One of the greatest challenges in brand marketing is creating content that consistently brings value and relevance to target audiences. In the early 20th century, marketing was about interruption or distraction — trying to catch a reader’s attention by inserting witty advertising copy in between favourite TV episodes and magazine pages. The advent of social marked a new era of disruptive content — creating stories that attracted interest by strategically getting the word out and generating product buzz. Now, with the daily proliferation of content available to consumers, we’ve entered into a new era of discernment. Audiences are in control of exactly what they want to consume. Today, the challenge is writing content that doesn’t just sell, but also engages.

For 2018, the key to developing more robust customer relationships is creating original and purposeful content that connects deeply with audiences over time. Your content should empathize with their challenges, solve their problems, and strike a true chord in their hearts and minds. Follow the three tips below to create meaningful, engaging content.

It’s about them

Focus on your customer. Your customer is the hero of every story that you tell. Clearly define your audiences and speak directly to them. Delve into their everyday world and address their greatest problems and strongest desires. You need to create content that serves their specific needs.

It’s more crucial than ever to understand your buyer’s pain points, both in terms of their business challenges and their decision-making process. Know what questions and objections arise throughout their journey. By writing to the right target audience, you’ll also organically maximize SEO.

Investigate like a journalist

To meaningfully understand your audience and create emotionally engaging content, you need to glean authentic insights from candid and personal experiences with your brand and marketplace. Personas and stories should be based on comprehensive interviews with actual people, from subject-matter experts to stakeholders who have navigated the buyer’s process of making a decision.

But beware, brands (and marketers) tend to talk more than they listen. You need to commit to listening to what people are saying about your brand, industry and competitors. Taking a journalistic approach means knowing how to ask probing and often tough questions and, equally as important, how to actively listen with intent and empathy. Use conversational research to dig deeply for compelling insights. Like a reporter, be open minded about making an impromptu change in your line of questioning. It can help you uncover a more profound insight or an intriguing storyline that you might have otherwise overlooked.

Cover a beat and specialize

With the oversaturation of content in today’s knowledge economy, how do you rise above the noise? Besides being a good storyteller, you need to show your brand’s authority and position yourself as an expert, especially in those specialty areas that differentiate you from your competitors. Your brand stories should validate your thought-leadership.

Inspire and motivate your customers through niche content that specifically addresses and relates to their needs. Show yourself as an authority by narrowing your focus and producing in-depth, defined and current pieces. Ideally, your writer should also be a specialist (particularly when it comes to complex and technical topics) who can speak to your audience’s experiences first hand.

As your brand boldly ventures into 2018, invest in creating original content that caters to your niche audiences. Lead the industry conversation by owning distinct issues, based on the core aspects that make your expertise unique.