How to be a content renegade

A black and white shot of the famous renegade of the acting world, Marlon Brando, starring in the Godfather
I can’t remember the last time you invited me to your office for some content writing

Image by Steve Troughton, used under Creative Commons licence 1.0

Despite being disappointed with the series ending, I loved Mad Men! And as a copywriter I enjoy reading about the adventures in advertising on Madison Avenue (read ‘From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor’, by Jerry de la Femina) and the stories behind the creativity.

Advertisers would be out on cocktail lunches for hours, or turn up when they felt like it some days. In one episode of Mad Men, creative director Don Draper turns up to a pitch half cut and still walks away with the prospect’s business.

These guys were unpredictable. They combined flashes of insight and expertise with a desire to go against the status quo. They were renegades.

For them, the rules were meant to be broken.

This is how to be a content renegade and produce original pieces of content.

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Finding a story

Close up of the Matrix numbers face sequence
There’s a story in here somewhere… aha, gotcha!

Image by Isaiah115, used under Creative Commons license SA 2.0

People don’t just like stories: they love them! They love them so much, in fact, that they tell them every day.

But how do we content marketers find a good story to tell them when we’re researching for content ideas? Well, when you’re scratching your bonce in front of the data, the first thing to realise is, the data is telling you more than one story.

First, there’s the obvious story, the one which screams ‘Write about me’, hoping that the content devil sitting on your shoulder will persuade you to choose the option and run with it.

Then there’s the not-so-obvious story, which demands that you to get creative to see it. How? By looking at the facts from the opposite angle. Take this random nonsensical statistic I’ve made up just this minute as an example:

Six out of every ten content marketers believes that shaving their head helps them to write better content.

Story 1: 6 out of every 10 content marketers believes that shaving their head helps them to write better content. Duh!

Story 2: 4 out of every 10 content marketers believes that shaving their head makes no difference to their content.

And there you have a starting point for your next blog post: Does shaving your head really improve your content writing?

Maybe there’s even a series in this, focusing on the believers and why they feel shaving their head really does make them better wordsmiths, then following it up with one focusing on the skeptics, getting them to take part in an experiment, albeit a bizarre one in the case of this example!

Incidentally, I started to grow a beard in September and I do feel my writing has improved since then. Could be the beard or it could be Slickwrite. Common sense tells me Slickwrite has been the determining factor, but I’d like to think it was the beard. I so hope it was the beard, I really do!

Transform a non-event into an event

When we produce a piece of content for a blog or for social media, often we feel it’s something people would want to see, or at least that we’d expect them to like to see. Perhaps it’s a how-to video, or a video of a presentation, or a bit of news that people would be interested, and that’s fine. It brings in the punters and the traffic.

But thinking outside of the box, you may wish to publish content on an event you wouldn’t normally give coverage of. I’m sure we all remember the infamous hijacking of the official HMV Twitter account as employees vented their anger, in real time, over dismissals that were taking place at the company.

I’m not suggesting you rush to Facebook Live or your Twitter account the minute a fist fight breaks out between Nigel in Accounts and Stefan in HR, no. What I am saying is that the incident went viral because it was so unexpected and so unusual for something like that to be put out on the Net. Let’s face it, it was renegade!

Gril outdoors shrugging with her hands out and palms facing upwards
‘You tell me! I didn’t know this was gonna happen!’

Image by chase_elliott, used under Creative Commons licence 2.0

So take a look at your business, your life, whatever, and don’t just publish things people would expect to see. Maybe publish a behind-the-scenes video of an upcoming event, rather than just footage of the event itself. If you’re due to give a speech or a big presentation, or about to take part in a local or national tournament, don’t just publish the presentation or the contest itself. Instead, in the run-up to the moment of truth, or after it, publish a piece of content about your preparations, whether that’s rehearsing your speech or how you trained for that all important win. The nosey ones among us love that behind-the-scenes stuff!

While we’re on the subject of videos, video marketing and live streaming – Facebook Live, in particular – is set to be the next big thing in content. That’s the word on the digital street, and I’m inclined to agree. In fact, I’m more than inclined. I’ve been harping on about it to some of my colleagues in the digital industry for the last few months now!

Relish the inexperience

This is a gutsy decision, but it can really repay you with some sublime content.

Who’s the most experienced or longest serving person on the team? Identified them? Good, great – now put them on something else and let someone from another department,¬†or someone on the team who’s less experienced, have a bash at the content (if they’d like to!) instead.

Risky? Certainly.

But as much as you might be tempted to step in and change this, that or the other, don’t. The beauty of inexperience is that it can yield an approach to tasks you hadn’t even begun to think of, or a style of writing that’s like a summery peach punch compared to your usual lemon tea prose. By that I mean ‘refreshing’, if you didn’t get the metaphor!

Step back and let them amaze you. As the poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson said (in the days before politically correct language!): ‘Trust men and they will be true to you. Treat them greatly and they will show themselves to be great.’

It’s a hard life being a renegade

Producing original content is hard slog, but work hard for your content and your content will work hard for you. Do it by being a renegade. By going against what’s expected. By interpreting the data in your own way. By embracing new ideas.

Famous renegade thinkers (though they might not necessarily think of themselves as such) include advertising legend Sir John Hegarty and business and marketing author Seth Godin. Read their material and you’ll see where I’m coming from. It’s good stuff.

If you’re struggling with your content and not sure what to try next, give some of these ideas a whirl and see what happens. In the meantime, my keyboard and I are off to rebel. Who’s with me?


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