Posted on: June 11, 2023
Creating engaging content is already difficult enough without having to factor in a dry and “boring” subject matter.
But sadly, in the real world of content marketing and SEO, we can’t all work for the likes of Disney, Nike or <insert your dream brand here>, and so a lot of what we produce will be for less-than-inspiring subjects.
The good news, however, is that even the dullest topics can inspire great content.
Before we kick off, here’s a brief public service announcement… Sometimes, it’s not going to be appropriate to create fun content for certain businesses.
And that’s fine. Not everybody is going to want to see (or create) “fun” content for a funeral director for example, but that doesn’t mean your content can’t be informative, or the writing engaging.
But please, be smart and consider what approach is right for your client or business.
Right, now that’s out of the way let’s get back on track. So, how do we create engaging content for boring subjects or clients?
This one is key.
Let’s say you (or your client) sells something a bit meh, like paper clips. Very niche. Now, there’s only so much content you can create about paper clips as a product, and whilst some of it might be amusing or informative, the actual audience for people wanting to know more about paper clips is going to be very, very small.
No amount of Digital PR will help here.
Believe it or not, your audience isn’t “people who like paper clips”. That community is probably non-existent (or at most, miniscule) and so any content you create around this very niche subject is likely to be unsuccessful.
So the challenge then is to create content that matters to a wider audience and is also relevant to your boring product. Easy… so how do we do that?
The idea of chunking goes back some way. For boring topics you would likely want to focus more on the “chunking up” part. The basic idea is something like this:
Take your topic (let’s try kitchen rolls now, because why not?) and write down a whole list of word associations with the aim of losing the specific focus and becoming more generalised as you proceed.
Wow, look at how we went from super dull to super fun and opened up a whole new world of creative content possibilities in just a few steps!
Your audience are not kitchen roll obsessives but budding chefs, crafting enthusiasts or just people who want to keep their homes clean. The audience potential has now grown and so the ideas should have a wider appeal, and generating ideas from any part of the chunking chain should feel easier:
Some fairly surface level, super quick ideas:
|Kitchen Roll > Kitchen –
|Kitchen Roll > Kitchen > Food –
But if you’re still stuck for ideas, you can take your chunked up topics and explore what sort of content your audience might be interested in.
An easy way to do this is to identify the sites you want to feature on and find out the types of content they feature, a quick backlink profile check in Ahrefs will see if it was successful or not. Ahrefs’ own Content Explorer is also great for finding successful content on a particular topic.
Customers are rarely interested in engaging with dull brands that sell dull products. But, if you add a human perspective to a brand (this works best with humour), you can start to own the dullness a bit and even poke a little bit of fun at the brand.
A study from our friends at Adzooma showed that nearly 60% of customers buy from brands with strong personalities and just over 50% have purchased from a brand because of the way they spoke online.
So, invest some time in your brand’s tone of voice with some expert copywriting, think about how the brand wants to be perceived and try not to be as dull as your products.
Take a look at Charmin (I know more rolls, sorry) and notice how they approach their social media content, e.g. on Twitter – they know you’re not just pooping on the toilet… you’re also on your phone, or reading a magazine, or having a bit of a think.
They use these relatable human moments to connect with their audience, in turn creating fun and engaging content… and they literally sell bog rolls!
Following on from the previous idea, you can use your business’s authority on a subject to jump on trending topics on social media. One day, your moment to shine on socials may come and you better be ready to pounce.
These sorts of Twitter brand pile-ons used to be quite common, with other brands often joining in (sometimes with next to no discernable point to make) and if you look at the numbers of retweets and likes, you can see how something quite simple can be worth engaging in.
You can set alerts for topics, key phrases, brands etc with some social media tools (unless Elon keeps breaking stuff) and use Google Alerts to see when your topics are trending in the media too.
However, it is important to think creatively and assess whether your brand has something to add before jumping into any old conversation.
It’s called Reactive PR for a reason, but it still requires a bit of level-headed and critical thinking. Done right you can find plenty of trending opportunities that might benefit from your involvement – whether informative or using a bit of humour and creativity.
If Reactive PR isn’t for you, you can still keep your finger on the pulse by tracking these relevant trends and discussions, they might just inform your next piece of content!
Let’s pick another boring niche: gravel (sorry, lovely gravel retailers). What values does a gravel company have? Who cares? And so what if they align with your own values, are you more likely to engage, share, or buy from them?
Yes! In fact, a global study showed that customers are four to six times more likely to purchase and champion purpose-driven companies.
Furthermore, if your brand’s values stretch beyond “we love gravel” to “our gravel is 100% sustainably sourced”, then you can potentially open your brand, and the content you can create, up to far more opportunities.
From just talking about gravel, you can also talk about where you source it from, sustainability in general, and all sorts of wider-appeal, interesting subjects.
Not one person ever decided when they grew up they wanted to sell gravel on a website (sorry if you did!), but there is always a human story behind why they ended up there, so wear your heart on your sleeve and show your audience you care.
From an agency perspective, very often we need more time to understand what our clients do before we can create the right sort of content for them and their customers – and often we ask the wrong questions to begin with.
It takes time, and the right sort of questions, to become invested enough to understand the sort of content you need to be creating. Without that you will continue to create dull content that never really hits the mark. A bit of bravery is required here.
An open and frank discussion with your customer base needn’t begin with “so, paperclips are dull aren’t they?” – no good will come of that. Instead, consider this an investigation of sorts, with an aim to discover more about their needs and what makes them tick.
You need to ask (of your clients and yourself) direct, abstract and probing questions like:
Don’t forget the aim is to gain insights that are more general interest, to reach a wider audience to inform your content.
In a recent excellent workshop led by ideas superbrain Hannah Smith of Worderist, Hannah made the point that often we achieve quality through quantity. And though it struck me as an incredibly astute point, I quickly realised it’s what we’ve always done.
We engage in brainwriting sessions where we sometimes end up with 100 ideas in 15 mins. Of those ideas, only about 3 are anywhere near usable, but to get there we need to go through the process of dumping rubbish ideas out of our brain.
We also adopt an unofficial three strike rule in content creation, which means when we run three pieces of content we expect one to bomb, one to do okay and one to be successful. You have to go through a process of repeating tasks, failures, bad ideas and so on to get to the gold.
Keep going and don’t stop until paper clips are trending on Twitter!
Disclaimer: We love all our clients equally and definitely don’t have any boring ones, honest.
If you have a product that isn’t usually known for setting pulses racing and you want to learn more about our creative content marketing services, just get in touch!
Head of Design & Content
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