As public relations and communications professionals, we all create content. Writing is a core competency to this profession, and is frequently discussed with and emphasized to those preparing for a career in PR. While it’s still true that writing skills are critical, and are no less important than they were, storytelling is now more than just words.
At a recent IABC St. Louis and PRSA St. Louis joint event, Dave Collett, EVP and GM of Weber Shandwick St. Louis, and Chris Vary, VP digital at Weber Shandwick Southwest, offered examples and tips on how to create compelling content that stands out.
The world’s digital content is increasingly findable and sharable. There is a volume explosion occurring in social and digital content! Using content from an EMC Study called “Extracting Value from Chaos,” Collett and Vary showed a chart demonstrating the growth—about nine times what it was five years ago. In 2011, that was 1.8 zettabytes (new word for me—one zettabyte is approximately one billion terabytes, which in bytes is a one followed by 21 zeros). The study also estimates that by 2015, there will be 7.9 zettabytes of data in existence. These numbers are more than staggering, they’re overwhelming! With the amounts of content filling up cyberspace, your content must be as compelling as ever.
What makes content contagious? According to Vary and Collett, you should ask yourself why would people care, and why would people share? The answers should be that the content is:
- Educational, but in a different way
- Emotionally Engaging
They offered up several examples of wildly popular campaigns. Red Bull’s Stratos – Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from 128,000 feet – which broke all kinds of records (and not just the physical ones). This demonstrates Red Bull’s success with promoting a lifestyle, not just a product.
You don’t have to have those kinds of numbers for your campaign to be a success. Vary and Collett presented another example–Stratasys, a company that makes 3D printers. They “printed” a robotic exoskeleton for a little girl who couldn’t raise her arms. She dubbed them her “magic arms.” There was lots of media coverage and I dare you to watch the YouTube video and not get a little misty-eyed. (Note if you’re in a hurry, after the first two minutes, jump to 2:55 for the rest.) This is an emotionally engaging example of focusing on the human side and the product’s effect of on people.
Content doesn’t always have to be serious. Content doesn’t have to be expensive, either. It can even be irreverent—depending, of course, on your industry and organization’s business mission. Just take a look at DollarShaveClub.com’s brotastic and amusing “Our Blades are F***ing Great” campaign.
Vary and Collett stressed that while these are all YouTube examples, and video is a great platform, compelling content doesn’t have to be video. Mappings have been trending in the past year or so. Haven’t we all done the New York Times Online questionnaire that asks you questions about your vernacular and then predicts where you live or are from? Facebook offered up its own version of mapping with the NFL team allegiance charts. You can create features like this yourself by using the Facebook graph search, using U.S. census data, or another data source—the key is to package it in a compelling manner.
The bottom line is, it’s not just about awareness anymore. PR now creates awareness and engagement—actions, enrollments, sales, whatever—to support the overall business objectives of the organization. What are some of the most compelling pieces of content you’ve seen recently, and what aspects have you applied to your own content? How do you continue to create compelling content, and where do you find your inspiration?