Mr. Twain would have us believe that there are no new stories, but the good news is you can still be original, even if your content isn’t officially ‘new’. With the world having been around for more than four billion years and humans for hundreds of thousands, you can’t always be the first to come up with a solution or an idea. BUT there still are plenty of new ideas left AND creating your spin on existing ideas can be just as valuable. The key is to maintain authenticity while producing something unique.
Of course, a lot of content now is aimed primarily at search rankings, trending topics, and social growth and that’s ok. In the digital age, we understand the science of so many things; even the science of art. But as content marketing continues to evolve, the focus will start to come back to real, human, authenticity. As AI becomes more sophisticated the need to manipulate algorithms will dissipate and that is when the mind can open back up into unadulterated creativity. Great content is all about value exchange. I will spend time reading, listening, watching, interacting if I feel I’m getting real value from this. Whether that’s education, entertainment, help, or any other genre of content.
Originality in Content Creation
Let me begin by saying making content is HARD! Be it writing a blog from your couch or directing a big-budget movie, making content requires genuine talent, a lot of hard work, and passion for the craft which cannot be acquired overnight. The artist (and the Marketer) within us always wants to deliver something new. But don’t feel too much pressure to cling to this concept.
Very often great content comes from the same place as great as great ideas – taking something existing and repurposing it. You can see these techniques in many of the world’s most successful books, businesses, and brands. If you can take a Sushi restaurant and open it to a new market, write about a boy wizard surrounded by mythological creatures or launch a brand that has 3 stripes in its logo (all real-life examples of repurposing existing ideas) then you can write your next blog influenced by another piece of content.
How to Create Original Content?
With content, we always have to spin things into a different context. Every organization should consider how to adapt topics and trends into their brand. A type of content might already exist in some format like books or blogs, but it might not exist as a podcast or movie. There are so many ways in which we can develop the same idea that creating something original by re-treating it makes it original in itself.
One model I created many years ago to help marketers understand how to create a content strategy is the Content Bubble. Using this alongside an effective content calendar ensures that you can find and plan great content ideas and fit them to your business and industry, no matter the subject.
The Content Bubble model a is simple and is designed to ensure you keep an eye on the bigger picture. The sphere of people looking for content directly about your company (e.g. awards, hiring) is pretty small but likely to be very interested in that content. Producing content about the industry you’re in is relevant to a larger audience and easy to find an angle on. However many companies neglect the biggest sphere of them all – the World. This bubble is where you will find major trending topics such as the Olympics or world news. This is the largest audience but hardest to create relevance for your organization. Virtually every story, however, can have an angle created that fits your organization and if you do so, you open up the biggest potential for reach. Keep the content bubble in mind when planning your content.
For example, Superbowl just happened a few weeks ago and it’s certainly not relevant for all companies to post directly about it. But if you’re an HR company maybe you could write an article on “How do Superbowl coaches motivate their teams?”. There is always an angle that can take a trending topic and apply it to your industry.
Surrounded yourself with the right stuff
No person is an island, you must not take the pressure of generating content all on your own. Our ideas are limited to our experiences and there should be no shame in admitting that you don’t know it all. Working as a team, interviewing others, getting thoughts and opinions, running surveys, setting up an approval chain – all of these can help to expand and develop your content.
Also, the work environment for creatives should not be boring. I have seen too many talented creatives produce work that, over time, becomes less inspirational because they have been sat in a grey cubicle for too long. Moreover, every day we should spare some time just for thinking. Get away from your desk. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. Go and look at something new.
How to Stay Authentic?
I don’t think authenticity and originality have to go hand in hand. You can be entirely authentic, open, transparent, and honest with authority even whilst developing others’ work. In the academic world, this happens all the time. For example, if you read a non-fiction book on history (which is a personal passion of mine), it’ll often reference other books throughout. And most physicists would admit to building on others’ work. Even in my books, I mention other authors as there are many great books out there on a wide range of subjects in marketing. It doesn’t mean your work is not authentic or it doesn’t have the authority, it just brings a separate reference point that adds to the argument that is being made. It sparks a debate that can be a useful tool to understand a topic.
Relevance of Plagiarism
Deriving content from other people’s work is definitely not a bad thing. At the same time, one must never go so far as to plagiarise or infringe copyright. If you’re not sure about the rules then look them up. It has never been easier to find people that are stealing your work so you WILL get caught.
The internet (in case you hadn’t heard) is massive. The good thing about web 2.0 is that it is open and flexible. Anyone can be a part of it and express their opinions effectively. People have the liberty to create almost anything (for good or bad). Hence, content needs to be protected. There are some great trackers that can be used to check if your work is being copied word for word. Copyscape, Who is Hosting This?, Google Alerts are a few trackers that you can start using right away! There are also checks on platforms like YouTube to make sure your content is not being exploited (which is something all platforms should catch up with).
At the same time, there is an element of letting your work go. Once you upload anything it is not just for you anymore. Letting people share your work on their own terms gives your content the chance to reach a wider audience. A lot of content can benefit from this but of course if your content is purely for monetization then this is not sensible. For authors, influencers, or speakers and many others, your work probably needs to be given away to reach its full capacity.
YO! Sushi – A Case Study
YO! Sushi, who hasn’t heard about them? They changed the restaurant landscape back in 1997 by introducing the UK to conveyor belt sushi. Back then, having the first row to see how your food is being prepared and then having a machine carry it to you was a concept that was pretty alien to us. I am sure loads of people must have given credit to the fantastically entertaining Simon Woodroffe for designing such a unique concept. However, the concept of serving sushi on a conveyor belt was originated in the 1950s by Yoshiaki Shiraishi in Japan. Even he got the idea after seeing beer bottles on a conveyor belt at an Asashi Brewery’s assembly line. Simon was still smart enough to bring it to the UK and created an exciting brand that still does well today, but it wasn’t truly original. If we are looking for originality in its purest form, then the credit for creating YO! Sushi could go to Yoshiaki.
Originality is not innovation. YO! Sushi took an innovative product and made it relevant to another country.
As marketers, our focus should be on adapting current trends and relevant topics into something meaningful for our audience and authentic for our brand. So don’t worry about whether someone has done it before, just find your place in the story. Use the Content Bubble and a good Content Calendar to help you find the stories and then twist them into different formats and use cases for your audience.
And most importantly, never stop creating!