How do we create engaging content that connects with our audience? You can post a link, image or video and get people to click on it, but beyond those first few seconds it's down to the content you create to hold people's engagement.
Bringing together Anoushka Warden (Head of Press, Royal Court), Rida Hamidou (Content Producer at the National Theatre) and led by culture journalist, content producer and consultant Theo Bosanquet, Mobius joined with Leicester Square venue Pop Hub to host a panel discussion for bloggers, theatre writers and venue teams offering tips on how to create high quality content. Writer and podcaster Rachel Elderkin attended the event. Here's the five top tips she took away from the evening:
Think like an editor
Marketing your work is important but when producing content try and think about it from an editor’s perspective – what is it about that content that will actually engage people?
To answer that it’s useful to ask yourself some questions about what you are doing in order to figure out exactly what you’re aiming for. A good starting point is to ask yourself: What is your niche? What is the subject that you’re talking about and, within that subject, what exactly is interesting about it? Theatre, for instance, isn’t a niche subject in itself but as such a wide ranging genre there’s plenty of scope to pick a particular topic and find your own angle within that. Perhaps your own knowledge and experience means you can look at that topic from a different perspective from what your audience is used to, or perhaps you know someone who can offer that unique angle. Thinking like an editor is also helpful when stuck for content or in need of some inspiration. Think about what’s happening right now; the conversations happening in and around your subject or industry. Those topics are likely to engage your audience - plus by simply producing the content you’ll already be interacting with your subject! After all, it’s not just about what you produce but how it connects with the wider world you’re working in.
Why not use your subject to form your content? It might sound like cheating, but it’s all about being smart with the resources you have around you. As Anoushka points out, if you’re writing a press release, for instance, then speak to the artist creating the work. If you understand what they’re trying to present then not only will you produce more informed and accurate content but the content will, to an extent, create itself. Plus it’s more likely to capture what it is about that work that will prove interesting to your audience. Thinking collaboratively is also a great tip for those working on a low budget (or with none at all!) Look for the common ground between yourself and those around you. Perhaps you need to broaden your audience – does the person you’re interviewing or that photographer you’re working with have a large social media following? If the content you produce promotes their work then they’re likely to share it with their audience, which in turn means a whole new audience for you! Or perhaps you work with or around people who have skills in film and editing, or access to technical equipment. Is there a way you can work together that benefits you both? Also, don’t be afraid to ask others for advice – asking those around you, whether or not they’re involved in your industry or have a knowledge of your topic, can be really valuable. It’s always good to take a step back, see things from a different perspective and get another view on what you’re creating.
Be authentic to your product and you’ll attract the right audience for you. You might feel like you need to reach as many people as possible but you’re never going to please everyone! Instead, be clever about who it is that you are trying to attract – then be clear and, most importantly, honest about your subject. People appreciate honesty, especially when a lot of the content we see online is only ever the ‘highlight reel’ rather than the full picture. Honesty connects with people and can make for engaging content.
Don’t be afraid of the obvious
Often, it’s easy to try and be too clever about your subject – especially if that’s an area in which you have a lot of experience and knowledge, or a topic you have researched in depth. It’s key here to remember your audience – how much do they already know? You want them to understand your topic or product, to be interested to find out more. As Theo Bosquanet says, when conducting an interview sometimes it’s the simplest questions that result in the best answers as they allow people to open up and expand upon their subject. It’s OK to not know something – after all, you’re interviewing someone to share their knowledge and experience with your audience. Also allow your interviewee time to open up – they might reveal something you couldn’t have found out through your research and it’s those personal, human touches that engage people.
The best way to launch is not to launch
It might sound contradictory but if we think about the film industry this is actually something we see all the time. There’s always a trailer and the general build up around the big film ‘coming soon’. It’s all about beginning that process of building up an audience before you release your content. That might not be necessary all the time, but if you’re marketing or creating content around a production or a new product then it’s super helpful to think about the trail that you are leaving for your audience – or the audience that you want to have when you finally launch. When you do launch, you can also re-purpose the content you have created for different platforms. The content on your website can be re-purposed for social media for instance – just tailor it to fit each network or platform, whether that’s in the title or in the snippet that you share from it.
There’s a lot to think about but in the end it’s all about producing informed content that connects with your wider industry and, in turn, your audience. If you know what’s exciting about what you’re creating then your audience will too.
As a last piece of advice from the panel: keep things fresh, look for ways to stir up your formula and disrupt your normal routines.
Rachel Elderkin is a freelance dance artist and writer based in London. She is a regular contributor to The Stage and international dance site, Fjord Review. Alongside her work as a dancer and writer, she hosts Dance Dialogues: A Podcast, featuring guests from across the dance world. She is also a member of the dance section of the Critics' Circle.