Generally, PR professionals hate the word “risk.” Risk correlates with instability, volatility, and unpredictability. It’s a sign of weakness and of potential disaster.
Solid branding, they feel, comes from stability, predictability, and surefire strategies that are designed to strengthen the brand. This approach isn’t necessarily bad. Many brands have built and cemented their empires using this conservative, low-risk style.
But for modern brands, this ambiguous, unflinching commitment to only safe stances and safe actions can actually prove to be a downside. The fact is, risks are a necessary part of business marketing, in content marketing, in particular, and in the absence of risk, your business could lose significant momentum.
Why Risks in Content Marketing Are Important
So why is it that risks are so crucial for content marketing success?
First, risks in content marketing function as enhancers. A “safe” strategy offers a relatively sure, but low return, while a “risky” strategy offers a less sure, but much higher potential return. Think of these as bonds and stocks. Bonds offer more security at a higher yield, while stocks offer greater potential at a higher risk.
Like with investing in stocks, you have to take calculated, reasonable risks. And if you do so, you typically don’t have to worry about it blowing up in your face.
Second, pursuing nothing but safe strategies makes your brand a boring corporate hulk. Consumers want to see some personality in their favorite brands. Otherwise they’ll get bored, they’ll lose trust, and they’ll flock to one of your competitors.
With that being said, there are five great ways you can take risks in content marketing campaigns:
1. Take a Firm Stance
This is perhaps the “easiest” risk to take, since you should be taking stances anyway.
Most major brands are afraid to take sides when it comes to a debatable issue; if you choose one side, the entirety of the opposition will instantly lose respect for your brand (or so the thinking goes).
In most cases, however, only a fraction of the dissenters will abandon your brand, and a larger portion might actually respect you more for voicing your opinion. And of course, the people who agree with you and remain will only feel closer and more closely aligned with your brand.
Taking stances, then, is simply a way of making your readers feel more strongly about your brand. It polarizes portions of your audience, but a polarized audience is better than a lukewarm one.
However, it’s best to leave politics out of this — stick to taking stances on matters relevant to your industry.
2. Make Bold Predictions
This is simple to integrate into existing articles, but many companies are afraid to do it.
Write about the future of your industry and make firm predictions about what will develop and when. For example, you could predict that a certain technology will be obsolete by 2020, or state that you foresee industry growth to outpace governmental forecasts.
If these predictions turn out to be wrong, you won’t lose much face — after all, they were just predictions — but if they turn out to be right, you’ll instantly win an audience as a thought leader in your industry.
3. Highlight Controversial Topics
When it comes to really controversial topics, it’s best to stay on the sidelines — but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid those topics altogether.
Introduce them in the context of one of your articles, and instead of putting a target on your own head, pose an important question to your audience. Do this in your blog and syndicate it on social media as well.
Inevitably, a handful of people will get involved in a discussion—possibly a heated one—and will bring more visibility and attention to your brand. Since you didn’t provoke the discussion (you only set the stage for it), you’ll get all of the visibility but none of the blame.
4. Gamble With New Mediums
New publication mediums, such as new social media platforms, pop up on an almost daily basis. It’s almost impossible to tell which of these mediums will stick around and which will fade away, so most businesses just stick to the ones they know (and these days, that usually boils down to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn).
It’s better to step out on your own and make a maverick of yourself. Getting involved on an emerging platform is a display of confidence, and can help win over the inaugural crowd, which is probably composed of influencers in their own right.
The worst that can happen is you’ll lose a little time.
Experimentation applies to all of these strategies and then some.
There’s something to be said about the value of consistency — in your brand voice, in your topic focus, and in your ultimate goals — but if you want to take risks and be successful, you’re going to have to make some tweaks.
The uncertainty of a new strategy can be intimidating, but that’s why it’s called an experiment—if it doesn’t work out, you simply scrap it and move on to the next potential strategy. If it does work, you stick with it.
Use these strategies to take more risks in your inbound marketing campaign. Your brand won’t be as safe as it was under more conservative circumstances, but you’ll reap the rewards of greater user interest, more visibility, and a brighter, more personable reputation.