Marc Zienkiewicz Create, Issues Ink

Marc spent a decade working as a reporter, photographer, and finally managing editor for Canada’s largest newspaper chain. He graduated from both the University of Winnipeg and Red River College communications programs, and over the years has received numerous Manitoba Community Newspapers Association awards for his writing and photography. He brings his love of writing, editing and constant learning to his role at Issues Ink.

We all strive to be an expert in our chosen field, and to be seen as one. But there’s an ugly flipside to the “being an expert” game, especially if you’re in the business of creating content — you run the risk of just being plain annoying if you don’t go about it properly.

You know what I mean. It’s a big trend now for self-declared celebrity experts, influencers, life and career coaches and others to take to social media promising to change your life if you buy their expensive DVD set or their new book — or pay big money to attend their high-priced personal development seminar.

If you’re like me, you tend to roll your eyes at it all.

Under all the flash, expensive production and pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo (“Think of what you want and put it out into the universe!”) lies simple common sense.

The problem with common sense is it’s hard to sell — but that’s what makes it so great and enables you to create good content that doesn’t make people roll their eyes. If you think of yourself as a biological computer, then common sense is the open source software that is totally free to everyone and will keep things running smoothly for years without the expensive gimmicks.

Here are the hallmarks of what I believe makes one effective at creating good content that people will put their faith in:

  1. Be humble. No one likes a showboat. In fact, in an age where even famous people are becoming more comfortable talking about their personal struggles and imperfections in a public forum, people have a ton of respect for those who don’t pretend to know everything or that they’re special. Just be yourself, warts and all.
  2. Know your audience, but don’t try to outsmart them. Good content speaks to your chosen audience. But don’t come across like you know more than they do or have something to “teach” them. Chances are, they probably have a thing or two they could teach you. We’re all learning.
  3. Don’t tease people with a price tag. I get annoyed when I read an intriguing piece of content only to find out that before I get to the payoff, I have to buy something. If this secret is so great, why are you wanting to reveal it to me in the first place? Because you’re just selling old-fashioned common sense wrapped in fancy packaging.
  4. Don’t make big promises. If something sounds too good to be true, it most definitely is. When you write content, or make a video or a podcast, don’t promise me that if I take your advice my life will change, or my income will triple, or I will be better at something. Instead, tell me an interesting story, or give me some useful information to use as I see fit. Let’s leave the flashy promises out of it. And please, please don’t use the word “universe”.