write about anything, however boring it may seem.
Don’t think about it as a writing challenge so much as a test of your research abilities.
Take Q-tips, for example, a subject that has yet to produce a Pulitzer Prize. A quick Google search turned up an interesting Washington Post story that concludes that Q-tips are among the most perplexing products sold in America. While it’s common for a product to be used for purposes other than intended, Q-tips have the rare distinction of being most often used for reasons the manufacturer goes to great lengths to warn customers against. They are not intended to clean your ears. It says so right on the box!
2. The industry might be boring but a personal story about the founder may be fascinating.
To continue our Q-tip example, a Wikipedia search informs us that Leo Gerstenzang, inventor of the cotton swab, watched his wife wrapping cotton swabs around toothpicks to better clean hard-to-reach areas and was thus inspired. People sticking his invention into their ear canals was probably the last thing on his mind at the time.
Related Content: Dig Deeper to Find the Real Story
3. If your content marketing is supporting a startup and you have an opportunity to interview the founder or CEO … and your content is still boring? Blame yourself, not the topic. Being a good interviewer is a critical component to creating content that engages the reader.
Some interviews are more challenging than others, no question. If interviewing the CEO of a company that makes the small, plastic clips used in the manufacture of automobile dashboards tests your interviewing skills, so be it. If writing were easy, everybody would do it.
Why did he or she start this company? How does their product differ from competitors? What did they do before starting this company? What did they want to be when they were a kid?
Questions such as these can produce answers that will breathe life to even the dullest of subjects.4. Engage the reader by creating content that is helpful and relatable to them.
Q-tips can be used for much more than makeup application and unsafe ear cleansing, after all. They are great for dusting computers, applying paint, removing excess glue, adding detail during the pottery making process, polishing silver, etc.
Window screens may not be worthy of a major motion picture, but knowing that they are rarely used in South America and might be helpful in controlling the Zika virus gives the subject an entirely new context.
By focusing less on the product itself and more on why the product is relevant to the reader, you can help the reader solve a problem and give your content a purpose.
Acknowledge the difficulty and plan ahead
Life is about attitude, right? A good one can make a tough assignment a cinch and a bad one can turn 500 words on your favorite subject an absolute chore.
If you know you’ve got to tackle a tough subject to cover with your content marketing, plan for it. Spend time researching in the days leading up to your deadline so the subject can “simmer” on the backburner of your mind until the deadline nears.
If you’re a writer, challenge yourself. These assignments require skill. They also make for the kind of work that will impress your boss.
If you’re a manager, use a great piece on a tough subject as an example other team members can learn from. Give an award for the best pieces produced per month or quarter as a way of acknowledging the difficulty and rewarding the effort.
And, always remember, what is boring to you is somebody’s passion.
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