One of the most common questions I hear from prospective clients is:
“Can you create content that can earn press in our ‘boring’ industry?”
It’s a common question on forums and comment threads, as well, and for good reason. If you’re not sure a content marketing effort can work in your industry, you’ll be hesitant to invest in the strategy.
The short answer is, in fact, yes.
For the long answer, I’m going to walk you through:
- How you would approach ideation for a few examples of boring industries.
- How you can relatively easily come up with press and link-worthy content even with a restricted “boring” topic.
What Are You Working With?
Let’s say, for example, you work for a company that sells auto parts and you want to create compelling content.
Having the right idea from the get-go is key to the entire process.
First, consider what type of content you’re capable of creating based on your current resources. Some examples include running surveys or analyzing multiple data sets (or even internal data).
If you haven’t already, get with your content or marketing team to:
- Explore what types of methodologies people are familiar with.
- Research what other types of methodologies are out there that are feasible for them to learn.
Knowing what content executions are available to you can dramatically help with ideation.
Pay particular attention to methodologies that involve new data and information.
If you’re going to be promoting your content, you need to bring something fresh to reporters, or else they won’t give your content a second look.
What Might Elicit Emotion?
Understanding the available content execution types gives you a scaffold. Then, you add to this scaffold by thinking of general topic areas you personally feel an emotional reaction to.
This will give you more focus when ideating. Perhaps counterintuitively, providing more structure/guidelines for ideation often makes the process significantly easier than if you begin broadly.
In our auto example, maybe questions like these come up:
- How do I know I’m getting a good deal and not getting scammed at a mechanic?
- How do I know the part I’m getting is safe and going to last?
- Will adding/fixing this auto part make driving my car more safe, comfortable, or fun?
- How does the process of needing an auto part make me feel about my autonomy and my ability to fix things that need fixing?
- How might I make a mistake that would lose me a lot of time or money related to an auto part?
- What can experts show me that will make me safer or save me money?
- How are new types of parts upgrades changing the way we drive?
When you tap into these real, human questions, you’re likely tapping into the potential to create emotional content, as well, which increases its chances of resonating with audiences.
Put Them Both Together
Now it’s time to brainstorm specific ideas around these emotional themes as they relate to the execution types you defined.
Here are some example ideas for the auto space so you can see this process in action.
Note that each idea has an emotional component, questions the project would set out to answer, and a clear plan for how to execute.
Idea: Touchscreens vs. Buttons and Dials
Concept: Over the last 5 years or so, many new cars have begun incorporating touch screens in favor of dials and buttons. Some, like Tesla, have taken this to the extreme, completely eliminating buttons and dials in favor of a 100% touch screen control system.
For many, this is antithetical to how they have always controlled their car, and there is mounting evidence that touchscreens can cause problems with distraction. So much so, in fact, that Mazda has decided to remove touch screens from future cars.
This would be a survey of consumers asking about this dilemma.
- How do people feel about touch screens vs. buttons and dials?
- Does having a touchscreen change their behavior?
- How does it impact distraction?
- How does it impact safety?
- Do they think the future will go toward touchscreens? Dials and buttons? A combination of both?
Source: Data Set
Idea: Cartalk – An Analysis of Auto Parts Problem’s From Everyone’s Favorite Car Guys
Concept: The long-running “Car Talk” NPR radio show is extremely well known, especially to the target audience. The show itself could easily be a dataset we mine to derive a deeper understanding of common problems of callers.
Fortunately, all of these episodes are easy to download. In order to do a text data analysis, we can’t work with audio, so we need to get these 2,000 shows transcribed. For this, we can use Google’s Cloud Speech to Text API.
The next step would be to write a quick script that would iterate through the MP3 file for each episode and concatenate the text generated from the Speech to Text API.
Once this is complete, we can begin the text analysis. In its simplest form, we could simply look for the frequency of different words/phrases. For instance:
- Which makes/models are mentioned most frequently?
- Which makes/models are associated with X types of parts most?
- What parts are mentioned most often?
- Which diagnoses are most common?
- What are the noises people mention?
Pulling these insights out of the text data would give us a significant number of pitchable data visualizations, all closely tied to the central theme of “auto parts.”
Source: Driving Test
Idea: Comma.ai vs. Tesla Autopilot
Concept: If Tesla is the Apple of autonomous driving, Comma.ai is trying to be the Android. They have open source code and an after-market kit that allows you to make dozens of models of cars semi-autonomous.
They claim their system is close to or on par with what a Tesla gives you but only costs about $700. We would put this to the test, and send a Tesla, and a Comma.ai upgraded car through the same challenges on a closed street.
- How does Tesla perform vs. Comma.ai on important aspects of semi-autonomous driving? Lane-keeping, starting/stopping, lane change, etc.?
- How do people using these services characterize their effectiveness?
- Do they feel safe in a Tesla vs. a Comma.ai enabled car?
- How does each one impact their distraction?
Source: Survey of Experts
Idea: Needed vs. Upsold: Interviews with Mechanics and Car Service Workers
Concept: This would be a survey of only experts: those who are tasked with making recommendations on replacing, upgrading, or adding new parts to a car when the car is serviced.
For instance, we’ve all probably experienced the frustration with not knowing if the car mechanic is being 100% honest about how “badly” we need our air filter changed in addition to the oil change.
This survey would use Facebook ads to target those working these sorts of jobs and ask them to weigh in on “confessions of mechanics and auto servicing companies.” (We’ve found asking expert audiences to “confess” or reveal aspects of their jobs that are perhaps taboo is something they’re very keen to do.)
We would look to get at least 200 respondents, asking them questions about how they are asked to upsell, how accurately they give car owners the real information about what they “absolutely need” vs. “maybe should have.”
The goal would be to arrive at a bunch of actionable pieces of advice like, “Never do the air filter change upgrade when recommended during an oil change.”
Ideating for Press-worthy Content in ‘Boring’ Niches
The more ideas you come up with and the more research to do, the easier it will be to recall what can be done. This is especially true for dataset projects where having a good idea of what data is available is important.
Fortunately, there are many good resources for searching for datasets, and more often than not, the data ideas you have will either have existing datasets, datasets that can be made using scraping, or datasets that can be generated through surveys.
So go get ideating!