140404_Content_Marketing-02Tyler Durden saith: the first rule of branding is you do not talk about your brand.

Which, incidentally, is also the first rule of content marketing. And of pretty much any endeavor where the goal is to win people’s trust.

It may seem straightforward enough. No names. But in practice, there’s quite a bit more to it than simply leaving your brand or company out. Sure, that helps in showing at a glance that whatever you’ve rolled out isn’t a promotional piece, so do it – but once your reader drills down into the content, you’ve got to keep them feeling that way.

And then what about the second rule, and the third, and so on? Agnostic content isn’t just neutral content; it’s content that’s available anywhere, anytime, and talks about things that really help.

Let’s take a quick run through the things that make your content truly agnostic.

1. Is it backing your readers into a corner?

These days, consumers have highly evolved radar when it comes to informational content. It doesn’t take much to detect that an ostensibly ‘educational’ piece is in fact a carefully disguised pitch, with names redacted and scenarios tailored to specific niches (or niches within niches).

That can result in one, or maybe both, of two things: they decide it’s not relevant to their needs and move on, or they see what you did there and you lose trust.

Losing opportunities is bad enough without also being seen as just another marketer with a blatantly obvious agenda. So when you set out to educate, especially for top-of-the-funnel engagement where it takes very little to turn people off, the Tylerism of not talking about yourself is not enough.

A few key considerations to help you spot the wall before your readers bump into it:

  1. Taking a ‘big picture’ approach – covering issues that are widely experienced.
  2. Tying key specifics or ‘niches’ back to the big picture, not the piece itself.
  3. Avoiding trains of logic that lead to your offering being the ‘perfect’ solution.

Going macro over micro, especially in the beginning, helps establish yourself as knowledgeable about the market, instead of just knowledgeable about your product. Of course, this also means getting really practical about what your readers are facing. Which brings us to point number two.

2. Is it addressing real, practical issues?

Thought leadership is a good thing, but there is always a significant section of any audience that’s interested only in content that helps them solve immediate problems. So you can’t afford to not get practical.

Think of it as the ‘hard truths’. Even when you expound on high-brow issues that few outside of the C-level, for instance, would dwell on, never forget to tie them back to what users face. Not sure what those are? Ask the folks whose job it is to find out. Your salespeople.

But then again, play your cards a certain way and you might not need the sales team for that, because your prospects will be telling you straight to your face. Point number three.

3. Is it optimized for social channels?

Perhaps at the dawn of time, when everything was simpler, buyers would trust the word of the corporates and the manufacturers over the opinions and feedback of anonymous strangers. Too bad the world’s grown a lot more cynical since.

Once you accept that user reviews of your offerings are perceived as more trustworthy than even the most honest things you can say, the power of alternative channels, like social media, becomes clear. So, by making your content chime with those, you’re essentially leveraging the crowd.

There are many ways to do this. Daily Lifehack-style tips on Twitter, pictorial contests on Pinterest, ‘ask the experts’ sessions on Facebook – let your marketing strategy drive here. Consider, in this order:

  1. the objective – what are your goals?
  2. the content – what are the best types to use here?
  3. the channels – which are ideal for distributing said content?
  4. points 2 and 3 – do they still align with point 1?
  5. all of the above – in the end, will they resonate with users?

And when the detractors, trolls, and worse come – and they will, sure as eggs is eggs – welcome the criticism. Respond professionally, and don’t be shy to admit a mistake. Because when you mix the bad with the good, the good bits become much more believable. One hundred percent good feedback looks nice and shiny, but it makes a lot of folks suspicious.

So, that’s what being agnostic really means – backing more than one horse. Make that the guiding principle in the content itself as well as the way it’s distributed and handled, and you’re a lot better equipped to avoid the pitfalls of typical brand messaging.

Got more points to add to the list? Share them with us!

And also, take a look at how GetIT Comms cooks up content marketing solutions.

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