So, you have no money, but want to create something that actually means something to your audience?

You want to create good content, but without the price tag that it so often comes with?

Unfortunately, I can’t offer a cost free solution. But I do have a couple of pointers and changes of mind-set that could help make more of the limited resource you may have.

Ask The Right Questions

“What is the single most important thing for a company? Is it the building? Is it the stock? Is it the turnover? It's the people, investment in people.”

Within all of your organisations, you have tens, hundreds, if not thousands of colleagues who in themselves can provide a lifetime of content that is of the utmost relevance to your target audience. How better to engage with a software engineer than getting a member of your digital team to share their story?

But what we ask is just as important as who we ask. Questions such as: “What do you do as a Digital Strategist?” are nice, pleasant. But is it particularly exciting?

Test it. Tell a colleague you need a quote for an article and ask them what you as a team/department do. Then watch, as invariably they turn into a talking job description, overusing the words ‘deliver’, ‘strategy’ and ‘results’. Passion is proven to be contagious and a determinant in an individual’s success, but a closed question such as the above does nothing to encourage such a response. 

And you don’t need to read journal article to realise that. Who saw the episode of Dragon’s Den when Levi Roots of Reggae Reggae Sauce fame first appeared? He was a shambles, his numbers were wrong, business plan sketchy. But he was passionate about his product, he won the investment and is now worth £35 million.

So look beyond questions that are nice, and find a question that lets people talk about their passion. If you want to get me talking about my role, forget, “What do you do …”, why not try, “Snog, marry, avoid: Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat?” I’ll still be talking about social media, the respective channel merits and challenges, but I know which article I’d rather be writing. How this is delivered is up to you: video, infographic, article. It can cost as much as you allow. 

But asking a question that allows someone’s passion to shine through? 

Any budget can achieve that.

Tell a Story

Another way we can produce more meaningful content is to tell a story. Much like passion and enthusiasm, storytelling has a physical effect on our ability and willingness to engage. Sure, everyone likes a well told story. But it goes deeper than that.

Experiments by Uri Hasson at Princeton University proved the power of storytelling in helping individuals interact and engage with an audience.

They recorded the brain activity of an individual telling an unrehearsed story, before then measuring the response of the listener and asking them to complete a comprehension activity. The researchers found that the speaker's and the listener's brains 'exhibited joint, temporarily coupled response patterns.' In simpler terms, the listener's brain responses mirrored that of the speaker. To compound it further, they then proved this didn’t happen by chance. When the same story was told in a language they didn’t know - nothing significant happended.

Further comment on neuroplasticity, whilst fascinating, is sadly beyond my knowledge and expertise. But we don’t need to be experts to see the headline value in storytelling. And such an approach doesn’t need JK Rowling on a retainer to talk about the team in accounts, again it just needs a change in thinking.

So that’s my cost free offering, and we all know, you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth. But a change in mind-set could be the best thing you didn’t buy.

Digital Experience Strategist

As a Digital Experience Strategist at The Economist, Ryan is responsible for identifying opportunities for use of digital innovation. Ryan has a wealth of experience in digital marketing, content strategy, UX, SEM and social media strategy and focuses on creating optimised user experiences that drive engagement and inspire users to take action. If digital experience is his first love, then sport is his second. Follow him on Twitter and read his latest comments and observations on both.