Last week saw thousands of marketers converge on Cleveland, Ohio for 2016's Content Marketing World conference. There have been many useful and insightful points shared by attendees and speakers that aim to help improve your content marketing efforts, but if I could choose one it would probably be this.

For Andy Crestodina, Co-founder of Orbit Media based in Chicago, the key to producing engaging content is in identifying the right topics.

Crestodina shared three ways to come up with 'great content' (see quote below) - which is what we should be striving for from our blog posts to our interactive games - which are worth a closer look:

  • Original research
    • Observation (repackaging an existing dataset), aggregation (bringing together different datasets), and surveys (creating a new dataset) should all result in something original and interesting. If they don't then you're doing it wrong!
    • Take a step back, have a look at what data is available or missing, and lay down a few hypotheses. It's then time to start testing those theories against the data, always with a story (or stories) in mind that your audience can engage with.
  • Strong opinions
    • Don't be afraid of a bit of controversy. Study after study has shown that controversial topics can be highly effective in getting links, shares, views and engagement. After all, marketing is based on tapping into human emotions, and the strong negative emotions that arise from engaging with controversial content don't have to be aimed at your brand.
    • It may be better for you to see controversy as either supplying data on a controversial topic with which the audience can make conclusions, offering an alternative opinion that encourages debate or shouting about something that is rarely discussed and therefore taking a leading role by facing the facts.
  • Collaboration with others
    • Much like the point on controversy, you shouldn't be over-protective of your brand to the point where you aren't engaging with the content produced by other brands and your customers.
    • There are some easy wins out there for you if you partner with brands and customers that share the same values and an audience with you. As Crestodina says, it's a win-win situation for both in these partnerships.

These approaches are suitable for all marketers and brands, even if it just doesn't feel like 'you'.

If you're not a fan of hunting for datasets then run a simple (but focused) survey instead. The story you get from this will be unique and highly valuable.

If you're concerned about the negative feedback from a controversial topic then present the information and spark debate among your audience instead.

If you've carefully nurtured your brand so far and don't want to damage it, then find another brand that's equally as caring about theirs. If their values are aligned with yours, you can stop worrying and start collaborating.

Ultimately, there's really no excuse for a boring topic, is there?