How to create content people actually want to read

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For many travel companies, it’s the Holy Grail of content marketing: an article or travel guide, hosted on their website, which has an average read time of more than six or seven minutes, and a bounce rate below 10%.

In other words, it’s a piece of content that’s engaging, inspiring and full of insight. And every minute that feature holds the reader’s attention, it’s building his or her trust in the company’s brand.

But how is content like that produced? It’s not easy, but at the same time, there’s no great mystery to the process. You just need to find the right people, organise them properly, and give them a clear objective.

Here’s how.

Define your audience

First of all, establish the broad parameters of the project. Who are you trying to attract? Is it your existing customer base, or a new market? Please don’t say “both”. Getting the subject and tone of an article right is hard enough without trying to give it universal appeal. So if you’re marketing a new adventure travel company for 50-something couples, don’t try talking to their sons and daughters as well.

Define your theme

Keyword research is important at this point. But so is a good dose of lateral thinking – because everyone else has done their keyword research too.

Take those 50-something adventurers I mentioned earlier. You’ll have to fight hard for good results on Google if you target the obvious searches they’re making: “The 10 best safaris in Africa” is an article that’s been published 100 times. The obvious left-field subjects have been extensively covered too. Search for “safari packing guide” and you’ll see what I mean. These days, you’ll have to be more inventive. Could a funny, informative article about the weather in the Masai Mara break through, when there are only temperature graphs to compete against? Chances are, an unusual but well-targeted theme will get more clicks on your email newsletter, too.

They'll want to know what the weather's like, as well as how to pack.  Image: Andrej Kubik

They'll want to know what the weather's like, as well as how to pack.  Image: Andrej Kubik

Hire the best writer you can afford

Once you’ve roughly mapped out the terrain, it’s time to find the best writer for the job. At this point, many travel companies look to their own staff. After all, they often know the subject inside out. But it’s a waste of time if they’re not talented writers. What makes travel writing excellent is the transfer of energy and emotion, as well as information, and leaden prose won't do that. If your content doesn’t leave your readers inspired and buzzing, then they won’t be coming back to your website or opening your newsletters, hungry for more.

In the long run, it’s much more cost-effective to hire a professional. Not only will they have “the gift”: years of writing will have improved their speed and fluency, and strengthened their voice. They’ll know what it’s like to be edited, too. So they won’t flounce off at the first sign of a rewrite.

Just be sure they know what they’re talking about. If you’re a ski holiday company, hire a writer who loves to ski. Pick a shopaholic to compile your New York shopping guide. And don’t send a 20-something hipster to blog about a Caribbean cruise.

We'd hire this guy to write about skiing, but ask someone else to blog about a Caribbean cruise.

We'd hire this guy to write about skiing, but ask someone else to blog about a Caribbean cruise.

Don’t forget the editor

Editors are your project managers and quality controllers. They’ll fix copy that’s self-indulgent or overlong; ask for clarification if the text veers into jargon; cut out the jokes that aren’t funny; and provide encouragement and new ideas if the writer is short of inspiration. Many writers bridle at the intervention of an editor, but their input is an essential part of the copywriting process – and it’s one that’s often overlooked in content marketing.

Give your team time to generate great ideas

Now the team’s in place, it’s time for some brainstorming so you can decide on your subject and angle. Whether it’s on Skype or in a meeting room, you need to make the occasion fun, relaxed and informal. Generally, you get the best from creative people when they feel secure and confident, so brief them properly, and then give them the floor. It may be that all you need is a series of shopping guides for travellers. Even so, you could come away with a completely new way to treat the subject – one that will clearly differentiate you from your competitors.

And finally… please, please, please make sure the feature is sub-edited

It’s not the most exciting job in publishing, but sub-editing – checking the copy for grammar, accuracy, sense and spelling – is essential. Otherwise it’s like making a brilliant speech with your flies undone. No matter what you say, you’re going to look stipud.

Planning a content marketing campaign, but can't find the writers, editors or social media experts for the job? Contact us: we know all the good ones.