Avoiding Awful Content: Four Steps to Quality Content Marketing

By Christina Milanowski, Social Media Director and Account Supervisor, Maccabee Public Relations

For agencies like Maccabee and for our PR clients, 2012 was a year of head-spinning changes–more social media channels to keep track of, the urgency of successfully integrating online marketing and public relations, the explosion of sales lead generation and inbound marketing, and increasingly digital-savvy consumers of media.

At the root of it all is the consumer’s thirst for quality content–I repeat, not awful content, but utterly great quality content.

(Source: Rise.net)

In fact, most marketers (55 percent) say they intend to shift 2013 budget dollars to content marketing initiatives, according to a new survey of business-to-consumer marketers (Content Marketing Institute’s 2013 B2C Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends).

Let’s be honest, there has never been more information thrown at your target audience and much of it is just God-awful.

In the words of our agency’s friend Tom Gabriel, president of the Minneapolis marketing firm GdB, which has created campaigns for clients from 3M to Samsung:  


How can B2C and B2B marketers like you stand out in 2013 with great content that pulls potential customers to your brand? How can you create something compelling with your company’s social media posts, Web copy, speeches, bylined articles, e-newsletters, infographics, videos, blogs, events and mobile apps?

Be bold. Be authentic. Be quotable. And, read on. We solicited wisdom from some of the Twin Cities’ most provocative marketing minds to identify four tenets of how to produce quality content:

1. Tell A Story with Your Content

The leader of Minneapolis ad agency BBDOProximity, which has served Hormel and Chi-Chis, has it write (err, right) when he observes where the focus of content needs to be – storytelling!


Big brands are learning that storytelling is essential to helping content resonate with audiences–and the explosion of social media sharing has helped. Red Bull, for example, executed this well by telling its brand story of adventure, sportsmanship and reaching new heights. Did you miss the wildly successful Red Bull Stratos campaign that ejected a man from space, and resulted in more than three million tweets, an estimated 820,000 pieces of positive media and user-generated content for the brand, and 61.6 million impressions generated across social channels? Now that’s story telling. 

2. Satisfy Desires with Your Content

Great writing gives your marketing wings. We couldn’t agree more with what veteran business journalist Dick Youngblood states below about how great writing satisfies desires, rather than merely providing information and data.


Search engine marketer Nina Hale agrees about the urgent need for content that satisfies desires:


And again, GdB’s quotable Tom Gabriel:


3. Incite Action with Your Content

Did we mention the importance of content that demands to be shared? Here’s Dennis Ryan, chief creative officer, of the Minneapolis hot shop Olson:


Content that makes consumers laugh, gasp or nod in contemplation is no longer enough. The secret is offering content that sparks an irresistible action: the desire to share your content with Facebook friends, tweeting out the content to co-workers and family, make a phone call to order a product, a visit to a retail store, or decide to subscribe to a blog that will continue the flow of content. In the words of BBDOProximity’s Neil White: 


4. Be Strategic with Your Content

This content marketing post quoting Minneapolis’ marketing minds would not be complete without Minnesota-based Content Strategy for the Web author, Kristina Halvorson:


Halvorson’s quote, which we found in her article, “The Discipline of Content Strategy,” shines light on one of the biggest pitfalls of content marketing – not having a clear strategy underpinning content creation. Marketers can face significant challenges when creating and marketing content. For a deeper dive, check out Lee Odden’s “5 Reasons Why Companies Are Challenged by Content Creation & How to Fix.” Odden’s outline of five content challenges, includes: 1) sustained quality, 2) internal workflows, 3) budget considerations, 4) customer-friendly brand content, and 5) converting legal mindsets.

In Sum…

Here’s hoping that in 2013, brands will devote sufficient resources – both budget funds and adequate time – to developing and marketing content exemplifying these tenets:

  1. Tell a Story
  2. Satisfy Desires
  3. Incite Action
  4. Be Strategic

As a journalism major, I know that great writing and quality content take time and energy. In marketing – whether your content is a blog post, YouTube video, downloadable infographic or white paper – this should be no different. 

Plain Text Quotes

“According to my highly unscientific measurement, 95% of all writing, design, idea generation, etc. is mediocre, at best.” -TOM GABRIEL, President, GdB

“With the proliferation of media and the exponential advancement of digital, it’s not surprising that creating content has become our industry’s mission, and storytelling a rarity.” -NEIL WHITE, President & CEO, BBDOProximity

“Great writing surprises you, lures you in and in the end satisfies your wish to be informed and/or entertained. In short, the opposite of ‘It was a dark and stormy night…'” -DICK YOUNGBLOOD, Former Business Editor, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Great content speaks to the reader, it recognizes their needs, answers their problems, and advances the conversation. Deeply resonant and creative content marketing is more than the quality of how it’s written, but also the quality of how it engages, instigates conversation and community, leverages conversations in play and creates a dialog.” -NINA HALE, Founder & CEO, Nina Hale Search

“Back in the Mad Men era, Bill Bernbach said: “You can say the right thing about a product and nobody will listen. You’ve got to say it in such a way that people will feel it in their gut. Because if they don’t feel it, nothing will happen.’ Despite (and because of) the proliferation of content in all forms, those words right truer today.” -TOM GABRIEL, President, GdB

“In a connected world, if your content isn’t worth sharing, it isn’t great content. And you know it right away. Capturing, posting and sharing our every photo, video and thought has never been easier – today, everyday life is content. Not necessarily good content or attention-worthy content, but content nonetheless. The most popular content is rarely art – it’s more adrenal-based; a sharp, intense punch to the synapses. That’s why visuals are so critical.” -DENNIS RYAN, Chief Creative Officer, Olson

“When you stumble upon a good story, it will: move you deeply, make you squirm, wake you up, make you want to share it with your best friend, make you want to rally to the cause and, once in a great while, make you want to buy.” -NEIL WHITE, President & CEO, BBDOProximity

“Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we’re publishing it in the first place. Otherwise, content strategy isn’t strategy at all; it’s just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs of wants.” -KRISTINA HALVORSON, Founder & President, Brain Traffic


Christina Milanowski is social media director and account supervisor at Minneapolis-based Maccabee Public Relations, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency, and writes for the MaccaPR blog. Christina has guided public relations and social media campaigns for agency clients GNP Company (Gold’n Plump/Just BARE Chicken), RBA, CaringBridge, AmericInn Hotels, Ergotron, Gia Brands/Guy Fieri Sauces, Hazelden, VISI and sparkhouse. She has more than seven years of experience developing PR, marketing and communications strategies.