There are over 3 billion internet users in the world, sending 7600 tweets, uploading 780 photos to Instagram, and viewing 69k YouTube videos a second. It all adds up to an incredible 44,480GB of internet traffic every second.

That’s not a day, that’s every second of every day – a mind boggling amount of content, and a saturated market to compete in. You need to produce something original to stand out from the crowd, but too often, content ideas come up drier than a cream cracker on a sunbed.

As Herman Melville once pointed out, “It is better to fail in originality than succeed in imitation”. I doubt he was referring to your Twitter feed or blog, but he was onto something. So how can you produce a content rose among lifeless thorns?

Interviews

The beauty of the interview is that everyone’s an individual, so no matter who you talk to, you’ll never produce the same content twice. During the conversation you’re likely to unearth some other great ideas as well, so you walk away with a full article and some bullet points for your content calendar. Choosing the right person is essential – thought leaders are great, fellow event panelists (if you do talks/events) are also good. Even your clients can make brilliant subjects if they have a good story and insights.

And don’t be shy to ask. We were lucky enough to interview the award winning business writer, entrepreneur CEO and TED talker, Margaret Heffernan, for a piece of ours about writing business books. How? We asked nicely.

And interviews go beyond content benefits: they’re shareable and they utilise your interviewee’s network too. We interviewed Francesco Tortora, Marketing Director for the Gillette Global Brand, for a client of ours, Rare Design. They generate modest traffic to their website, but one share of this interview on LinkedIn generated thousands of views, likes and comments in the space of a few days.

This interview got Rare’s name in front of their own network, of course, but also Francesco’s 1,297 LinkedIn followers, most of whom are global brand strategists and senior marketing bods for exactly the audience Rare wants to talk to. For SMEs, this represents borrowed authority, and it’s incredibly effective.

How to do them?

Step 1: Ask. Then find somewhere quiet to record the conversation whether it’s in person or on Skype, intermittent meowing is likely to interfere with your recording. Transcribe or have the interview transcribed and your article has written itself. Add a killer introduction, trim out the um’s and ah’s, get a headshot and sign off from the interviewee and you’re all set to publish.

Case studies

Like an interview, no two case studies are the same. Unlike an interview, which is more focused on catching people’s attention, case studies sit further down the marketing funnel, offering an insight into what you’re like to work with. often the first thing potential clients want to know when scoping you out.

Case studies should be carefully chosen based on the story they tell. If your work has done something remarkable for a business, talk through that particular part of the relationship. Talking generally about a happy customer is OK, more compelling is ‘The £2.5million blog post’.

A great case study is the ultimate piece of sales content: stories of success are much better coming from other people than yourselves.

How to do them?

Always interview your clients for case studies, even if it’s only for 10 minutes to make sure they’re clear on what you’ll use and where it will be displayed. Only use dedicated testimonials rather than confusing politeness for praise. For example, when a client writes, “that’s great thank you” at the end of an email about invoices, it’s not worth quoting in your case study.

Create a story by identifying the problem, presenting solutions, and summarising the outcome. This isn’t a rigid structure: you can write case studies however you like but they should include those three basics.

Your processes

Showing how you work behind the scenes will give potential clients an idea of what to expect and holds you accountable to your own process. It shows you have a set structure and you’re not just winging it, which is reassuring for paying clients.

Lifting the lid on how you work shows your human side too. You’re not just a website and an office asking for money, you’re real human beings with real passion for the work you do. This can take the form of ‘What it’s like to work with…’-style articles. Or it can be more esoteric – a principle or concept you’ve developed into a tool.

To use the example of Rare Design again, we helped them develop the concept of soft power in brand innovation. This is a phrase they started using to describe their approach to design, and it got some great responses in meetings. So they’ve developed out the processes and principles of soft power for their target audience, and written about it.

How to do them?

Think about the kinds of questions clients ask you regularly or what part of your process has needed clarification in the past, and solve those issues in your content. You could also have a web page showing a step by step guide to your process on your site, along with fancy accompanying graphics.

You can continue to demonstrate your processes in action by posting photos on Instagram of your team working, further proving that you’re not all soulless business bots, idly tapping at a keyboard.

Original research

Performing your own research is the mother of all original content production and could lead to discovering something new and revolutionary. But even if you don’t change the world with your research, you can still create something newsworthy and shareable.

Once published, this research could be picked up by mainstream media, bringing you to the attention of a wider network. We’ve been working with peer to peer leadership coaching group Vistage for the last six months. They have over 2,000 CEOs and business leaders as members and so are perfectly positioned to offer a ‘state of play’ guide to the UK SME market. Their quarterly confidence index takes the form of a survey, and gives insight into the fears and issues of UK business leaders – particularly interesting in a time of such uncertainty surrounding the economy and Brexit right now.

This is a great use of their resources, and it’s interesting enough for national press to pick up too – perfect for earning some serious reach.

How to do them?

Original research is a much more taxing method of content creation, for one thing you need to have the funding to perform the research and the resources to make it happen. Depending on your client base, you may have a thousand contacts you can send a survey to and get back around 500.

If you don’t have a huge database of people to fill out forms, you can always do research on your own using publicly available information. Once you start digging, you’ll find there’s a wealth of data freely available to all. It’s what you do with that information that counts.

Being original is hard: just ask the Hollywood studios that keep pumping out sequel after remake after sequel. But even with over 3 million blog posts published every day, your content doesn’t have to be lost in the abyss. Originality and quality will cut through, and there is some content that you and only you can write.

By filling your blog with well-researched articles and new ideas, you’ll become essential reading for your industry, rather than just another meaningless string of words.

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Josie Pymm

Josie is a freelance writer based in Hertfordshire with a framed degree in Event Management that she might turn into a coffee table. She specialises in writing about events, food, books, and things that irritate her. Her greatest achievement in life is successfully completing a Pinterest tutorial.

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