Anyone who's been writing for any length of time knows the feeling -- that goose bump-filled rush of epiphany as you realize the idea you just had is just out of this world. "No way has anyone else thought of this!" you say to yourself. You rush to the computer to find out more, only to discover the topic has already been discussed at length, in a depressingly different number of ways.
Why creating original content is so elusive.
Everything that could have been said has already been spoken in hundreds or even thousands of different iterations, so why should anyone listen to you? After all, chances are everyone has already heard it before, right?
There's a lot of advice on writing original content, ranging from the generic "be helpful, solve a problem" to the well-known "good artists copy, great artists steal." But such instruction often inspires half-baked, repetitive content, and even worse, misses the point entirely.
Originality can only become a problem if we are trying to be someone we are not. Fortunately, there's a simple way around this -- tell your story instead.
Think back to your company's beginnings.
Most entrepreneurs have a really good reason behind why they started a company. A deep-seated sense of purpose drives them. They are either confronted with a problem that has no immediate or effective solution or are simply unable to accept the status quo and want change.
The majority will also have a past checkered with years of trials, disappointments, drama and passion -- with small measures of success here and there that ultimately adds up to something substantial.
Stories such as these are intensely exciting and relatable -- which is also why they make such great movies. Take for instance, the tale of how Apple got its name. Some believed the name was given in honor of Apple Records, The Beatle's music label, while others thought it represented the forbidden apple of knowledge bitten by Eve. But Steve Job's biography states he named the company Apple after coming back from an apple orchard (while on a fruitarian diet) because he thought it will be "fun, spirited and not intimidating." Quite anticlimactic, I know, but this is a perfect example of how great stories turn into folklore and legend.
A company doesn't have to be an Apple, Facebook or Google to have an awesome story though. People with humble backgrounds going on to do amazing things makes for a very compelling read any day. Since every company's history is obviously unique, it makes the perfect starting point for a marketing strategy.
Turning brand story into brand message.
By focusing on your past experiences, you are in effect trying to circle back to the why behind your company's existence. Drawing on your professional and personal experiences is the best and shortest way of creating unique content that is relatable, memorable and relevant.
Here are some questions to consider asking yourself:
Why does your company exist, or what is its purpose?
What prompted you to start a business?
What do you think is wrong with your industry and/or the world in general?
What were your challenges, and how did you overcome them?
Any unique, creative takes on problems that you are proud to talk about?
What were some of your major triumphs and failures?
These and other similar questions can help shape your brand's marketing strategy into more well-defined subjects and themes that can be used to create content such as blog posts, website pages, articles, newsletters and videos. Of course, don't just rely on your insights. Your team members will have similar experiences, so give them a chance to contribute as well.
People are tired of companies constantly trying to pitch their latest products to them. Stories on the other hand, fire up people's imaginations, and give them hope and a cause to strive towards. So, telling what you've been through can help people relate with your mission.
A listener may, in fact, feel lost in the story if he/she finds it interesting. The narrative transportation theory, as it's called, states that people may feel like they have been teleported to the world of their character in a story they can identify with. They may zone out, lose track of time and experience strong emotions as a result.
Research by Paul Zak found that character driven storytelling led to the production of a hormone called oxytocin in test subjects. Also known as the "cuddle hormone," oxytocin promotes empathy, motivates prosocial behavior and helps people bond together.
Entrepreneurs and explorers have a lot in common. Both have a risk-taking attitude, like to look for new ways to do things rather than settle for what's already available, and both have an amazing story to tell. Revealing your knowledge and insights in the context of your journey and experience makes the learning process far more enjoyable and relatable.
Finally, any story is also a perpetual work in progress. While what's behind you will no doubt make for a good narrative, remember a new page is being added to it daily. Everyday experiences can be turned into engaging content and shared with an audience too. You should try it out.