12 Most Vital Types of Content to Turn Businesses into Publishers
We’ve all heard the phrase. It’s well-passed cliché by now. “Content is king.” There’s even been some backlash, because people are tired of hearing it. So, we’ve all analyzed the phrase to death insisting that something else — relationships, context, etc. — is king. But, if we’ll stop obsessing over the semantics, I think we can all agree that content is incredibly important. That’s the point, I think. Whereas creating content seemed before to be a task best left to Hollywood and the newspapers, it is now an imperative for businesses of all kinds.
Creating content for business is about educating current and potential customers. There are principally four types of content: text-based, image-based, audio-based, and video-based. All types of content are important for businesses to explore and use in accordance with how their particular customers consume the content. However, if there is one type of content to begin with — one type of content that must be executed well before all others are considered — it is text-based content.
Text-based content is any content that is written. Even when using other types of content — images, audio files, and videos — you must also use words to describe them. Words are powerful. The words you use in all of your content tell your story. Additionally, they tell your customer how you fit into their story.
The Internet has opened the floodgates of information. People no longer wait for the news; they seek it out. There is no longer an authority handing out information in consistent intervals. Anyone and everyone can be a publisher — and there is a barrage of information to prove it. Businesses, if they want to be heard, need to get involved in the conversation. No longer can any business exist by only selling products or services. Today, every business must become a publishing house.
If you are in business and are feeling the pinch to start cranking out some content, you might not know where to start. Don’t worry too much. It’s not as drastic of a transition as you think. Chances are, you’re already creating some content.
1. The “About Me” Page
Let’s start with your website. (Please tell me you have a website). Your “About Me” page is the page that tells website visitors about your company. It could include your mission statement, you core values, your history, bios of your leadership team, and some discussion on your industry and how you fit into it. This web page may be the single most important piece of content you create, because it is where people will go when they have an express desire to find out about you.
2. The “Products” or Services” page
Another page (or set of pages) you’ll have on your website is the page that tells website visitors about what you sell. From the perspective of revenue generation, there is no piece of content that is more important. Most other content will direct potential customers who may be interested in doing business with you to this very page. If the words you use to explain your offerings are not descriptive, targeted, and compelling, all other content will be for naught.
3. The “FAQ” page
Another classic content-centric web page that you’ll want to focus on is the “Frequently Asked Questions” page. On this web page, you will place a series of common questions (or what you envision will be common questions) and craft your best answers to them. Examples? “What forms of payment do you accept?” “What colors are the ________ available in?” “What is your refund policy?” Answer these questions right on your website so they don’t serve as stumbling blocks to a sale.
4. The blog
It doesn’t matter what you sell, a blog (literally “web log,” a series of articles in a feed that is displayed in reverse chronological order) can be a key source of referral traffic to your website. If you write blog posts about issues your customers are facing related to your product or industry, there will be an infinitely greater amount of content from your website that can be picked up in search engines and spread through social media. If you aren’t blogging, you’re way behind the curve. It’s time to wake up.
5. The e-newsletter
An email newsletter is a great way to remind customers that you exist. There are many platforms like Constant Contact and Mail Chimp that streamline the process of structuring a newsletter but, in the end, if the content isn’t compelling, subscribers will bail. You’ll want to make sure the digital newsletter, whether it is describing events are your company or teaching subscribers something, is well-written and interesting to read. The subscribers let you in their inbox; don’t wear out your welcome.
6. The display ad
Whether it is in print, on a sign, or on the web, the words you use to hold a customer’s fleeting attention must be clear, direct, and powerful. In no piece of content do so few words hold so much value. Yes, it is typically the associated image that catches the customer’s attention, but it is the text that keeps her attention. Once the customer starts reading does she look away and move on or does she take the desired action? Great content for ads moves customers to action.
7. The whitepaper or ebook
The differences between whitepapers and ebooks are very subtle. Both are fairly hefty documents. A whitepaper is typically 5-10 pages and offers an in-depth explanation of some sort of technical issue. An eBook is typically slightly longer, often includes visuals, and is focused on teaching a reader how to do something. These documents (mostly used by B2B companies) are the most lengthy pieces of content that most businesses will produce. They are often used as tools for lead generation, so the content most be a clear demonstration of the value the company can provide.
8. The press release
The content included in the press release is very delicate. When you write a press release, you are releasing information to the public that you are making a point for them to know about. The content must be clear and accurate. Also, you typically want it to sound somewhat objective. It’s news, not a sales pitch. So the tone of the writing must also be reflective of its purpose. At the same time, it must convey that the information you are revealing is a big deal if you want it to be considered newsworthy.
9. The status update
Updating the status on your Facebook page; adding the captions to your “pins” on Pinterest or your photos on Instagram; tweeting on Twitter — all of these are forms of content. They are short, but they must pack a punch. They must be witty or informative enough to merit a response: a click-through on the link, a retweet, a comment. Writing status updates is an art form. Don’t take it lightly.
10. The brochure or pamphlet
Yes, even in the age of pervasive digital media, people will still often want something tangible that describes what you sell. Typically, these pieces of content will have been among the most expensive to produce. Again, the visual theme and images structuring the brochure or pamphlet are foundational. A general template form Microsoft Word printed out on your home computer isn’t going to cut it no matter how compelling the writing is. But again, once people are looking at the brochure, the quality of message is what drives them to action.
11. The print newsletter
With the advent of email, many marketers stopped sending “snail mail.” That’s a golden opportunity for you to stand out. It’s more expensive to send out a newsletter in the mail to your customers, but it’s also harder for them not to see it. If you want them to keep reading after they find out what it is, though, the content must be interesting to them. Don’t waste postage on documents that go straight to the shredder. Give your customers a newsletter worth reading.
12. The book
Nope, I’m not talking about a digital book or a “booklet.” I’m talking about full-sized 200-300 page story about your company and the problems it has solved for your customers. You might think I’m crazy on this one, but it’s certainly something worthy of consideration. You don’t have to be Starbucks or Apple to have a book written about your company — you can do it yourself. You have had an enormous impact on the lives of your employees, customers, and community. Interview them, find out what contributions you’ve made, and make a book of it. What’s stopping you?
Okay, so maybe this isn’t really new. Businesses have always had to think like publishers. Larger businesses have always emphasized quality content in their marketing materials — whether they did it in-house or outsourced it to an agency. But now, in an age when so many resources are at your disposal, you as a small business owner should be willing to place a greater focus on your content. Size doesn’t matter. Whether you have five or five hundred employees, it’s time to start publishing.
Featured image courtesy of Reavel licensed via Creative Commons.