Details & Differentiation

Details & Differentiation

It’s been a double-D kind of week. I’m talking about recent highly public, in-your-face reminders that when it comes to creating content of any kind for any audience, details and differentiation matter. Wait, what did you think I was talking about?

The devil’s in the…

When you’re racing toward deadlines, it can be tempting to gloss over details. When you’ve got content approvers or other team members who aren’t giving the right level of scrutiny to the content produced by your team, you risk letting details slip.

You may know people within your organization who might say: What’s one webpage headline in a different case? What’s one typo in one sales presentation slide? What’s one icon that no one can figure out? What’s one outdated company fact on your website? What’s one broken link? What’s one downloadable asset file name that says “draft version 11” at the end?

People notice details. Details matter.

What may seem like a tiny, unimportant detail could mean the difference between your audience understanding your point… or not. It could be the difference between your audience believing your thought leader is actually a thought leader… or not. It could be the difference between your audience having a positive experience with your content and your company… or not. It could mean the difference between your audience feeling they can trust you… or not.

Living proof: Taylor Swift’s response this week to Kanye and Kim Kardashian West’s claims that Taylor signed off on some “that’s so Kanye” lyrics aimed at her in his new song Famous. In a mobile note she posted to Twitter, Taylor had a specific point of view she wanted to convey, but it was overshadowed by a tiny detail in the upper left-hand corner of her content: the word Search.

Small detail, right? Wrong. This one little word led readers to believe she had a response written up in advance. This harmed her reputation, her credibility and has put her back into the headlines not for taking a stand or defending her point of view, but for posting content that didn’t feel genuine.

Look, sometimes, details slip by. It happens to everyone – I sent an email to a prospect last week that had a typo, and I’m still thinking about it. But the more you get everyone in your content operation bought in to your strategy and your process, the more everyone can serve as content hawks to eye any details that look incorrect, outdated, misplaced, or just off – before they get in front of your audience.

Photo credit: CharlesFred via Source / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: CharlesFred via Source / CC BY-NC-S

Standing apart from the herd…

Another important content element to focus on early in your strategy phase and certainly before you get in front of an audience is message differentiation.

Differentiation can be tricky.

In your industry, chances are your company is going to say some similar things to what your competitors or even partners say to your shared audiences. You may offer similar products or services that do similar things. You may acknowledge similar market needs. But there’s no reason you need to sound like everyone else when you’re sharing information or insight.

A lack of differentiation can make your audience tune you out or even harm your reputation – one blah experience and your audience could go from considering you to putting you on the “no, thanks” list. And you don’t want to make it difficult for a client to choose you – the less you differentiate, the more digging that client will have to do to get the answers he or she needs to make a decision.

If you’re saying what you think seems like the right thing to say, or you’re lacking in the messaging, voice and tone department, you risk content becoming more of the same old stuff that’s out there.

Which brings me to ‘D’ número dos: the Melania/Michelle speech debacle.

Look, I give Melania Trump a lot of credit for getting up in front of a large crowd at the 2016 Republican National Convention – with millions more at home watching – when it seems clear that she doesn’t relish her turn at the mic. I applaud her for her poise under all that pressure.

That said, it’s clearer than those glass doors in the Windex birds campaign that Melania’s speech parroted several lines from Michelle Obama’s DNC speech in 2008.

Trump’s camp has claimed that these lines are simply universal ideas and values, and has stooped to quoting Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony to grasp for a point, but, people can read. People can watch footage. It’s pretty apparent that something’s amiss. And it’s a pretty weak defense if all you can say is that the speech echoed things have have been said by other people (and animated ponies?) before.

When it comes to content differentiation, there is a major issue here.

Any content creator, and perhaps especially a content creator with this big an audience and this high-stakes a moment, should have the sense and the willingness to look for opportunities to develop a differentiated story. No one is looking for content with heard-it-before empty phrases – you can find that already in 5 seconds with a search engine and a decent wifi connection.

Your audience craves content that shares information and tells stories in unique ways, content that educates them about new topics, content that opens their eyes to ideas or perspectives they hadn’t considered before, content that enables them to make decisions, content that entertains them… Not content that they already saw eight years ago.

As a content creator, take pride in finding a new angle or surfacing a new topic. And as a content consumer, demand better than blah.

What kind of content producer are you going to be?

So, what’s a content strategist or content marketer to do? Don’t be a Taylor Swift or a Melania Trump speech writer circa July 2016.

As you’re planning and developing your content programs, messages, topics, and assets, make sure you and your team have the right skills, tools, and timelines in place so that you don’t risk overlooking details that may seem small but could have a big impact on the success of your content. And as you’re bringing brand stories and insights to life, take an informed view so that you are creating differentiated content that brings something of value – whether that’s education, empowerment, or entertainment – to your audience.

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