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How to ensure your content isn't detrimental to your brand

How to ensure your content isn't detrimental to your brand

8 minute read

How to ensure your content isn't detrimental to your brand

8 minute read

How to ensure your content isn't detrimental to your brand

Fi Shailes

Senior social media marketer and content writer

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It’s been a tricky year for brands. The global pandemic has brought with it new digital behaviours for whole populations, with more time being spent online on channels such as social, and more content consumption than ever. Bubbling underneath these new habits is a new, heightened sensitivity to the content brands we follow (or don’t) are distributing our way. 

The impact the pandemic has had on brands and how they market to their audiences has been enormous. Brands that have been irreverent in the past have had to tone it down this year, whilst some of the more reserved brands have injected warmth or perhaps even humour into their content to convey a more ‘human’ side - but it’s all a balancing act. 

It all starts with ‘the brand’

The goal for many brands is to be timeless. Just think of household names like McDonalds, with its golden arches, and Dulux, with its Old English Sheepdog mascot. But even in this digital age, it can still take years for an organisation to build itself a brand which is truly recognisable and established. 

Factor in the continual need for that brand to keep evolving, re-imagining and re-inventing itself over time in order to stay relevant, and you can soon see how it’s going to be crucial for any accompanying marketing content to keep pace. 

It’s the principles behind your branding which should set the parameters for the content you go on to create, whether it’s aspects such as tone of voice, brand colours or your organisation’s brand values. 

It’s not easy for brands to get their content right 100% of the time, but when they do, it’s been proven that consumers like them more.  

Common issues to avoid with your brand's content

Let’s take a look at some common content issues you can avoid with a bit of extra care and attention in order to ensure your content is an asset for your brand.

‘Hollow’ content

It’s several years since content marketing/inbound emerged formally as a ground-breaking practice that helps us clinch leads and build brand awareness; build and implement a customer-focused programme comprised of creating and sharing digital content (such as blogs, social media posts and downloadable papers) which offers value and genuine insight to the audience. Simple, right?

The danger is, as I’ve written about previously, the pressure to keep creating. This can lead you down the dark path of ‘creation for creation’s sake.’ A scenario, for example, could be that something’s just fallen through on your content calendar, and now you need to quickly plug the gap with some alternative content. 

A straw poll with some of my Twitter peers indicates that this could be one of the most common issues amongst content creators and content marketers. I asked:

Content marketers: answering honestly, what's the one biggest content creation mistake you've most regretted making in the past?

The results were, I've created content that was:

  • lacking genuine value - 33.3%
  • not in the right tone of voice - 2.8%
  • too inwardly focused - 25%
  • created to fill a hole - 38.9%

The rush to develop and issue something into the marketplace can mean that the value element can be lost at content conception stage. However, you may find some short-lived comfort in the fact it’s been formatted well, talks broadly about a hot topic, and looks visually engaging. 

The thing is, your audience is smart and can see through this straight away - it’s mutton dressed as lamb. Gated or not, if they’ve opened the wrapping and they haven’t found anything of use inside, this makes that content seem hollow and superficial. They can feel tricked and deceived, and this in turn damages trust in your organisation, possibly deterring them from engaging with any of the future content you issue. 

Before you invest all that time and effort into creating something new, it’s important to weigh up how much of a ‘pay-off’ that end reader is really going to get from consuming your content. 

If it’s not offering value of some kind, e.g.:

  • Practical, applicable tips
  • A new, thought-provoking perspective
  • Informative updates or news
  • Some untapped industry insight

…then stop in your tracks and start again, I implore you!

Inadvertently misleading content

Whether you’re a content marketer, content writer or copywriter, the fact remains that the main goal is to find the most effective way to promote something to your prospects and customers.  And whilst I wouldn’t want to accuse anyone of being deceptive in the way they market something, there can be moments where we’re tempted to ‘over-market’ in order to meet those challenging lead generation targets or corporate KPIs.

I know I’ve definitely been drawn in by the promise of an insightful new white-paper in return for a few details on a form, which then turns out to be nothing more than a sales brochure…

Adding a bit of glitter to your content is all well and good in most cases, but when a social post promises a ‘round-the-clock’ support facility via your website and it actually turns out to be ‘8am-5pm’, your audience can quickly end up feeling like you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

The briefest of human errors can leave a bad taste too - the wrong CTA link in a mailer about a new paper resulting in click throughs to a completely different page, for example. This creates disappointment, but it can also come across as ‘sloppy’. Both totally detract from the otherwise genuine offer that mailer content was trying to make.

The point here is that being accurate in every aspect of your content (as well as the content you develop to help distribute it) is key to both gaining and retaining the long-term trust of your audience. So always be:

  • Clear
  • Honest
  • Accurate 

…and try your best to deliver on any promises or claims you make.

Inconsistent content

One of the main points of having a brand is to become recognisable. The elements that make up your branding are the unique marketing DNA of your organisation, and an important building block for achieving future business growth. 

Your prospects and customers need to be able to recognise you, so there needs to be parity in how your organisation’s content looks, reads and feels to your end audience – whatever the channel, whatever the format, whatever the day of week. 

So, if your content lacks the specific tone it would usually embody or isn’t characteristic enough that I can tell that it’s you by just a quick glance at an image or a subject line, your brand is weaker for it – it’s as simple as that.

You just have to look at the likes of Salesforce and HubSpot to really see ‘consistent content’ in action. From their social channels to their websites/microsites (and even their offline marketing collateral), you know exactly who you’re looking at (and usually what you’re going to get) before you’ve even finished reading any content cover-to-cover.

Examples of Salesforce treating their content with consistency (Twitter post, event details from a website page, white-paper, video content).



Above Image shows examples of Salesforce treating their content with consistency (Twitter post, event details from a website page, white-paper, video content).

The lesson? Don’t leave your brand’s content open to interpretation. Ensure that, across channels, you’re:

  • Incorporating your brand’s tone of voice correctly
  • Using design elements consistently
  • Choosing topics and themes that don’t seem ‘out of place’ to your audience

‘Me, me, me’ content

Things have changed so much over the past 12-months in the world of content marketing. In today’s digital playing field, the prospect/customer holds all the power, and has higher expectations than ever.

It’s simply no longer acceptable to be a brand that comes across as self-centred, so, in terms of things that are really important to avoid when it comes to ‘content that can be detrimental to your brand’, internally focused content has to be one of the biggest. 

Even in those organisations where there’s a true belief that the needs and wants of customers and prospects are being truly understood and fulfilled, long-standing internal assumptions can mean that the content being produced for your audience is done so because... well, it might not be based on very much at all actually. 

The danger of serving up this kind of content to your audience is that it often just serves to ‘dilute’ and undermine any truly effective brand messaging that’s gone before. It could even come across as ‘insensitive’ - especially in these current times.

How can you make sure that your brand truly creates and publishes content that is focused on your audience’s needs and desires?  

The key is knowing your audience - and knowing them really well. 

Creating buyer personas to help you identify who your different customer types can be a good first step if you suspect you need to ‘reset’ and ‘rethink’ how you’re approaching your content, but also think about how your content currently aligns with your organisation’s brand values. 

You could also invest some time in conducting a content ‘hygiene check’; allowing you to audit and evaluate some of the following:

  • “Is the current tone of voice present in our content working for our audience? Is our language appropriate?”
  • “What do our customers expect from our content? Are we fulfilling these expectations?”
  • “Are the images and design elements we’re using still reflective of the world we’re living in?”
  • “What does wider society expect from us, as a brand? Are we meeting those expectations through our content?”

The answers you settle on might mean that you have to do some extra work to recalibrate many elements of your content production - but think of it as a revitalisation rather than a rebuild. 

It’s far better to be proactive and reset boundaries under your own steam, rather than being forced to do so because your brand’s just made an unfortunate content mistake in a social media post.

It’s been a tricky year for brands. The global pandemic has brought with it new digital behaviours for whole populations, with more time being spent online on channels such as social, and more content consumption than ever. Bubbling underneath these new habits is a new, heightened sensitivity to the content brands we follow (or don’t) are distributing our way. 

The impact the pandemic has had on brands and how they market to their audiences has been enormous. Brands that have been irreverent in the past have had to tone it down this year, whilst some of the more reserved brands have injected warmth or perhaps even humour into their content to convey a more ‘human’ side - but it’s all a balancing act. 

It all starts with ‘the brand’

The goal for many brands is to be timeless. Just think of household names like McDonalds, with its golden arches, and Dulux, with its Old English Sheepdog mascot. But even in this digital age, it can still take years for an organisation to build itself a brand which is truly recognisable and established. 

Factor in the continual need for that brand to keep evolving, re-imagining and re-inventing itself over time in order to stay relevant, and you can soon see how it’s going to be crucial for any accompanying marketing content to keep pace. 

It’s the principles behind your branding which should set the parameters for the content you go on to create, whether it’s aspects such as tone of voice, brand colours or your organisation’s brand values. 

It’s not easy for brands to get their content right 100% of the time, but when they do, it’s been proven that consumers like them more.  

Common issues to avoid with your brand's content

Let’s take a look at some common content issues you can avoid with a bit of extra care and attention in order to ensure your content is an asset for your brand.

‘Hollow’ content

It’s several years since content marketing/inbound emerged formally as a ground-breaking practice that helps us clinch leads and build brand awareness; build and implement a customer-focused programme comprised of creating and sharing digital content (such as blogs, social media posts and downloadable papers) which offers value and genuine insight to the audience. Simple, right?

The danger is, as I’ve written about previously, the pressure to keep creating. This can lead you down the dark path of ‘creation for creation’s sake.’ A scenario, for example, could be that something’s just fallen through on your content calendar, and now you need to quickly plug the gap with some alternative content. 

A straw poll with some of my Twitter peers indicates that this could be one of the most common issues amongst content creators and content marketers. I asked:

Content marketers: answering honestly, what's the one biggest content creation mistake you've most regretted making in the past?

The results were, I've created content that was:

  • lacking genuine value - 33.3%
  • not in the right tone of voice - 2.8%
  • too inwardly focused - 25%
  • created to fill a hole - 38.9%

The rush to develop and issue something into the marketplace can mean that the value element can be lost at content conception stage. However, you may find some short-lived comfort in the fact it’s been formatted well, talks broadly about a hot topic, and looks visually engaging. 

The thing is, your audience is smart and can see through this straight away - it’s mutton dressed as lamb. Gated or not, if they’ve opened the wrapping and they haven’t found anything of use inside, this makes that content seem hollow and superficial. They can feel tricked and deceived, and this in turn damages trust in your organisation, possibly deterring them from engaging with any of the future content you issue. 

Before you invest all that time and effort into creating something new, it’s important to weigh up how much of a ‘pay-off’ that end reader is really going to get from consuming your content. 

If it’s not offering value of some kind, e.g.:

  • Practical, applicable tips
  • A new, thought-provoking perspective
  • Informative updates or news
  • Some untapped industry insight

…then stop in your tracks and start again, I implore you!

Inadvertently misleading content

Whether you’re a content marketer, content writer or copywriter, the fact remains that the main goal is to find the most effective way to promote something to your prospects and customers.  And whilst I wouldn’t want to accuse anyone of being deceptive in the way they market something, there can be moments where we’re tempted to ‘over-market’ in order to meet those challenging lead generation targets or corporate KPIs.

I know I’ve definitely been drawn in by the promise of an insightful new white-paper in return for a few details on a form, which then turns out to be nothing more than a sales brochure…

Adding a bit of glitter to your content is all well and good in most cases, but when a social post promises a ‘round-the-clock’ support facility via your website and it actually turns out to be ‘8am-5pm’, your audience can quickly end up feeling like you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

The briefest of human errors can leave a bad taste too - the wrong CTA link in a mailer about a new paper resulting in click throughs to a completely different page, for example. This creates disappointment, but it can also come across as ‘sloppy’. Both totally detract from the otherwise genuine offer that mailer content was trying to make.

The point here is that being accurate in every aspect of your content (as well as the content you develop to help distribute it) is key to both gaining and retaining the long-term trust of your audience. So always be:

  • Clear
  • Honest
  • Accurate 

…and try your best to deliver on any promises or claims you make.

Inconsistent content

One of the main points of having a brand is to become recognisable. The elements that make up your branding are the unique marketing DNA of your organisation, and an important building block for achieving future business growth. 

Your prospects and customers need to be able to recognise you, so there needs to be parity in how your organisation’s content looks, reads and feels to your end audience – whatever the channel, whatever the format, whatever the day of week. 

So, if your content lacks the specific tone it would usually embody or isn’t characteristic enough that I can tell that it’s you by just a quick glance at an image or a subject line, your brand is weaker for it – it’s as simple as that.

You just have to look at the likes of Salesforce and HubSpot to really see ‘consistent content’ in action. From their social channels to their websites/microsites (and even their offline marketing collateral), you know exactly who you’re looking at (and usually what you’re going to get) before you’ve even finished reading any content cover-to-cover.

Examples of Salesforce treating their content with consistency (Twitter post, event details from a website page, white-paper, video content).



Above Image shows examples of Salesforce treating their content with consistency (Twitter post, event details from a website page, white-paper, video content).

The lesson? Don’t leave your brand’s content open to interpretation. Ensure that, across channels, you’re:

  • Incorporating your brand’s tone of voice correctly
  • Using design elements consistently
  • Choosing topics and themes that don’t seem ‘out of place’ to your audience

‘Me, me, me’ content

Things have changed so much over the past 12-months in the world of content marketing. In today’s digital playing field, the prospect/customer holds all the power, and has higher expectations than ever.

It’s simply no longer acceptable to be a brand that comes across as self-centred, so, in terms of things that are really important to avoid when it comes to ‘content that can be detrimental to your brand’, internally focused content has to be one of the biggest. 

Even in those organisations where there’s a true belief that the needs and wants of customers and prospects are being truly understood and fulfilled, long-standing internal assumptions can mean that the content being produced for your audience is done so because... well, it might not be based on very much at all actually. 

The danger of serving up this kind of content to your audience is that it often just serves to ‘dilute’ and undermine any truly effective brand messaging that’s gone before. It could even come across as ‘insensitive’ - especially in these current times.

How can you make sure that your brand truly creates and publishes content that is focused on your audience’s needs and desires?  

The key is knowing your audience - and knowing them really well. 

Creating buyer personas to help you identify who your different customer types can be a good first step if you suspect you need to ‘reset’ and ‘rethink’ how you’re approaching your content, but also think about how your content currently aligns with your organisation’s brand values. 

You could also invest some time in conducting a content ‘hygiene check’; allowing you to audit and evaluate some of the following:

  • “Is the current tone of voice present in our content working for our audience? Is our language appropriate?”
  • “What do our customers expect from our content? Are we fulfilling these expectations?”
  • “Are the images and design elements we’re using still reflective of the world we’re living in?”
  • “What does wider society expect from us, as a brand? Are we meeting those expectations through our content?”

The answers you settle on might mean that you have to do some extra work to recalibrate many elements of your content production - but think of it as a revitalisation rather than a rebuild. 

It’s far better to be proactive and reset boundaries under your own steam, rather than being forced to do so because your brand’s just made an unfortunate content mistake in a social media post.

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About the author

Fi Shailes

Fi works at digital agency twogether as a Social Strategist. She specialises in all things social and content, and freelances part-time at Digital Drum.

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