A Voice for Evaluating Your Content: 5 Tips for Creating an Effective Content Marketing Critic
If I’m your buyer, why should I care about your content?
It doesn’t matter if it’s a friendly neighborhood marketing writer like me asking, an imagined devil or angel on your shoulder, or the aptly attributed personalities of your buyer personas; you need a questioning, critical voice that’s an effective, objective gut-check for your content marketing efforts.
Why? (An excellent question for any good critic)
If critical questions aren’t asked of your content before it goes out the door, critical conclusions will be made by your buyers. Our own research on healthcare information and technology buyers shows that 90% of HIT buyers voice dissatisfaction/difficulty in finding high-quality, trusted information to inform their technology decisions. Unless you’re directly responsible for reaching that rare 10% of healthcare buyers who have easily found trusted information via content, this trend is a rather sobering critique.
This is also exactly why crafting a content critic voice is so important. Simply put, most of the outcomes organizations desire from their content depend on achieving a viable level of quality, credibility, and effectiveness. Your content critic is your directional dashboard for gauging whether quality, credibility, and effectiveness levels are where they need to be.
5 Key Points for Creating a Productive Content Critic:
1. Compile “Stop-and-Think” Questions for Content Quality
What are the most common questions your buyers ask in relation to your organization? Is your content providing adequate answers? Is there more to a given story? Are we missing anything?
Good “stop-and-think” questions around your content can be open ended or simple yes-or-no prompts, but the key is that they give you pause in not only arriving at your answer, but in thinking about why your answer is what it is. What makes you confident you are covering your buyer’s most common questions? How do you know your answers are adequate? What do you do when there is more of a story to tell?
An effective content critic should be a voice in your head that asks the kinds of questions that keep you on track, drive you to dig deeper when you need to, and stay on point for what matters to your buyers. Whether it’s a customer, colleague, executive, peer, or competitor, when someone asks a question that makes you look at your content in a different way, see something in a new or better light, or just stop and think, add it to your content critic’s inventory. Over time, you’ll have your usual questions that serve as a healthy checklist for content quality routinely, as well as powerful prompts to fall back on when you need to explore new or better paths.
2. Give Your Content Critic the Best or Worst Voice to Keep You Motivated
For some people, there’s nothing more motivating than a venomous naysayer to decisively disprove. For others, a healthy, respectful guide may be the best voiced personality to produce an effective evaluation. You could even use one type of critical voice one day, and the complete opposite another. The key is to use your critic’s voice to draw your attention to the strengths or weaknesses in your content.
If you’re producing a research asset, for example, an exhaustingly exacting pain-in-the-asset persona for your content critic may help you most. Anticipating and addressing the aggravatingly precise demands of what might be the worst critic imaginable may help you craft a piece that, to the casual content consumer, goes above and beyond in conveying value.
In another scenario, perhaps producing a blog post on an unusual topic, a supportive voice offering corrective criticism might be the most effective. You don’t want a voice that will pummel you into abandoning the concept altogether, but you still need something to gently push you to clear the bar for content quality or even raise it if you can.
Depending on your own needs in the moment, your critic’s voice in response to your content should move along a spectrum between what the worst person imaginable might say at one end, and the reaction of the kindest reader you could ever want at the other end. Whether you need the extremes at either end, or a balance somewhere in between, the tone of your critic’s assessment should give you exactly what you need for the given scenario.
3. Keep the Content Length Bar at “Enough”
We’ve all heard it time and time again, but we also all need to hear it so aptly repeated because it’s a truth no one enjoys accepting as true: we can’t please everyone.
When it comes to content length, what one person might dismiss as “too long,” another might bemoan for being “too short.” However, an effective content critic shouldn’t lead you into the anxious territory of other people’s opinions.
Instead of “too long” or “too short” judgments around content length, focus your content critic’s evaluations on whether or not you have “enough” in your content to deliver the intended value. If your content is covering an important topic that happens to be a long story, your content critic should only assess content length in terms of whether or not enough of that story is conveyed. If criticisms uncover missing pieces, you know it’s not enough. Similarly, if you can say what needs to be said concisely in a short, snackable asset, but you feel you need to say more, your content critic can help reign you in and avoid wasted effort on what’s more than enough.
As long as you know the length of your content is enough to do what it’s supposed to, anyone who tells you it’s “too long” or “too short” is only among the list of people you inevitably can’t please.
4. Avoid Organizational Jargon in Your Content Critic’s Vocabulary
Content for your buyers should communicate with (and on) your buyers’ terms. As a content creator, though, it can be extremely difficult to separate the words and phrases you hear every day (in the office, in company emails or instant messages, etc.) from the words you should actually choose for your buyers. Your company may talk all about their “innovative, game-changing widget functionality-enhancing module,” but to your buyers, it might just be a “useful widget app.” If the voice of your content critic sounds like everyone else in your organization, though, you’re exposed to the kinds of semantic disconnects that make it seem like you’re speaking an entirely different language.
An effective content critic should always keep you honest in effectively merging what you want to say to your buyers with what your buyers actually want or need to hear. When in doubt, give your critic the voice of a random passer-by on the street. If your average Joe or Jolene wouldn’t know what you mean, your content critic should call it out.
5. Connect Your Content’s Goals to What Your Critic Can’t Criticize
This brings us right back to the most important critical question – “why should I care?” When you have a content critic regularly asking this question, it’s not a rude dismissive deflection. It’s a challenge that should be interpreted as “make me care.” Quality, credible, effective content should make readers care because it should do things for those readers. You want to be able to respond to your critic’s “why should I care about this content” prompts with conclusions like:
- Because it provides insights to make you more effective at your job
- Because you’re getting research that you can use to your advantage
- Because you may already be doing the right things but you need validation to keep it up
- Because you need someone to challenge your assumptions in order to improve
- Because something will be better for you as a result of this.
On your end, you may create a consideration-stage asset to generate marketing qualified leads (MQLS), and as long as that asset allows or enables your readers to benefit from considering the advice or insights you provide, the equation is balanced. What you want from your content is of a relatively equal value to what your reader gets out of it. A food critic can’t criticize a pie for being a pie. A content critic can’t criticize content that does what it’s supposed to do. When a buyer becomes an MQL because they downloaded something worth their consideration, it’s safe to assume you’ve delivered something consideration-worthy. Your content for goal A = your buyer’s reason for helping you attain goal A. When everything adds up, there’s nothing more your critic needs to say.
Ultimately, the voice of an effective content critic should ensure that the goals you set for your content match the needs or wants that will be met by your content for your buyers. In many cases, a content critic can be an intangible voice that’s shared across all members of your organization who produce or use content to some degree. As long as someone is asking questions from a content critic’s perspective, you’ve got a healthy evaluative process.
Often, however, it can also help to have an outside voice. Third-party content audits, expert reviews, or just outside thoughts can help you to ask more useful “stop-and-think” questions, add some umph to motivating your team, assure you when you really do have enough of a story, separate you-speak from buyer-speak, and align to why your buyers should care.
For help enhancing your own evaluative voice for your content, you can contact us for a strategic content marketing conversation here.