curiosity killer ingredient for epic content creationIn business, it’s important to know the answers. All the answers. Fake it ‘til you make it, we say. This is especially true for consultants – whether lawyers, accountants or marketing experts, clients expect you to know the answers; to a large extent, they’re buying confidence… confidence that you will steer them in the right direction.

On the other hand, if you think you know it all, or act like you know it all, you can’t be a good brand journalist. Journalists must ask Why? A lot. The best stories are the ones that examine why, and so the best storytellers are the ones that can dig deep into their subject, peeling back the layers to understand the motivations of both the organization and its audience. At the risk of being overly dramatic, they’re seekers, searching for some version of the truth. This is the heart of journalism, whether you’re on the City Hall beat, or creating content for a company with a cloud storage platform.

The flip side of content creation is quickly-dashed-off listicles that require virtually no thought, reflection or research. Or keyword-stuffed hash that makes the audience roll its eyes. Yes, sometimes these pithy little articles can drive traffic and yes it’s not evil to make them part of your content mix, but the best content almost always comes from a deep dive into a topic.

What makes a content creator great? In large part, the answer is curiosity.

Consider this – my colleague Trish Sammer Johnston told me the other day that Seth Godin says he spends 16 hours a day researching. Sixteen hours! He’s seriously curious. I mean, that’s a lot of seeking. Godin’s result is typically brilliant content. Perhaps there’s something to this curiosity thing, eh?

Curious people learn things. Curiosity leads to understanding, and that fuels passion.

Organizations embarking on a content strategy need curious content creators; great content creators are naturally curious. They want to know not just how something works but why it works the way it does. They’re interested in everything. They’re also insatiable readers who devour all sorts of information. What did you do this weekend? Read anything good?

You want professionals that are willing to explore the motivations of buyers, to create a deep understanding of those personas – why they buy, why they don’t buy, what pressures they’re under, etc.. And when it comes time for content creation, you must have professional content creators that are going to delve beneath the surface of the subject matter, and will spend hours and hours talking to people, searching the Internet and conducting interviews. That is the only way you’ll get epic content – content that breaks through and drives a conversation throughout the industry.

A couple years ago, author Kathryn Schulz told the Poynter Institute that the more convinced we are that we know the story we’re about to report on, the less we’re going to try figuring out what the story is really about. Curiosity, then, becomes that much more important because it forces us to ask questions that lead to deeper meaning. “I think that journalists are well-served by having a real genuine interest in and empathy for divergent view points and people who don’t echo their own belief systems,” Schulz said.

The same applies to content marketing; if we don’t want to tell the exact same story everyone else is telling, we need to dig deeper.

At Scribewise, we often say that we don’t have all the answers, we have all the questions.

Sometimes we act like five-year-olds, incessantly asking why? This is because we know that the better we understand our clients, the better we understand their customers, and the better we understand their industry, the better we’re going to perform for them. Even if we’ve worked in their space before, we need to comprehend their approach. Oftentimes, we’re searching for nuggets of gold that they don’t know that they have. Armed with that deeper understanding, we can create stories that will propel them forward.

And that should always be the goal. Importantly, this juxtaposition of organizations accustomed to buying expertise with professionals whose expertise is in, to a certain extent, admitting that they don’t know can create tension. So let me say this – if you hire a content creator or a content marketing agency and they don’t bombard you with questions, you probably hired the wrong folks. If they act like they know your business as well as you do, you might want to show them the door. Yes, it’s generally a positive if they understand the basic tenets of a given industry, but its’ far more important that your content creators understand that they don’t know everything.

Before your content team can tell a great story, they have to have understanding. To gain that, they must go searching.