Yes, there’s a ton of content out there, and that has led to some pushback on the concept of content marketing. Some people theorize that creating more content is just adding to the vast mountain of what’s already out there, and therefore a disservice to the audience, which can barely wrap its arms around all the information available. But here’s the problem with that thinking – it assumes that all that other content is delivering value to the audience. Bad assumption.

Of course a lot of the content out there simply isn’t worth reading. It’s either too salesy, too far off the mark, or just plain poorly done. A lot of content being produced is just linkbait, crammed with keywords without any real thought to making a point or making sense. If you’re out there on the Interwebs, you know that a lot of that content really isn’t very good.

Therefore, the opportunity is to create content that is good. That human beings actually want to read and perhaps even share with their colleagues. That educates, informs and/or entertains the audience. This is very easy to say, not so easy to do, and certainly not easy to do on a repeating basis.

And that’s the bar we’re trying to clear – to create high quality content for the audience… what the Content Marketing Institute refers to as epic content.

How do you do it? Let’s start with the basic foundation of what good content is. It is:

Timely.

This is a core principal for journalists, and it should be for content marketers too. You don’t necessarily need to be the first with breaking news, but you do need to have your finger on the pulse beat of your industry. If you’re lagging way behind the industry conversation, you certainly can’t call yourself a thought leader. This is possibly the most difficult aspect of a great content strategy because it requires day-in, day-out execution. As they say in the newsroom, the news watch never stops.

Valuable for the audience.

Your content strategy should be focused on the audience. It must deliver value to them, helping them to do their jobs, conduct their business and live their lives. Merely telling the audience how great your company is on a repetitive basis will fall on deaf ears. It’s critical to understand that the audience now has control of this conversation; the Internet did that, creating a world in which consumers have global options and don’t have to listen to a sales spiel if they don’t want to. Therefore, good content delivers value. It demonstrates your organization’s thinking, provides analysis and offers assistance. The audience feels smarter for having consumed your content.

Strategic.

Telling a good story isn’t good enough. It needs to serve a business purpose. So while you must be audience-centric, you need to be on message. This isn’t always an easy balance to find. However, if you build a solid foundation at the outset of your content strategy and establish an editorial brief and an editorial calendar, it will help keep your content focused on business objectives, without veering into salesy-ness. Your editorial brief and editorial calendar should very clearly spell out the keywords you’re targeting; this will enable you to stick closely to your business objectives.

Well-written.

There’s a lot of good writing out there in the marketplace, but it is being overwhelmed by gibberish. Good grammar and proper spelling matter; they really do. That should merely be the price of admission – truly good writing goes well beyond that. It excites, motivates and even inspires the reader. Importantly, good writing also applies to your video content.

Well-distributed.

People need to read your content in order for it to have an impact. There’s a bit of chicken and egg aspect to this, but you need to be sure that you’re constantly growing your audience. To do this you need to light up your distribution channels – social media, email marketing and outreach to industry influencers. And then you need to monitor and analyze how content performs. Pay attention to the time of day you publish, your headlines, link sources, traffic sources and anything else that could affect reach and outcomes.