Opinion

Talking loud, but saying nothing

HemmingToo many communications professionals think of content as a commodity, the challenge is to create meaningful content rather than just another listicle, argues Toby Hemming

I don’t blame Buzzfeed for the deluge of crappy words and sentences flying around the internet.

In fact I quite like it as an easy and effective way to kill a few minutes, and find out some ‘interesting’ facts about something I have absolutely no interest in. All at the same time knowing my incremental clicks are making someone, somewhere very, very wealthy indeed.

What I do object to however is the deluge of other rubbish on the internet, masquerading as valuable and interesting content.

And what’s more, it’s not enough to be bombarded by ‘Ten celebs who’s lives are more glamorous than yours,” at the foot of every news story I look at.

Working in media, my day is filled with experts telling me to apply a ‘customer-centric’ approach to target audiences willing to engage with ‘snackable data.’ But, really what does that actually mean?

The point is that ‘content’ of any kind shouldn’t just exist for the sake of it. Scrolling through LinkedIn has become more like conversing with the homeless guy in the park with Tourette’s, than using a business-networking tool.

Endless lists shouting utter vacuousness. Talking loud, but saying very, very little.

If you are going to be creating a voice for your brand, at least make it interesting. Be loud be proud, be annoying or be gentle, but for god’s sake stand for something!

Don’t make me turn away from my screen thinking your brand’s point of difference is to bore me to death. Instead of talking about ‘connected differentials’ why not give me something that’s going to make my job easier, or god forbid actually interest me.

Most organisations have something clear and useful to say, or they simply wouldn’t exist in business. But a constant diatribe of substandard ramblings is just going to dilute that killer insight or point of view.

I should at this point confess I manage and write a great deal of content for clients, some of which I’m proud to say ends up in places like this.

Maybe that’s what has made me so battle weary. I’m not sure if it was the first time I was asked to write a piece based almost entirely on four reoccurring keywords (it isn’t 1995 anymore), or the overenthusiastic new parent who couldn’t be swayed that ‘Ten insights toddlers can give us on programmatic,’ wasn’t going to set the web alight.

As an industry we need to stop thinking about ‘content’ as a product, a tradeable commodity like bread or milk. So please, next time you sit down in front of a screen to churn out your latest tips for success, remember it isn’t content that bathes you in the halo of its magnificence.

Your stories, ideas and emotional responses are what actually get shared, commented on and followed-up.

Of course I am fully aware of the irony of making my point through the medium of a piece of op-ed content. However if it saves me from 500 words about “Twenty tips on newsjacking through content aggregation in the year of the mobile,” I’ll take the inevitable stick.

Simply put if you haven’t got anything interesting to say, please do us all a favour – and don’t say anything at all.

Toby Hemming is a director of public relations firm Bold Media. 

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