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Does your content sink without a trace?

Posted by Dan Hatch on 28th August , 2019 in The Write Fit
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When I first started as a reporter at The West Australian newspaper, Paul Armstrong was the editor. I’d never had a boss I was scared of before. Paul terrified me.

In a moment I’ll share with you some advice he gave me that will help transform your brand’s content into a real powerhouse for your business, but first just let me give you an example of why this guy terrified the crap out of me.

One day, after a particularly long shift, Paul called me on my drive home and demanded I come back into the office. Actually, “mate, where the **** are you?” was how he put it, which is never a particularly good sign.

He made me drive back to the office, gave me a lecture about leaving the newsroom without checking with the night editor, and made me stand behind him while he rewrote every single word of the story I’d written that day. The whole thing took about two hours.

I found out years later (from a senior colleague) that he’d done it for fun and there was nothing wrong with the article I’d written. The colleague remembered, specifically, because they’d laughed about it.

The best advice about writing I was ever given

So, he was not an uncomplicated person but, like I said, Paul really knew his stuff. And he really did give me the single best piece of advice I ever received in my 20-year-long career as a journalist.

It’s advice that can revolutionise your company’s content, too.

“We’ve got to give them a reason to buy the paper. Give them something they can’t get anywhere else.”

– Paul Armstrong, terrifying former editor, The West Australian


In other words, you have to give your audience a reason to engage with your content. You have to create content that turns your content platform into a destination.

Paul’s argument was that no-one was going to buy the paper to read something they’d seen on the six o’clock news the night before. Every single day we needed to take the story further, find a new angle, dig deeper. We needed to add value.

It’s such a simple idea, but it’s one that can turn around the fortunes of a tired old blog or a neglected company newsletter.

So, how do you do it?

How to add value to your content and grow your audience

This weekend Sarah and I are in transit to the US, where we will be speaking at Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio. The slides I’m about to share with you are taken from our presentation, so consider this a sneak peek!

Let’s pretend you’re the owner of a small independent company that makes and sells scuba gear.

One day a really exciting new shipwreck is discovered that your audience will want to know about.

Now, you could just write a blog post about the discovery but by the time you send it out, chances are your audience will have seen the news elsewhere. And how can you expect to attract eyeballs when you’re competing with reputable major news outlets and FOX News?

So, don’t compete with them. Take the story further. Add value. Think about what related content you could create that leverages the discovery of the new shipwreck while giving your audience something completely new.

Consider things like:

  • Long-form content
  • Listicles
  • Image galleries
  • Podcasts
  • Guest posts from experts
  • “Vox pops” style opinion pieces.

Brainstorm dozens of ideas. Hundreds.

Obviously, there will be some stupid ones in there, but select the best half-dozen or so to create and share with your audience.

By creating something original, rather than regurgitating information your audience can find elsewhere, you’re giving them a reason to engage with your content. If they like it, they’re more likely to come back. (And not because you called them up and demanded they come back, but because they actually really wanted to come back, all of their own accord).

Give them something they can’t get anywhere else. They’ll reward you with loyalty. And that is the true value of value-added content.

Dan Hatch, August 2019


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