For several years, I worked as a marketer in the travel industry. When it came to creating content, the possibilities seemed endless. My biggest problem was choosing just one topic to write about. Travel is exotic, sexy, romantic, adventurous, foreign, and interesting.
One day, my boss asked me to write a risk management proposal for the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. I hope I didn’t lose you while you read that last sentence. Risk Management is neither sexy nor exciting. It’s the exact opposite—risk management does everything it can to avoid risk! This was not the exciting or exotic content I wanted to create.
We all have those less-than-glamorous projects. For many people, the humdrum isn’t limited to a project but describes their entire field of work. So how do you create engaging content for a “boring” industry?
Offer content your audience needs and recognizes as a valuable resource.
If people have a problem they’re trying to fix or a pain point to heal, they search for educational content that offers a solution. It doesn't matter if the topic itself is boring.
Ways to Create Content for a Boring Industry
Tell a story
In that same marketing job, I went to a conference in DC put on by the Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council. You may still be bored, but that conference changed the way I thought about risk management. I met FBI agents and members of secret service (who taught us a few street smarts and self defense moves) and learned a lot from my colleagues in the field. Speakers came from all areas of international affairs—Peace Corps, study abroad, government agencies, embassy workers—to teach these seminars. They didn’t go on about security facts or rules for reducing risk abroad. They told real, engaging stories that we connected with.
They’re not the only ones doing this. A lot of brands out there have recognized that people connect with a story over a statistic or piece of data.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Let your personality show, have fun, be fun. Just because you’re in a serious or lackluster industry doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Consider these insurance advertising mascots: Geico’s gecko and cavemen, Allstate’s Mayhem, and Progressive’s Flo. Insurance is a snoozefest at best, but these companies have made a way to engage their audience in a memorable, lighthearted way. People connect with a brand when the brand feels like a person and not a corporation. Maybe you’re not creating TV ads, but you can be clever and fun on social media, like some of these brands.
Try a new angle
Customer service isn’t exactly the line of work that gets everyone excited. Zendesk, customer service software, creates content that engages its audience and helps them improve their customer service, get product tips and best practices, and more—but they don’t always do it in the most traditional way. They have an entire blog category dedicated to infographics to help their audience connect with their content visually. To announce the release of their iOS app in 14 different languages, Zendesk published an infographic with the title, “Great Customer Services Starts...in Bed?” This content highlights the phenomenon of the “bed office” and how we can’t help but reach for our phones first thing in the morning—and what that means for customer service.
While maybe not considered a ‘boring’ industry, I think it’s a great campaign: Dos Equis beer’s Most Interesting Man in the World. They tell a story about a man with clever tidbits about what makes him so interesting. He then tells his friends to stay thirsty, and voila! You’re laughing with friends over a cold one. While most beer ads show off frothy brews and girls in bikinis, Dos Equis found a way to be remembered (and quoted over and over).
Shock them with stats!
You’re may be thinking, wait I thought you said stats were bad! No, not inherently. Statistics and data can be a great way to get a reader’s attention or blow their mind while providing information. Statistics can also be a long string of numbers and figures that lull us to sleep. You must be smart when you use them. Keep stats interesting by relating the figure to something else your audience can grasp.
For example, you could say that Texas is 262,000 square miles, which seems big. But consider you could fit the entire population of the world right now into Texas and give everyone 1,000 square feet of space. Now I see that Texas is a really, really big state. And your stat just got more interesting.
Understand the community’s problems
Hear from people in the field about what interests them and what struggles they face. Get involved with Quora—start asking questions you have about your personas. You can also learn a lot about how they speak with one another and what jargon they use. This will help when it comes to choosing long-tail keywords and other SEO practices. And when you learn to talk like they do, you can write like they speak—and make content easier for them to enjoy.
Break up content with paragraphs, bullets, images, graphs, etc.
On the practical side, your boring industry may have a lot of intense material. To help make your content easier to digest try to:
break content up into several paragraphs.
use bullets and bold headers.
incorporate graphs and other images where you can.
Don’t get too carried away with fonts and sizes and formats. You’re trying to help the reader clearly view your content and skim to read what they want.
Get pop-culture involved
Whenever you can’t possibly think about what to say about your less-than-sexy industry, turn to pop culture. It's a great way to break the ice with your audience. Even without a direct relation to your industry, there may be a cat meme or Kim Kardashian gif to help say what you just can’t say with words.