6 Keys to Creating Sticky Content

Have you ever heard of the “curse of knowledge?”

To those of us who read, write and strategize about the best ways to convey information, the idea of knowledge being a curse may seem strange. But as much as knowledge enriches our lives, it can also hinder us when it comes to storytelling. Once you know something, it becomes difficult to recall what it was like not to possess that knowledge … and it also becomes more difficult to effectively explain related concepts to people that lack the information you now hold.

The curse of knowledge is one of many concepts covered by Dan and Chip Heath as they explain the secret of communicating lasting ideas in a book called “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.” It is a book that every content strategist (and any brand marketing for that matter) should read. The premise is this: The romantic notion we have of “creativity” as being far from formulaic and possessed by few people is not entirely accurate — there are actually many common traits of ideas that stick in people’s minds, and accounting for these traits when crafting a message can substantially increase the likelihood that people will retain your idea.

You read that right: You don’t have to be a creative genius to create ingenious content. And even if you are a creative genius, there are key concepts that will help that genius shine through on a consistent basis.

While one could never do the advice contained in the book true justice in a blog post, here’s a quick taste of the sort of empirically validated findings the authors share.

To create content that truly sticks, promote ideas that are:

Simple: Find an uncomplicated, yet profound core message and make sure it comes across directly and memorably.

Unexpected: Your message should be counterintuitive, violating expectations to capture and hold attention.

Concrete: A compelling level of detail is necessary to ensure your idea is deemed realistic and relatable.

Credible: Rely on trustworthy, expert sources that back up your idea and make it believable.

Emotional: An emotional connection can be more powerful than a logical one, so include emotional triggers.

Story-formatted: Humans are wired to think and communicate in stories, so use this to your advantage

Working in a brand publishing market where everyone is told to embrace content marketing “or else,” we seem to hear daily that creating “quality content” is the only way to stand out in a sea of stories. This conventional wisdom seems intuitive enough, and we find ourselves nodding knowingly whenever we hear it. But how often is anyone taking the idea to the next level, telling us how to stand out?

Not often enough, I would posit … which is why the Heath brothers’ book is so refreshing. By giving us tactical insights we can execute upon to create memorable content, they’ve delivered what so many other industry thought leaders merely hint at.

Finally, right? Well, not exactly … to circle back to the curse of knowledge, now that content marketing has been a “thing” for the last several years, it is easy to imagine that it has always been a key part of the brand building world. “Made to Stick” was published in 2007, however, before content marketing truly took off, making it not just another response to today’s content marketing craze, but an insightful tome for the ages.

And it is a tome worth delving into. We all have stories to tell; now let’s learn to tell them in a way that leaves our audiences craving more.

Lukas Treu is a founding member of the Content Development Department at AKHIA, where he currently works as a Content Architect. He also serves as the Vice President of Communications for the American Marketing Association – Cleveland Chapter, fields freelance writing projects via his side business The Mad Dash: Writing Wordsmithing and Semantic Services, and oversees communications at a Cleveland, OH-based tech startup company. Lukas is passionate about communication theory, social psychology and figuring out why people think/speak the way they do, so please excuse him for geeking out from time to time.

What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.


Image by Steve

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