The PR BlogDigital PRContent & InboundMediocrity is Slowly Killing Your Corporate Content

Mediocrity is Slowly Killing Your Corporate Content

Mediocrity is a mortal sin in content marketing.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

How do you escape mediocrity in con­tent marketing?

The digit­al revolu­tion has changed many things for the bet­ter. It has­n’t done much for the aver­age qual­ity of con­tent, though.

Look, I get it. 

I’ve been blog­ging since 2002 and pub­lish­ing my fair share of mediocre con­tent. Putting out good con­tent is a challenge.

How can we escape mediocrity? And why is it so important?

Here goes:

We’re All Media Companies

The only sin is mediocrity.”
— Martha Graham

In many ways, we’re all media com­pan­ies now. For bet­ter or worse.

It’s a grim irony of the inform­a­tion age that our most suc­cess­ful media com­pan­ies, like Google and Facebook, don’t pro­duce any content.

Still, con­tent mar­ket­ing is a massive oppor­tun­ity with enorm­ous poten­tial for ROI. The “only thing” hold­ing any­one of us back is the hon­eytrap of pub­lish­ing, check­ing it off as “done”, and then being indif­fer­ent to the fact that your con­tent will nev­er get noticed.

How do we escape mediocrity in con­tent marketing?

The Long Tail Fallacy

The long tail the­ory typ­ic­ally looks at avail­ab­il­ity versus popularity. 

For instance, a B2B brand could pub­lish help­ful con­tent that is unique and rel­ev­ant to a spe­cif­ic group of people. Anyone search­ing for such con­tent would even­tu­ally find it due to its uniqueness. 

An online book­store, how­ever, with mil­lions of titles in vari­ous demand, will out­com­pete a phys­ic­al store with “only” thou­sands of pop­u­lar books. The long tail has demo­crat­ised media via pub­lish­ing plat­forms and social net­works. From a social media- and search engine per­spect­ive, the long tail the­ory was good news for niche con­tent creators. 

But is it still that simple?

A dec­ade ago, such a strategy worked flaw­lessly. At that time, online pub­lics was still very in an explor­a­tion phase. This explor­a­tion phase was a corner­stone of the hip­pie web. Today, human online beha­viour and exploit­a­tion are centred around the money web.

The phase of online explor­a­tion has gradu­ally worn off. As more and more interests are look­ing to cap­it­al­ise on their online activ­it­ies, people are becom­ing increas­ingly aware of how they divide their atten­tion. With it, the bar for con­tent qual­ity has risen. 

In a fas­cin­at­ing turn of events, the long tail the­ory is stead­ily becom­ing a the­ory for e‑commerce suc­cess expli­citly, where you begin by offer­ing the most out­stand­ing long-tail cov­er­age for a hyper-spe­cif­ic niche — and then you grow slowly into addi­tion­al hyper-spe­cif­ic niches in uni­son with your cus­tom­er base.

But the long-tail the­ory has ceased to be sig­ni­fic­ant for the mediocre cor­por­ate con­tent many of us reg­u­larly put out. 

Wastelands of Mediocre Content

After years and years of online mar­ket­ing struggles without good-enough res­ults, many busi­nesses are slowly con­clud­ing that mediocrity won’t cut it anymore.

The suf­fi­cient con­tent qual­ity resembles an invis­ible stone wall between two online ter­rit­or­ies. We find green pas­tures and fer­tile soil on one side of the wall — and many people. On the oth­er side, there’s noth­ing but empty waste­lands. And appar­ently, this is where your m busi­ness has zero true fans.

It’s the des­ol­ate plains of cor­por­ate cringe.

When you find your­self on the wrong side of this stone wall, you can pub­lish your cor­por­ate con­tent how­ever often, but noth­ing seems to grow in these des­ol­ated long tail-plains. It would be best to get your­self over that stone wall and into the ter­rit­ory on the oth­er side of that wall where there are real people. 

But what will it take?

What is Content Quality, Then?

To be allowed into the lush ter­rit­ory inhab­ited by real people, pro­du­cing and pub­lish­ing great con­tent seems like a passport.

People will gath­er to watch in hoards if you pro­duce and pub­lish Game of Thrones. But we’re not HBO. We’re organ­isa­tions that have and sell any­thing from tooth­paste to med­ic­al equip­ment. We provide products and ser­vices. Whether for profit or not, we’re organ­isa­tions that make soci­ety work. 

A new line of serv­er appli­ances or hav­ing the best avo­ca­dos on the mar­ket will nev­er be as inter­est­ing as the bloody struggles of the Seven Kingdoms. 

Mediocrity — why your content marketing falls into oblivion - Game of Thrones meme
“We don’t sell food. We sell experiences.”

The harsh real­ity is that the algorithms have con­sid­er­ably raised the bar for con­tent qual­ity. We can read­ily appre­ci­ate that the algorithms will sort out lousy and bad con­tent, but we must also get used to them doing away with aver­age and good content.

Level 5 communication - 2
That “great con­tent” works in con­tent mar­ket­ing isn’t the real story; the real story is that “good con­tent” is every bit as wasted as “lousy content”.

Do Better” Is Not Helpful Advice

Do bet­ter” isn’t help­ful advice. It’s the equi­val­ent of telling a lost soul dying of thirst in the scorch­ing desert to “drink some water”.

However, “do less of what isn’t work­ing” is helpful.

If you’re invest­ing valu­able resources into pro­du­cing mediocre con­tent today, you can alloc­ate those efforts dif­fer­ently tomor­row. Remember that there’s no gen­er­al con­tent short­age online; you could focus your efforts on improv­ing quality.

Yes, this means put­ting out less con­tent. Yes, less con­tent will mean tak­ing a hit in reach short term. Taking a hit in reach will mean few­er con­ver­sions — temporarily.

But put­ting out high-qual­ity ever­green con­tent at a lower fre­quency will gain momentum and pro­pel patient and con­sist­ent brands over that stone wall. And rais­ing the bar for con­tent qual­ity will instil new and valu­able pro­cesses in your organisations. 

No more cor­por­ate plat­it­udes. No more cor­por­ate cringe.

When you finally push past crit­ic­al mass, your con­tent mar­ket­ing will soar. You will start to touch people’s hearts and minds.

Mediocrity inspires neither great love nor hate.
We should­n’t waste our resources if it isn’t rel­ev­ant to anyone.

How To Escape Mediocrity

What should you do if you find your­self stuck in the non-fer­tile and rugged online waste­land where noth­ing your organ­isa­tion says or does ever get traction?


Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Evergreen Content

Evergreen Content

What’s ever­green con­tent? For a piece of con­tent to be ever­green, it must sus­tain its value over time. Meaning: The con­tent must be rel­ev­ant today, tomor­row, and the fore­see­able future.

While news con­tent might have a more sig­ni­fic­ant impact short-term, ever­green con­tent instead accu­mu­lates over time.

There are dif­fer­ent ways to lever­age ever­green con­tent. I recom­mend a few axioms for ever­green content:

  • Two years. To be con­sidered ever­green con­tent, I think the con­tent must be rel­ev­ant and valu­able for at least two years. It’s an arbit­rary time frame, but if an organ­isa­tion can pro­duce con­tent last­ing for two years, it will typ­ic­ally last for much longer.
  • Actual interest. To be con­sidered ever­green con­tent, there must be an exist­ing volume of search engine users look­ing for the inform­a­tion. Without search volumes, the con­tent will likely be ‘ever’ without the ‘green’.
  • Gentle garden­ing. Evergreen con­tent will only stay ever­green if you tend to it occa­sion­ally. To check if everything’s work­ing, add some­thing help­ful if needed, and per­haps clean out some unne­ces­sary stuff. It’s a bit like garden­ing, I find. 
  • Personal touch. It’s dif­fi­cult to pub­lish some­thing unique. However, adding your brand’s ton­al­ity and flair to the con­tent is always pos­sible. The object­ive is to estab­lish trust and author­ity, so a touch of per­son­al­ity matters.

Learn more: The Evergreen Content PR Strategy: Forever Is a Long Time

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

PR Resource: Content Themes

Content Themes

Let’s use a fic­ti­tious example of an IT com­pany. First, they decide on a Promise Filter for their con­tent strategy:

Promise Filter: We make IT easy to understand.

Then, the IT com­pany breaks their core mes­sage down into four busi­ness-crit­ic­al Content Themes:

Q1 Content Theme: We make people under­stand the Internet of Things (IoT).

Q2 Content Theme: We make people under­stand busi­ness auto­ma­tion.

Q3 Content Theme: We make people under­stand cloud com­put­ing.

Q4 Content Theme: We make people under­stand man­aged services.

For each quarterly con­tent theme, they pro­duce Content Packages. Each con­tent pack­age could con­tain the following:

  • Infographics
  • Blog Articles
  • Whitepapers
  • Social Media Updates
  • Landing Pages
  • Lead Magnets
  • Swipe Files
  • Template Files
  • Content Upgrades
  • Online Courses
  • Podcast Episodes
  • Livestreams
  • Email Send-Outs
  • Events
  • Case Studies
  • Webinars
  • Video Tutorials
  • Interactive Quizzes
  • Press Releases
  • E‑Books
  • Testimonials
  • Influencer Collaborations
  • Mobile Apps
  • Slide Presentations

Learn more: The Content Themes PR Strategy

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

PR Resource: Deep Content

Deep Content

Above is an example of an online con­tent struc­ture that’s five levels deep.

In the example above, five lay­ers of ever­green con­tent are stacked:

  • Level 1: Articles
  • Level 2: Content Upgrade
  • Level 3: Resource/​Lead Magnet
  • Level 4: Ebook
  • Level 5: Online Course

Deep con­tent is centred around provid­ing increas­ingly high­er qual­ity to Content Divers since they’re more valu­able than Surface Dwellers.

As for the import­ance of struc­ture and depth, the logic is the same as for ice­berg pub­lish­ing and con­tent themes.

Learn more: The Deep Content PR Strategy: Win By Going Deeper

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo has nothing to do with public relations, of course. I share for no other reason that I happen to enjoy photography. Call it an “ornamental distraction”—and a subtle reminder to appreciate nature.

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