I was hired as a content creator – so why’s my business not listening to me?

As marketeers, and former journalists, we understand the power of content better than anyone.

So why does content marketing often focus on the business itself (and inflating egos) rather than the needs of our potential customers? 

We’ve all been there…*sighs*

Endless rounds of signoffs, red scrawls across beautifully crafted copy, and the brain-numbing detail you know you don’t need. 

Naturally, other ex-journalists may say: “That’s just the way it is on ‘the dark side’. You get used to it for a better wage and more regular hours.”

And, of course, they are right.

It has its perks, it’s much better paid than journalism, and you can have some semblance of a work/life balance.

But it’s still infuriating.

Why hire a professional writer, or content creator, and then go against our advice?

It makes you want to shout: “I don’t care about the corporate team; any self-respecting journalist will delete this press release when they see the phrase award-winning!”

*And breathe*

Didn’t we sort of create content marketing?

Alas, to no avail. 

But, if there’s one thing I know about you lot, is that you’re a creative, problem-solving, don’t-take-no-for-an-answer kind of bunch.

And, ironically, we sort of created this content marketing frenzy in the first place.

Remember boldly doorstepping people out in the wilderness of a weekly news patch for a page 10 lead in the rain?

Or being the first in your newsroom to master live Twitter updates and feeling like goddamn Jack Dorsey…if he happened to be in Birkenhead taking pictures of a warehouse fire.

Listen, we fed the hungry content machine until it respawned into a digital era, sprouted SEO arms, stamped its clickbait hoof, and charged off in search of Generation Z – and there’s no going back.

A tad dramatic perhaps, but you get the picture.

How to create content for a modern business

Firstly, I don’t have all the answers.

But what I do have is experience on both sides.

As a journalist of 13 years, a regional commercial editor at Reach Plc, and Head of Content for two Manchester tech firms. 

And much like journalism, sales, or marketing, you need to read decision-makers to influence their content marketing strategy. 

(This psychology article on how to read people like a pro may come in useful)

Anyone who’s worked with me before will know how much effort I put into getting to know every single colleague. And every single business leader that I have interviewed. 

Especially senior colleagues; especially the decision-makers.

Because without them in your corner, you may as well concede to a life of churning out bland press releases right now.

Unless they work? But we all know they don’t.  

So, here’s my advice:

  • Use those fine-tuned people skills to read decision-makers
  • Build a rapport with them and work hard
  • Make the effort to understand their point-of-view and pressures
  • Probe, carefully, around the roots of any content marketing strategy
  • Choose the right moment to discuss this further
  • Prepare, find examples, and make a solid case for what you could do differently
  • Focus on how this will drive commercial results
  • Keep the conversation polite, positive, and always thank them for their time

Quick wins, ‘the mattress’, and long-term goals

Your CEO, Directors, Head of Content or Head of Communications will all be busy people.

The latter likely have targets over their heads and begrudgingly get bogged down in management meetings, rotas, and staff administration.

While the former sees your content as a single piece of a much bigger puzzle.

I mean, they’re probably already predicting what the puzzle will look like in five years’ time and plotting who they can sell it to.

My best advice is to stay curious, be creative, and take credit for your wins.

Whether that’s using newsier intros or phoning an expert instead of lifting quotes from social media – don’t lose the skills you developed in the first place.

Can you look at your product or service from a new angle? Can you make it more current? 

Just like news copy commercial content is all about the reader. Tell the story.

What interests them? What motivates them? What problems do they identify with? And what are the key crossovers between their needs and what your business can offer?

A classic example of this is ‘sell a good night’s sleep, not the mattress”.

Everyone wants a good night’s sleep, but only a handful are enthralled enough to buy a mattress after reading about open coils, pocket springs and memory foam.

Instead focus on the improved rest, comfort, and energy boost that a new mattress will bring.  

Change it up, even if it’s gradual, and start building a case for your content approach by comparing engagement rates.

This is also a great time for trial and error. Or collaboration. 

A/B Testing is standard in digital newsrooms, helping editors identify the best performing headlines on the homepage.

But why not try it out on your weekly newsletter or daily blog posts? 

Elementor’s Complete Guide to A/B Testing in WordPress might come in handy.

One thing I’ve observed many times is that senior leaders soon listen to your content ideas if they:

  • Help the business hit key targets
  • Increase sales
  • Give the business a competitive edge

And if you come prepared to back up your content strategy, even better.

Business leaders are innovators after all right, so doesn’t it show good initiative? 

I say, be the positive change in your team and choose your timing, and stakeholder, carefully.

Because once they ditch that corporate template, and business jargon, and it works, you will be trusted to lead on more creative projects – as the content expert you always were.       

Now ask yourself, did I just sell you a good night’s sleep or the mattress?

Let the storytellers tell your business story. Contact Time and Tide Content today.