Content marketing only works when it’s honest , when you are providing something of value (not simply forcing content in front of someone). To do it well, you need strong ideas that connect because they are interesting, engaging, and relevant to people. But coming up with those ideas can be a challenge, whether you just started creating content or you’ve been at it for a while.
We know firsthand how hard it is to brainstorm, as we’ve been doing content marketing for a decade. But in that time, we’ve also that it can be helpful to go back to basics when you’re creatively stuck. That’s why we wanted to share our own cheat sheet to help inspire your next content marketing story.
Your brand has endless stories to tell; sometimes you just need some parameters that can help you brainstorm better. Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite story angles to help you find inspiration. We hope you take ‘em and run.
1) Tell a Story Only You Can Tell
Original stories are one of your biggest competitive advantages. A unique story, insight, or revelation can easily become an interesting (even newsworthy) piece of content. But where do you find those stories? We find that proprietary data is a particularly potent sources. Look at things like white papers, research, or customer surveys. If you’re not sure what to do with your data, here are 5 ways to extract stories from it.
Example: LinkedIn turned data from its enormous database into the monthly Workforce Report , a valuable piece of content that provides insight into the U.S. job market.
If you want to truly be of service to people, solving their problems is probably the best way to do it. FYI, solving a problem can mean many things: giving them the info they need to make a decision, providing a tool to improve their lives, etc. Content marketing is great because there are so many types of content you can create to do this.
Example: Handling W-2s for a small business can be a confusing challenge. To take the pain out of it, we helped Intuit create an interactive tool to walk people through the process.
3) Teach People to Do Something
Like solving problems, empowering people with the skills or knowledge they need to do something is tremendously valuable. Whether it’s a product tutorial, DIY project, or explainer video , there are plenty of helpful stories to tell through content marketing. Visual content is especially helpful here, as it allows people to “see” the process.
Example: We created a handy infographic to help first-time Thanksgiving hosts grill a turkey.
4) Tell Relevant Stories to a Specific Group
You’re probably not creating content for everyone in the world, so it’s important to narrow down both who you’re trying to connect with and what they’re interested in. If you intimately understand who they are, what they need, and how they’re trying to improve their lives, you can tell the stories they need the most. Creating marketing personas is a first step to understand these people.
Example: To give students a quick and easy study tool, we helped Course Hero create an educational series of infographics that outline famous novels.
Beyond relevance, you want people to be able to intimately connect with your content marketing. You want it to speak to them so specifically that you make them think, “Wow, you really get me.” Empathetic content marketing is a great way to achieve this.
Example: JetBlue’s Flight Etiquette videos are funny PSAs that empathize with frustrated travelers.
For more inspiration, here are 9 examples of empathetic marketing in action.
6) Tell Meaningful Stories
Content marketing is not fluff; it can be an empowering and inspiring tool. Why? Because great stories impact you, expand your mind, and shift your perspective. Consider ways that your service or product is changing or seeking to change the world or people’s lives. How can you turn that into an impactful story?
Example: To celebrate Women’s Health Week, we created People for Periods , an interactive experience that details how stigma around menstruation affects women and girls worldwide.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with innovative ideas. Sometimes it can be powerful to take a new approach to a stale subject. This not only intrigues people but shows off your unique perspective.
Example: Investing is a topic often addressed to men. To change this perspective, we collaborated with Charles Schwaab to create a documentary series centered around female empowerment and investing.
8) Demystify a Subject
Content marketing is a fantastic tool for educating people in a unique way. Depending on your business, there may be concepts or issues that are complex or require deeper explanation. Content marketing is a great way to break these things down.
If you’re not sure what type of subjects you can bring clarity to, ask your sales team if there are specific things they constantly have to explain or find themselves repeating over and over. Or, if there are items in the news that you have particular insight into or experience with, you may consider adding your two cents. (Just make sure you don’t newsjack like a jackass .)
Example: We helped Visa create an explainer video to demystify fingerprint scanner technology.
9) Humanize Your Brand
One of the best stories you can tell is your own brand story. Who are you? What do you care about? Who are the people that make your business run? Telling stories around these subjects helps people form a more genuine connection with the humans behind your brand.
Culture marketing is a fantastic way to do this. Check out our guide to culture marketing to find out what it is and how to start.
Example: Our founders shared Column Five’s origin story to tell the story how we came to be, what we’re here to do, and what we’ve learned along the way.
How to Do Content Marketing the Right Way
Content marketing takes a dedicated team that has both the inspiration and resources to create great stories. We’ve helped hundreds of brands tell their stories, so we’ve picked up a few tips along the way. If you’re looking to improve your content marketing game:
- Use better tools. Bookmark these 100+ content marketing tools and resources to make your team’s life easier.
- Build the right team. Here are the roles you need people to play if you want to create quality content on the regular.
- Preserve your brand identity. From copy to design, learn how to create a brand style guide to keep your content consistent.
Also, if you’re stuck or just don’t have enough bandwidth, you can always get some outside help. Here are the questions to ask if you’re looking for a content marketing agency. You can also hit us up ; we always love to talk shop.