Data-driven – heard of it? It’s certainly something a lot of marketers are dealing with these days. That’s right. In a practice where it’s all about using increasingly creative ideas to persuade people to do something, we are being ever more expected to be absolutely certain that the creative will work.
There’s an irony in that.
Content marketing is something that cannot, inherently, be data-driven. It can certainly be informed by data. It can be influenced by the insight derived by data. But a great, valuable content asset is not a tactic that can simply be A/B tested and then switched over to the highest performing version.
That’s an advertisement – and content marketing is not an ad.
Stories create contradiction
Engaging stories set out to deliberately draw a conflict – a comparison of morality, or of fundamental change, or of good and evil. Great stories begin at a place where we don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Great stories thrive on uncertainty.
The story of how you met your wife starts with you not knowing if she would eventually become your wife… You had no idea.
Thought leadership is a point of view
Similarly, if we are trying to establish ourselves as thought leaders in our industry, the white papers we create, the articles we author should have a distinct point of view – independent of whether or not they are clicked on. Their purpose is to illustrate our amazing and unique thoughts on a particular topic, not be optimised for the greatest number of clicks. Great thought leadership lives on the uncertainty of whether a potential visitor will agree or disagree with our point of view. Both are equally valid and valuable responses.
Marketers hate uncertainty
As marketers today, we are inundated with reasons to do the opposite of these two things. We operate from knowledge, from past experiences. We very often only act when we have the data to support our product, our position, our package, our pricing or our promotion.
In fact, we’ve historically scaled our data-analysis skills in marketing to the point where we know exactly what the safest road to travel will be. Then we blame the creative if the marketing doesn’t perform. Could it be that the data drove the creative to be so bland? No, it’s the creative writer or designer we hired. They just weren’t good enough.
This is wrong and has to change.
To become storytellers, to become thought leaders, we’ve got to change this thinking. We’ve got to not only embrace the absence of data in most situations, we should, ourselves, make time to move occasionally into the uncertainty and into the winds of change.
We need to exercise our creativity as frequently as possible to let it bloom and deliver us a contradiction, a conflict – a story that will introduce an uncertain future that we can resolve with a passionate, engaging story.
Uncertainty is a place we have to make space for in our content marketing strategy. It is a place where we sometimes feel panic, or where we don’t know where to go. It’s a place where we have no idea what should or will come next. And it can often provide truths that you could have never believed before.
We can use this uncertainty to build a story around a piece of content we want to write for our content marketing – or we can use it to develop entirely new brands or even our own career paths. Use the uncertainty to summon your genius and move your audience into something that immediately draws a conflict, or a contradiction that must be resolved… that an audience will engage with you until it is resolved…
So find the time to embrace uncertainty. Use the benefit of not knowing what the answer is to summon your inspiration, your wisdom. That’s how you become different. That’s how you start to tell stories – and it’s what makes your story remarkable.
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