Earlier this year I started writing a daily music blog. The idea was to let iTunes randomly select one track every day (i have over 13,000 by the way), and I would then write a short post about that track. Included in the review would be two scores - based on "serendipity" (i.e. how surprising the track was to be selected) and "love" (self explanatory). Multiplying these scores together created a "Serendipity Index" with the highest score representing the track which both surprised and delighted.
Now whilst I'm a big music fan, the #1 reason I started the project was to get into the habit of writing and distributing content. Regularly. This was an exercise in marketing discipline and to be truthful I wasn't interested in building a following or even that my blog was read. I needed to experience being a content marketer.
Well, I'm a big believer that all brands will effectively be publishers in the next five years and that marketers need to respond to this challenge. We all have to get used to creating opinion-based content that talks to our company's market and not to our products. And to cut through the noise of digital marketing, we have to be interesting, controversial and/or engaging. We have to write like humans not like robots. And we have to write frequently.
So what did I learn? Well firstly, I have to admit, the process has been challenging. You'd be surprised how hard it is to find the time every day to write a few paragraphs on a song. In fact if you check the post dates on the blog, you'll see I've played catch-up a few times on a backlog of tracks! Anyway its been an interesting exercise. Here are my four key findings:
1. Great writers are to be cherished. Don't ever believe that writing is easy and that anyone can do it. Good copywriting is a rare skill. I've come to find out that words don't come easy to me and that it takes several edits just to produce a few paragraphs. So invest the time to find and retain good writers - either from outside or inside your company. And a Content/Editorial Director is a great hire should you have room on your team.
2. Having a point of view is tiring. Boy can I tell you having something interesting to say every day is hard work. Especially when iTunes throws you up an obscure track that you can't remember how it got into your music library. Good writers develop a tone of voice - this is something again not to be underrated. Marketers should have a house style or framework to refer to. Does your brand want to be perceived as serious? Knowledgeable? Impressive? Humorous? Likable? Edgy? Safe? Trusted? Innovative? Reliable? Brand guidelines help set the tone.
3. Content marketing need discipline. It requires determination and discipline to produce good content regularly. Don't let the mood take you. Like taking vitamins, you have a get into a routine and stick with it. I know better than most as I lapsed fairly regularly! I was on a daily production schedule, but even a weekly or monthly cycle can be challenging. So setting an editorial calendar, based on themes, company events or industry news can help ease the frequency.
4. Algorithms kill creativity. If there's ever an illustration of how computers lack imagination, its iTunes shuffle. I have 13,000+ tracks by 100s of artists and yet the same (few) artists got chosen "randomly" every day. And it wasn't even the artists with a large number of tracks in my library. Even worse, iTunes served up the same tracks repeatedly. So the reality was within a few months I had to start skipping the initial suggestion. And then I made my own subjective opinions in making a selection. If I'd let iTunes do the work, I would've ended up with a repetitive blog featuring the same artists. So my point here is, whatever the scenario, don't like algorithms drive the ultimate decision. Gut, instinct and creativity still remain a human quality. So, yes, use science but blend this with the creative and ultimately this will make your marketing cut through the crowd.