Great contentWhat separates great content from merely good content? That’s what all brands should be asking themselves as they go about executing their content marketing campaigns.

Anybody, even those to whom content marketing is alien, could probably list what makes content ‘good’: well-crafted, nicely presented, helpful, interesting. However, not everybody could describe what makes content ‘great’.

Pinpointing the great from the good was the objective for Jonathan Kranz – author of ‘Writing Copy for Dummies’ – who was on the panel of judges for the Content Marketing Awards this year.

He said that during the judging process clear patterns emerged, and in a post for the Content Marketing Institute he has summarised the distinctions which elevated certain pieces of content above the rest.

1. A focus on audience concerns, needs & desires

You’d think it would go without saying that content should be all about serving the audience’s needs, but too often content creators will be tainted with pressure from product managers and PR people to make it self-serving.

Even just one overtly salesy statement can have the reader questioning whether they should follow through with the advice given in the content, or if it is all a ruse to trick them into a purchase.

Kranz said that when he read the champion content, it “addressed their readers’ hopes and fears without condescension, and presented empathetic solutions to real challenges”.

2. Goes deep into fresh & familiar ideas

Kranz said he saw tons of content that “took on too much”, i.e. the creator looked to cover everything in one piece of content, rather than breaking it down and going into more detail.

The best content, however, was more precise: it “favoured concentration, digging deeply to uncover fresh and unfamiliar insights or ideas”.

It’s very difficult to avoid saying familiar things about familiar issues unless you give points the space they require, which means creating five pieces of content, instead of one, if necessary. It should make your life easier too, creating several pieces of content around a single theme, instead of just one.

3. Comprises unconventional insights & ideas

Following on from the last point, the best content that came Kranz’s way “had something daring and unexpected about them: unusual inspirations, unconventional analogies, and surprising stories”.

Kranz suggests that it should be every creator’s rule of thumb to ensure that content contains an idea that “at least makes you a little nervous”. The most inspired content is full of unconventional insights and ideas that makes the reader think, having never heard the advice being offered.

Too often, however, we are presented with predictable content that we’ve read time and time again.

4. Employs fresh metaphors

Analogies are a great way of showing you know what you’re talking about, as they are evidence that you’ve encountered the problem at hand. However, metaphors are an even better way of illustrating your point.

They help readers see the point you’re trying to make in a fresh and original way – employing them means your piece becomes more than just facts, figures and examples.

However, metaphors are something of an art; they only tend to come from the pens of the best writers. So, as Kranz puts it: “If you want to create champion work, you need to work with champion talent.”

5. Is imaginative

Having a big budget set aside for content marketing is obviously helpful as it gives you the platform and opportunity to create fantastic looking content with high production values.

However, a big budget is not a guarantee for content marketing success. According to Kranz, success hinges on content being imaginative. Great work “blazed new trails”, having exuded a “core vision and [a] capacity for dogged execution”, he revealed.

That’s reassuring to all those small businesses who have until now held the belief that they can’t afford to make waves in content marketing. Any enterprise can achieve gains from content marketing, it just takes imagination, great writers, fresh ideas, a developed understanding of audience concerns, and the odd risk.