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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

16 strategies to ensure the content you’re producing has real value for your audience

Writing informative content can set you and your organization up as experts in your industry—but only if it provides real value to your audience.

16 strategies to ensure the content you’re producing has real value for your audience
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]
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Gone are the days when producing business content simply meant writing copy for ads. With today’s broad variety of 24/7 media outlets, organizations have the opportunity to create messaging that will not only give them top-of-mind awareness but also showcase their expertise, boost their brands, and help them build real, meaningful relationships with their target audiences. By producing content that shares their knowledge with the public, a leader and the organization they represent can show that they’re genuinely interested in serving the public’s needs, not just in making a sale.

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It can seem like an intimidating task to develop smart, meaningful content, but it doesn’t have to be. You and your team have plenty of valuable information to share; you just have to learn the best ways to uncover it and get it out there. To help, the members of Fast Company Executive Board have shared ways leaders and their teams can brainstorm and create content that not only demonstrates their expertise but also provides real value for their audiences.

1. SHARE INSIGHTS THAT CAN LEAD TO MEANINGFUL CHANGE.

Brand loyalty comes when people know that you really want them to live their best lives and you have the tools to help them achieve that. Knowing your target audience deeply and being able to connect with them authentically is a great way to build rapport. Then, sharing your wisdom or insights in a way that will help your audience make meaningful changes makes them your evangelists. – Shannon Lucas, Catalyst Constellations

2. SURVEY YOUR TARGET MARKET TO LEARN THEIR NEEDS.

Content should not be based on the opinions or self-imposed interests of the producer. It’s critical that content speaks directly to a problem or pain point facing the audience. Surveying and analyzing the needs of the customer and/or target market provide the best vehicles for discovery. Finally, objectivity and relevance should be exercised to the fullest extent before “going to market.” – Anthony Flynn, Amazing CEO LLC

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3. TAP INTO YOUR UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE.

Great content will leave the reader smarter. Ask yourself, “What am I in a unique position to teach readers (and customers)?” What data do I have to draw insights from? What unique perspective do I have that can add context to what’s happening in the world? What lessons have I learned along the way that lend credibility to my brand?” Teach something relevant to your industry. – Noah Greenberg, Stacker

4. BE TRUE TO YOUR IDENTITY.

Every company needs to be true to its brand, its identity, and what it stands for. Audiences and customers love companies that are authentic, that speak their truth, and that walk their talk. Don’t try to be someone else or someone that you’re not. Let your brand speak for you and sell for you. Be clear about who you are: Stand for something and strive to create an impact on the world around you. – Steve Dantas, CarrierDirect

5. TEST CONTENT WITH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.

Making your content valuable and usable is paramount; otherwise, your target audience won’t come back for more. Companies need to get to that audience and then test and retest their content—whether that’s leveraging internal subject-matter experts, external analysts or industry experts, or even your customers. Building and leveraging those relationships is key to building out useful content. – Liz Carter, ServiceMax

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6. LET YOUR AUDIENCE’S NEEDS DETERMINE YOUR TOPICS.

Take time to really know your audience. Don’t just scratch the surface by answering basic questions—go deeper to identify their needs and challenges and then create content to address those appropriately. At The Trevor Project, we conduct ongoing research to shed light on the experiences of LGBTQ youth. These insights better inform the resources, programs, and tools we offer to help them. – Amit Paley, The Trevor Project

7. MAKE SURE IT’S LESS ABOUT YOU AND MORE ABOUT THEM.

Companies often build content from an internal value proposition perspective rather than from the customer value exchange perspective. Your content needs to be less about your company and more about your customers. When you take the time to really listen to and understand your customers’ experiences and build off those learnings, you create valuable content that is a marriage of the two. – Joyce Kim, Genesys

8. DON’T ATTACH ANY STRINGS.

Deliver actionable value upfront without the expectation of anything else—no upsell or funnel. The most valuable content is just that: valuable. When you don’t add any fluff or attach any strings, you don’t create awkwardness in what you’re conveying. Above that, you’re also presenting truth and honesty to your audience. Your audience appreciates nothing more than legitimacy. The ROI will come. – Benjamin Nader, 6 Figure Recruiter

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9. ILLUMINATE WITH DATA.

Use consumer data to tell stories that resonate. Whether you use data that already exists or commission a survey to garner new insights, data can be used to tell stories that connect with people on a human level because they are real stories without marketing fluff. Target an issue that’s interesting for your audience to explore and use data to illuminate it. – Becca Chambers, Ivanti

10. SUGGEST HOLISTIC SOLUTIONS.

Focus on connecting with key problems that your audience faces and suggesting holistic solutions to consider, with one of those holistic solutions being your brand’s solution. By doing this, you both communicate a deep understanding of the problems faced as well as an openness and willingness to acknowledge that there are many solutions to consider. – Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC

11. BE GENEROUS.

We look at content as something to share without holding back. The more we provide, the more valuable it becomes. You can’t be reluctant to give templates, checklists, and additional narratives. Think of it like this: Just because someone has a recipe to follow, it doesn’t mean they are going to cook like Bobby Flay! There will still be a need to come back to you as the expert. – Lisa Bichsel, Bichsel Medical Marketing Group

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12. TELL THE FULL STORY.

Craft strong storytelling content by sharing the situational background, the approach you took to the situation, what was successful, and the failures you experienced along the way. Telling stories that resonate with your potential clients (your audience) is critical to showcasing your value, especially in management consulting. – Krishna Kutty, Kuroshio Consulting Inc.

13. ENSURE IT’S A QUICK AND EASY READ.

A simple but effective way to provide value is to structure your content well and make it easy to scan through. Your audience quickly looks through your content to get the exact information they need. If you can answer their questions right away by using simple language and a well-structured post, you’ll provide an easy way for them to get what they need. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

14. INSPIRE ACTION.

Turn complex topics into simple, digestible insights and wisdom for your audience. In our daily lives, we face an overload of information, so find a way to keep your content clear, simple, and actionable. If your intent is to drive transformation, remember that people do not change from learning new things but rather when they take actionable steps with the newly acquired information. So, inspire action! – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5

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15. CHECK FOR ACTIONABILITY AND DIFFERENTIATION.

When creating informational content, I always rely on two standards to ensure value to the target user: actionability and differentiation. The first test is actionability: What can the user do with the information you share? Will it lead to a certain action, behavioral change, or mindset change? Second, is the message sufficiently differentiated? That’s how to stand out. – Todd Miller, ENRICH: Create Wealth in Time, Money, and Meaning

16. ENSURE YOU’RE ADDRESSING THE QUESTIONS OF YOUR FULL AUDIENCE.

Valuable content both educates and inspires. The key is to identify the specific needs of your audience and then create the content that only your brand can. For example, at Mamava, we are always considering both the needs of our customers (buyers) and the problems of our end users (breastfeeding parents). It isn’t always easy, given the differences between these two groups (facilities and moms), but our content must be relevant for both. – Sascha Mayer, Mamava