Why is most company content so boring an unengaging? This isn’t just some ad hominem attack at content creators and marketing teams across the board, but a matter of statistics. According to a study by NewsCred, the median average time a consumer spent with an article was just 37 seconds. That’s some cold comfort to these articles’ authors who spend 2-4 hours carefully crafting these business blog posts and press releases.
And speaking of PR, the engagement numbers with those ubiquitous press releases you see in your inbox and posted across LinkedIn are even worse. According to Shift Communication’s bluntly stated research article “Press Releases Don’t Work,” the engagement level for these pieces of content is atrocious:
“SHIFT extracted a random sample of 1,052 releases from 2016 and scanned them for key content metrics. Out of these releases:
- The median number of clicks: 0
- The median number of social media shares: 2
- The median number of inbound links to releases: 1
- The median MozTrust score (how trusted a URL is, 0-10 scale): 0
- The median MozRank score (how well ranked a URL is, 0-10 scale): 0
No one is sharing our press releases, other than us.”
Content creators are spending too much time and effort to create something no one cares about. Furthermore, businesses pay top dollar to these PR agencies to spin a “perfect” success story that always comes off as inauthentic and untrustworthy; another huge reason no one pays much attention to these press releases.
So how can you make your company’s stories be better?
Why Your Company’s Stories are Uninteresting
Press releases, blog posts, white papers, customer interviews; whatever content your team is producing is all part of a brand story. And unfortunately, most brands tell their story in boring ways. No one reads press releases anymore because they all just tout some random measure of success or a new partnership/feature that might be interesting in action, but that no real human will bother reading 400 words about. Why?
You Tell, Don’t Show
We teach middle school kids “show don’t tell,” but Fortune 500 companies can’t seem to remember this. A novel is engaging because it shows the reader new things to imagine. A press release simply tells, which engages no imagination.
When Samsung teased the Galaxy S8 a few years back, they got the technosphere buzzing with a great visual tease:
The simple image teased their rumored curved edge-to-edge screen on the updated phone, and it engaged people’s imaginations. Just the subtle silhouette of the bezels made more waves than some long press release would have touting the new form factor. Show, don’t tell. And if you have trouble figuring out the distinction between the two, just ask any student taking a creative writing class. Or better yet, read Neil Patel’s article on this topic.
You’re Not Funny
Brands seems to avoid humor for some nonsensical reason. Maybe they want to appear professional or serious or “manly,” but all they appear to be is forgettable. Check out this survey by Headstream that they’ve so kindly compiled into a pretty infographic. The entire image is worth pouring over, but here’s the relevant part:
Consumers of every age felt that something humorous makes for the best brand story, and that preference just gets stronger and stronger as they grow older. Probably because you need to laugh more when you get achy and jaded.
Humor doesn’t have to be only relegated to your company’s YouTube channel and social media posts (though they should absolutely live there). Who’s to say that a press release or a blog article can’t be funny? Why can’t you write “the most amazing press release ever written” for your brand? You can, and it’ll be much more memorable and will endear yourself to your audience better than a boring piece of content that Siri running on an iPhone 6 could have come up with.
You’re Not Vulnerable
Today’s culture is all about relatability and vulnerability. Social media has given everyone insight into the private lives of everyone else. Mental health issues are being openly discussed and destigmatized. And for brands, inauthenticity is out and authenticity is in. 63% of those surveyed by BCW (via Bonfire Marketing) want to buy from “authentic” brands, which forces the question: what is authenticity?
In many ways, brands that are allowing themselves to be vulnerable are the most authentic; because there’s nothing more authentic than admitting you’re not perfect. Here’s a great example of a moment of vulnerable authenticity:
When KFC ran out of chicken in the UK, they used humor to apologize and owned up to their mistake. People loved it and their brand came through the hiccup stronger than ever. Compare this with the WeWork debacle and you see that leaning into your vulnerability is a better business move than trying to shift the narrative.
This is why Influencer Marketing is so prevalent today: they seem more vulnerable and therefore trustworthy. They’re not polished. They’re more real (or at least, appear to be). And this is the level of vulnerability your brand should be seeking to exude in your content. Not all the time, of course. You don’t want to seem like you’re a bumbling pile of failure, but there are smart ways to be vulnerable that can be to your brand’s benefit in the eyes of your customers. One of our favorite business podcasts, “How I Built This,” is all about the failures that led up to success and highlights the vulnerabilities that inauthentic brands try to sweep under the rug. Recommended listening if your own brand is having trouble opening up.
What is keeping your brand’s story from being truly interesting and engaging? Don’t be afraid to show, be funny, and take risks in order to help your brand story stick in people’s minds.
Guest post courtesy of Anastasia Chernikovo