Tone, Language and Style: Key Ingredients to Effective Content Writing

Creating good content is like baking or cooking. You need to put the right “ingredients” together — narrative, headline, body, visuals, data, etc — to get the final product (though not edible, of course). During this process, it’s understandable to focus on the bigger and meatier parts such as your content’s structure and presentation, but don’t overlook finer details such as tone, language and style. Yes, they’re subtle notes in the overall dish, but it’s this subtlety that adds unique flavor and ties everything together.

Knowing who and why

Getting your content’s tone, language and style right reflects several things — one of which is an awareness of who your intended target audience is. This includes their age range, cultural background, needs, interests and their assumed level of knowledge in the topic or of the product/brand, among others.

It also attests to knowing your content’s purpose. It’s not just about who you are writing to but why you are writing to them. Is it to educate or entertain? Is it to generate leads or drive brand sentiment? Is it to present facts because you want to inform or to persuade the reader to accept your point of view?

Knowing these things will strengthen your content’s personality. Think of it like selling a product — you can cast a wide net and see who takes the bait, or you can hone your approach and shape your sales pitch,aligning with your audience.

Here’s a breakdown of how tone, language and style add value to your content and form integral pieces of the puzzle:

Tone: What’s the attitude?

Tone is about the way you want to address your audience — in other words, your content’s attitude —and is a key part in molding your message so it resonates with the reader. In fact, a study shows that your content’s tone can influence a person’s impression of your brand’s desirability and even trustworthiness.

Tone doesn’t just mean either formal or informal, as it can exist along a spectrum. Adobe, for example, has a 5-point scale of different tones — i.e., motivational, helpful, instructive, reassuring and supportive— to find the right attitude or expression based on context and its audience’s needs.

Finding the perfect tone can be tricky, and there is no standard guide to follow. But a good starting point would be to ask:

  • Should I use a casual or formal voice for the intended audience?
  • Should the writing be matter of fact or can it be funny?
  • Should it sound positive, neutral or critical?

Language: Finding the right words

To understand the value of language in content, we have to look at how language is used as a tool to understand human behavior. Linguists have found that it can go as far as influencing consumer habits and purchasing decisions. In fact, Stanford research found a connection between the language used in product descriptions and sales performance.

Knowing the right words to say to your audience boosts authenticity while preventing a disconnect between the message and the person receiving it. Again, your target audience helps inform what language is suitable. For example, the Stanford researchers found that using “polite language that invokes culture or authority” helps products sell in Japan. The tone of your content can also better determine the appropriate words or vocabulary to match it.

Other elements to consider include:

  • Contractions: using “don’t”, “let’s” and “can’t” can make your content more accessible and is often suited for informal, casual or personal pieces (think blog posts, op-eds and commentaries); they should be avoided for business-oriented content such as reports, whitepapers and analytical articles.
  • Idiomatic expressions: using such phrases can spark life and add a personal touch, but do so sparingly as too many of them can make your content awkward to read.
  • Slang: use it at your own risk.
  • Directness: this refers to whether you directly or indirectly address the reader in your content (“You should think about what you want to say” versus “The writer should think about what he or she wants to say”—the former feels more personal, while the latter feels distant).

Style: It’s all about image

Style consists of both tone and language but also includes more granular and technical details. These include British versus American spelling, punctuation, formatting of dates and times, honorifics, job titles and other factors that vary depending on what a company, brand or organisation prefers. These may seem trivial but even reputable organizations or institutions, such as The New York Times and Oxford University, have their own set of style guidelines — each is a reflection of the company’s or institution’s values and history.

Depending on the industry or field of study, institutions may use the AP Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style, or the Modern Language Association. Each of these style guides have rules covering a wide range of topics, including punctuation, editing, proofreading, and citation. For instance, journalists may prefer the Associated Press Stylebook, while academics typically rely on the Chicago Style. 

There are several benefits to having a style guide:

  • It helps exude professionalism and shows attention to detail.
  • It ensures consistency across all content/products.
  • It complements a brand’s identity and voice.

Nailing your content’s tone, language and style is a nuanced process. While there is no fool proof template to follow, keeping an audience-oriented approach while ensuring you don’t lose sight of your content’s purpose will help steer you in the right direction.

Need help crafting written content? Drop us a line at [email protected].

3 Visual Storytelling Formats To Boost Your Content

Storytelling is something so intrinsic to human beings that its evolution has followed that of our own. Oral storytelling traditions and hieroglyphics eventually turned into printed books and moving pictures. Today, storytelling’s largest medium is digital, allowing us to access pictures and words from around the world with a touch of a button. What a time to be alive! 

But human beings have evolved, too. When it comes to consuming content, studies show that human attention spans are dropping. At the same time, Netflix binging is on the rise. If I had to hazard a guess, storytelling probably has something to do with that—and not just storytelling, but visual storytelling.

Achieving total recall

According to research, the human brain processes visual content 60,000 times faster than text. As a result, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, which means we observe, learn, process and decide using visual information. We see this play out every day in digital formats, particularly on social media where compelling images can help your content average 94% more views

But visuals alone fall short of the full storytelling experience. In fact, a combination of written and visual presentation formats are often the best for active learning and recall. With the variety of digital formats on offer, achieving this combination has never been easier. 

To illustrate, check out these real-life examples that use both copy and visuals to elevate the storytelling experience:

  1. Social media photojournalism

Platforms like Instagram are elevating photojournalism to become more engaging than ever before. Take for example People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), a media outlet that highlights important social issues by documenting everyday life in rural India. It addresses these sensitive and often overlooked issues by using photos from the field and interspersing them with striking copy. The images help magnify the humanity of its subjects to the reader, while the limited space for text necessitates carefully chosen copy. As a result, the story is distilled to its most impactful form and is more likely to leave a lasting impression.

This format is also ideal to break down complex subjects into bite-sized information, as we’ve experienced working with one of our social media clients, Binance Charity Foundation (BCF). As the charity arm of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, BCF often has to simplify technical cryptocurrency terms to make its content accessible to different audiences. This post on NFTs is one such example of how images and succinct copy can condense a broad topic in a compelling way. 

2. Interactive storytelling

The New York Times has been championing interactive visual formats that add an exciting experiential element to what would otherwise have been static stories. Take for example, its exploration of a classical artwork by famed Indian artist Chitaraman. The dynamic format zooms in and out of the painting, taking the reader on a digital art tour that is as illuminating as it is engaging. 

Another example was its interactive visual op-ed story that helped readers find their place in the COVID-19 vaccination line. Here the Times went a step further by asking for the reader’s participation before telling an impactful story through a clever infographic. Talk about being memorable!

3. Engaging infographics and visual-led reports

Some forms of content require longer formats, such as whitepapers or business reports.  In these cases, visuals play an important role in not only adding a refreshing differentiation between sections of text, but also bringing data and impactful words to life. 

LinkedIn, for example, publishes a number of data-led reports that consistently and generously make use of visual elements. Their 2021 Workplace Learning Report featured a combination of graphs, pull out quotes and vibrant visuals to create a report that was heavy on insights but light on the eyes. 

Some reports go a step further with an almost entirely infographic format, such as the 2021 Quarterly Job Market Index reports we worked on for our client RGF International Recruitment. The report series was almost entirely visually led, accompanied by a short commentary on each page. Aside from being engaging, formats like this offer quick takeaways that help both layman and media audiences easily navigate the report’s key insights. 

These examples show that hybrid visual and copy formats can be as complex or as simple as you need or your capabilities allow. But regardless of visual elements, it is important to remember that to get results, the basics of content strategy will always apply. This means always considering your audience, determining your objectives, and staying authentic to your brand voice. Once you’ve got this covered, let your visuals do the rest.

Need some fresh content or visuals to tell your story? We can help! Write to us at [email protected] 

We’re Feeling 2022: A Mutant Take on the Hottest Design Trends for the Year

It’s that time of year again where design trend forecasts flood the Internet. 

Although design trends shouldn’t be the primary driver of brand identity and logo designs, they play a huge role when ideating short-term campaigns and staying relevant on social media. 

At Mutant, we stay abreast with the latest trends to help our clients achieve their communications goals. Here are the five graphic design trends we’re most excited about in 2022: 

Early 2000s Aesthetics: Nostalgia Still Sells

You may have noticed the resurgence of 90s visual cues over the past 2 years. Netflix’s Billion-Dollar Code is almost like a love letter to the 90s, and many brands that made it big in that era have proudly gone back to their roots through limited edition packaging and retro campaigns in the last year. With that said, we believe that the 90s aesthetics have reached a peak in 2021 and we’ll see more early 2000s aesthetics in 2022.

COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on the kind of visuals we’re seeing because it has an effect on the kind of visuals we desire to see. Texture became a big theme in graphic design as an overcorrection to the flat design trend back from 2018/2019.

In a world where glossy screens are dominating our attention, we crave the days of creased magazine pages and grainy photographs and those are exactly the things we saw in 2020 and 2021.

Texture isn’t going anywhere, but how it’s applied will. Gooey blobs (remember gel packaging?) and iridescent colours are already making appearances sporadically; look out for hints of the Nickelodeon green goo, Rugrats, Disney Channel, trading cards and MTV aesthetics!

The Bold and The Weird: Bright & Unorthodox Colour Schemes

This trend ties into the previous one. If you thought the use of colours in the 90s were weird, Y2K took colours even further. The early 2000s were marked by the iconic iPod ads and halftone-heavy textures inspired by magazines and comic books. 

The decade was also filled with uncomfortable colour combinations that somehow worked – think combos like purple and yellow, green and orange, and white and light blue. B2C brands will openly embrace this trend within the confines of their existing brand colour schemes, and it will be a pleasant surprise to see B2B brands follow suit.

Into The Metaverse: Giving Virtual Campaigns Another Try

Hashtags for “meta” and “metaverse” have been trending ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced his ambitious vision to make the “metaverse” a thing, so don’t be surprised to see more visuals inspired by this idea. Keep an eye out for advertisements and social media campaigns featuring “build your own avatar” ideas, 3D virtual environments replacing photography, or even potentially interacting with real-life photography. 

Because of this, we expect a revival of AR in brand activations. Some of the more daring brands might even toy with launching events within developing metaverses. Perhaps it’s time to give Second Life a second chance after work?

Serving Strange Looks: Type Distortion

Wavy serifs, sunburst ultra-bold san serifs, trailing, disintegrating italics — distorted typography became popular at the end of 2020 during the height of the anti-design trend (looking at you, Spotify). 

A word of caution: although type distortion can look great, graphic designers are generally trained to avoid distorting typefaces for the sake of legibility. But no matter how you may feel about it, expect to see more of this trend play out in 2022!

Making Moves: More Kinetic Logos

Motion design isn’t going anywhere. Social media is increasingly video-centred, as proven by Instagram’s shift from a photo-sharing app to an entertainment and video platform as TikTok continues its reign among Gen Zs. This means that the only way for brands to retain attention is to make anything that matters move. We have seen a gradual increase in animated logos since as early as 2018, and this trend is only going to continue in 2022 and beyond. 

Perhaps it’s time to consider animating your current logo for splash screens, website navigation bar, and apps in your next rebranding exercise as animated logos can turn your brand identity into an organic system, just like Fisher-Price’s kinetic logo as shown here.

As a closing thought, it’s important to remember that trends are often precursors to changes in consumer behaviour. They serve as a good guide, but don’t feel pressured to follow every trend predicted on this list nor anywhere else! 

The key to staying relevant is to evaluate these consumer behaviour changes and create an on-brand strategy for your target audience. Doing this not only addresses your customers’ needs, but increasingly solves their problems in creative ways. Now that’s a defining quality of trendsetters.

Want to be on-brand and in trend? Reach out for your branding and design needs at [email protected]

Presenting Remotely: 5 Pro Tips To Keep Your Webinar Audience Engaged

(Hint: It’s got (almost) nothing to do with making sure the technology works properly)

In our new, virtual work environment webinars, Zoom conferences and meetings have become the new constants. But keeping your audience engaged (especially when they aren’t in the same room) is the probably the toughest part of any live webinar. I mean, how often have you tuned out of the virtual meetings you’ve been in? 

Mastering the art of hosting engaging online sessions while being an impactful communicator isn’t easy – especially when people can simply switch off the cameras and disengage at any time. Fortunately, being in the business of communications, we’ve got a few tips to help you nail that next virtual session like a pro.  

Think about your audience

Always start your preparation by understanding the profile of your attendees. Why should they give up an hour (or more) of their day to join yet another virtual session? While webinars are a great tool to promote a new product or idea, or to drive potential leads, focusing too much on selling vs. engaging may run the risk of attendees dropping off or tuning out too soon. 

Content is key

Nobody likes the idea of sitting through long, boring sessions, filled with slides full of texts to read. So, don’t just wing the webinar – deliver informative, snappy and sharp content that resonates with the audience. Keep people engaged in your webinar by sharing information creatively and clearly. Using different content formats (GIFs, Video, Infographics) is also a great way to keep your attendees hooked to the screen. 

Extempore…is not a good idea

If you’re planning to conduct the webinar by reading off the slides you’ve prepared, please don’t. People will turn off quicker if you simply do what they can do themselves. Writing a clear narrative helps you structure your key points while also ensures you’re delivering the message in a tone that speaks to your audience in an easy to follow and engaging way. Don’t be afraid to chat and improvise in line with the points you’ve listed – trust us, it will result in a much more engaging talk.

Don’t just present, tell a story

People listen and react to stories. In a live presentation, your body language and facial expressions are key to keep your audiences engaged – and if they can’t see you, you need to put even more thought into your tone of voice! Share personal anecdotes, relevant data and case studies or ideas to enliven the session. Remember, timing is everything!

Make it fun and interactive

With our days filled by Zoom meetings, it is not a bad idea to experiment and switch things up a bit. Perhaps start the webinar with an icebreaker question. You could also conduct polls or a short quiz at the beginning of the session. Always pause after a couple minutes to ask questions. This is a great practice to ensure attendees are still on the same page.  

Lastly, stick to the basics so the key elements are in place. Check your camera and audio and always test the full set up a few minutes ahead of the webinar. Ensure you use the right technology and platform to fully engage your audience. 

Need help with your upcoming Zoom conference? You can count on us : [email protected]

5 Design Tips To Make You Seem Like A Pro

Have you ever wondered if there’s a design cheat sheet somewhere to guide you on conveying your digital marketing materials effectively, and making things look prettier?

While there’s no magic answer to becoming a design whizz, there are quick tips and tricks to help you better design for online consumption (even if you’ve never been to art school). Luckily for you, us Mutants know a thing (or five) about designing great content: 

Have a purpose

Before we play dress-up, the ultimate goal is to tailor the form of your design to its purpose. Beyond defining your target audience and content strategy, be laser-focused in determining a clear CTA (call-to-action) for a successful acquisition – after all, a pretty design means nothing if it doesn’t connect to the action intended. It’s akin to completing a jigsaw puzzle when that last piece satisfyingly clicks into place. Remember, good design decisions are the result when your project goals are objectively met.

Maximise your layout

Always start with the relevant dimension to ensure your visual content is pixel-perfect. With the ever-changing social media landscape, knowing the right sizes is imperative to uphold your reputation. Depending on how much space you have, be mindful of information overload to ensure high visual prominence. Remember that the average person is not going to sit and focus on your content all day – it’s only a matter of seconds before they move on.

Command with hierarchy

Never underestimate the power of a well-structured visual hierarchy. By laying out information strategically, we are influencing users’ perceptions with various visual cues to help inform, impress and persuade. The most important elements on the page should be the largest.

Experiment with typography

If tone and manner captures the spirit of your voice, then typography works as the face of your character. But too much of a good thing can be bad – especially if you’re using a variety of display fonts to be ‘creative’. While it isn’t necessary to stick to one font, a trick that tends to be overlooked is mixing font variants (e.g. Helvetica Regular, and Helvetica Bold). Even though these fonts are in different weights, they appear consistent when used together because they’re from the same family.

Contrast with colour schemes

From monochromatic to eclectic colour combinations, determine the visual message of your piece and then stick to a colour palette to evoke your desired emotional response. Colour schemes are handy in defining the tone of your brand voice – be it harmonious or contrasting palettes, treat colours as an accent in your work to give emphasis and enhance aesthetics.

Still with us? Congratulations, you’re now a bona fide designer! Well, maybe not quite. While these considerations serve as a solid foundation for good design principles, sometimes you still need an eye for design to create compelling content using the power of visuals. 

Talk to us about your digital marketing plans at [email protected] – we’ll breathe life into it.

How To Keep Content Available During COVID-19

It’s 2020 and the rules have changed. Due to the global pandemic, content that may have worked for businesses last year may no longer work this year. Events are now highly restricted or banned, business travel is curtailed, and face-to-face meetings are discouraged, pushing many businesses into unusual circumstances. 

The economic disruption may also tempt some companies to suspend all marketing activities and “go dark” but this would be is a mistake. According to a survey of 25,000 consumers globally by Kantar, only around 1 in 10 consumers think brands should “go dark” during this time. And brands that do disappear from view saw a decline in awareness, posing an additional challenge of regaining lost ground.

With that in mind, here are a few ways your business can keep a stable content pipeline as we grapple with the new normal. 

Prioritise health and safety

People who engage your brand want to know what’s being done to keep them safe and healthy. 

Prepare a list of concerns people are likely to raise and address them right away. For example, you can share about additional steps your employees are taking to ensure customers’ safety, changes to your operating hours or processes, or actions you will take in case of an outbreak linked to your business. 

Include this in your social media posts. Place it on your website’s landing page as an FAQ section. Mention these health and safety guidelines in your brochures, videos, and other marketing and communications collateral. Assure people they have nothing to worry about. 

Update stakeholders on how you’re helping and adapting

Inform people how your business is making a meaningful difference in the community during this difficult time. It can be about how you’re sharing company resources for free, discounts and concessions offered to customers, or how you’re providing support to your own employees. 

Alternatively, you may also have products and services that can help make people’s lives easier during the new normal. If so, share how your products and services are making a meaningful difference and being a solution. 

Regardless of the format it takes, remember to show empathy and compassion. It’s a sensitive time for many people, so avoid any action or content that can be seen as trying to take advantage of a difficult situation.

Share insights about the new normal

Amid all the changes this year, you or your business may have gained new insights. Why not share it with your stakeholders? Businesses and consumers constantly want to know how the landscape has changed from last year. You might have discovered a radical approach to a unique challenge, statistics about new customer behaviour, or an observation about a specific industry. 

Raise awareness about your business by collecting and analysing these insights and sharing them with your stakeholders. Use what you’ve learnt to tell a story, be it through case studies, narratives, or facts and figures. 

Realise that 2020 is not just about COVID

While the pandemic has been a constant background presence this year, an overemphasis on this issue may result in COVID fatigue. Help people take their mind off the pandemic by focusing on non-COVID current issues or life after recovery. 

For example, as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, many companies have begun to lead conversations about promoting workplace diversity and inclusion. You can also inspire your stakeholders to think about and start preparing for life after the recovery phase. 

Collaborate with others

Consider finding a trusted partner to help extend your reach, complement your weaknesses, or develop synergies. For example, you can partner with firms that can help you establish an online presence and build up your digital capabilities. It doesn’t have to be limited to just companies: Partnerships can happen with known personalities, non-profits, and government agencies.

Want to build a steady content pipeline of content and do not know how to go about it? We can help — write to us at [email protected].


What’s in a Name? How to Differentiate Between Types of Content

It happens all too often – a client says they want a blog, but when a blog is delivered, they ask why it’s so short, or why the tone is so casual. Or, they say they want an op-ed that can be pitched to a top-tier industry publication, and then don’t understand why their company’s newest product isn’t specifically mentioned or detailed in the piece.

While it’s wonderful that this client knows content will help them boost their brand and generate leads, if they don’t understand the difference between types of content, things will be frustrating for both the content team and the client. Because, unlike a rose, an op-ed by any other name is an entirely different piece of content.

When communicating with the content team you’re working with, it’s vital that you are on the same page when it comes to the types of content they are producing for you – otherwise lots of time, energy and effort will be wasted. This is because different types of content are geared for different audiences and are meant to reach different goals.

For example, if you’re hoping to increase your CEO’s profile, a social media campaign is likely not the answer – thought leadership articles are. Likewise, if you’re launching a new report and want to extend the coverage of all that data you analysed, you’ll need more than press releases – you’ll want op-eds, blog posts and maybe an infographic or two.

If all of this has your head spinning, don’t worry – we’re here to help dispel the confusion surrounding different types of content. So let’s dive in, shall we?

Social Media Copy, Explained

Oh look, a Facebook post.

Pithy, punchy and to-the-point, social media calls for short-form copy (Sometimes, extremely short-form. A tweet, for example, is a maximum of 280 characters that is attention-grabbing, informative and creative (yes, emoji are completely acceptable and hashtags are a must – they help with discovery). It should be written in your brand’s voice and have a personality that resonates with your audience. 

Though there are several different types of social media platforms today, the platforms most often used for business are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. While similar messaging can be pushed out via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, LinkedIn is a professional network that is better suited. for business goals such as brand or product awareness and communicating employer brand messaging,

Getting the tone right for each platform is an important part of crafting social media copy, so understanding how different platforms operate and which platforms your audience prefers or frequents is crucial. After all, if your target demographic spends most of their time scrolling Instagram and you’re only on Facebook, you’re missing a huge opportunity to speak directly to and engage directly with them.

Thought Leadership Posts and Articles, Explained

When it comes to thought leadership, LinkedIn is the platform you want. Your company’s executives likely all already have LinkedIn profiles in order to network and keep up with industry news. And since the platform caters to professionals, it’s the perfect place to share thoughts on the state of the industry, general business news and the thought process behind your company’s latest developments.

There are a couple different ways to publish thought leadership on LinkedIn: the first is through a post. This is short-form content – anywhere from a line or two to a paragraph – where a professional shares a quick thought about a relevant business topic or a news article they link. Though quick and efficient, these posts do provide insider insights and help to build a personal brand.

The second option is to write and share an original article on LinkedIn. This option allows more freedom and space for an executive to really delve into a topic through a longer-form piece – usually around 400–700 words – providing followers, connections and other professionals a look into their thoughts about a particular event, industry trend or piece of global news. 

In addition to positioning executives as experienced, authoritative, thoughtful leaders with a unique perspective, these pieces could also lead to greater networking opportunities, speaking engagements or even business partnerships.

Blogs, Explained

Behold, a blog post.

The goal of blogs is to communicate your company’s messaging, be it reiterating your vision, launching a new product or report, providing updates to your customers, or releasing a statement in times of crisis. These pieces are where you can not just promote your company and your products, but explain them in-depth and provide behind-the-scenes information or looks at innovation.

Often, blogs and social media work hand-in-hand: you can use your social media pages to promote new blog posts by giving readers a quick taste of what’s to come in the blog and enticing them to click the link and go to your website. 

Op-Eds, Explained

When it comes to pitching articles to the media, it’s generally an op-ed – short for ”opposite the editorial page” (if you want to invite us to be on your pub quiz team, we understand) – that you want to pitch. These should be thought of as thought leadership pieces because an op-ed will include a company spokesperson or executive’s name as the author and will be written in their voice, from their perspective.

But unlike writing for a company blog or for LinkedIn, an op-ed that is pitched to a publication should be long-form – usually 600–1,000 words, depending on their guidelines – and should communicate your company’s vision or leader’s thoughts without specifically selling the company or its products/services. 

This is an important distinction to make, and one that is easy to misunderstand. The reason why the company’s vision or product cannot be specifically detailed or mentioned is that if it is, the publication will consider the piece as an advertorial,  which is, at the end of the day, an ad. And you have to pay for ads.

Op-eds, however, do not cost your company anything if they are accepted to publication and they can not only boost brand reputation and brand awareness, but will establish your business and leaders as a trusted voice in your sector.

Infographics, Explained

A combination of copy and design, infographics help to tell a story or explain events or systems visually. These can be very effective when communicating complicated ideas that are often difficult or confusing to explain with only copy, and are great to share online on any platform.

If you’re unsure about what type of designed content it is that you want, that is completely fine – feel free to provide examples of designed content you like and the content team can help you figure out what will work best for you.

Hopefully this content primer helped shed some light on how different pieces of content operate. However, if the event you head into your next meeting with your content team and you can’t remember the difference between a blog and an op-ed, don’t tell your agency you want five blogs and five articles, hoping they’ll figure out exactly what articles mean to you. Instead, explain your business goals – your content team should be able to help you narrow down what will work best for you. 

Unsure what type of content works best for your brand? The Mutant content team is here for you. Send us an email to [email protected]

How to Choose the Right Content Agency

It’s fair to say that “content” is one of the most misunderstood and overused buzzwords of all time. Don’t believe me? Then let me paint you a (slightly exaggerated but still accurate) picture that I’ve mashed together based on dozens of conversations with potential clients over the years:

Potential client: “Hi. We need some content marketing, please.” 

Agency: “Alright. What are you aiming to get out of this for your business? What does successful content look like to you?”

Client: “I think we need blogs. My CEO needs a blog.”

Agency: “We can write blogs, but I’d like to know why you think you need them. What’s the goal here?”

Client: “We need more eyeballs on our website. But actually, can you create more snackable content? And make it go viral.”

Agency: “Um, I have lots of questions.”

Client: “We’ll send you all the information you need. But can you also do influencer marketing? I think that’s the best way to create awareness. Can you provide content for that? Just talk us through a typical content strategy. And give us some examples of social media content that has worked.”

Agency: *head explodes* 

Here’s the thing – content is lots of things. But it can also be absolutely nothing because “content” and all it embodies has become a broad umbrella term, reduced to a catch-all phrase that ignores or pushes aside the intricacies of everything within it. 

If you don’t know what your business needs from “content”, you’re not going to get very far – or many results.

So, before you approach an agency to “do content” for your business, consider the following points so that you know what to look for, what to ask, and what to be wary of:   

Know what you want from an agency 

I’m hitting this point again because it’s worth it. Different businesses (and people) have different definitions of what content means. To one, it will be a constant churning out of new tblogs, but to another it means planning, creating, amplifying and measuring social media posts. Then, to a third, it’s about providing a full content marketing strategy that includes everything from content creation to amplification and lead generation. 

So before you approach an agency, you need to have the answers to a few key questions: Why are you even approaching an agency for content in the first place? What are the business goals you need to achieve with said content? How can an agency provide the right type of work to get you the results you need? This should be your starting point. 

Oh, and pleasehave a budget. Content comes in all forms, which means the cost does, too. We want to help you – and we can – but we need to know how long that piece of string is to be able to offer the most cost-effective solution for you. 

Know what to look for in a content team 

While many agencies have beefed up their content capabilities, what you want is a group of people who can actually write well. And not, “oh yeah, I have a food blog in my spare time,”kind of writing. You need professional, qualified and experienced former journalists, editors and content leads who can pen a research piece on renewable energy one day, and deliver compelling social posts to launch a new perfume the next. 

The members of a fully-fledged content team should work across content creation, marketing and public relations (yes, PR people should have strong writing capabilities) and be a mix of strategists, writers, editors, digital marketers, social media experts and more. 

Ask about their storytelling capabilities. How do they figure out how to tell the right story? At Mutant, we hire former journalists, so we know how to probe and get all the juicy titbits of information we need to create a compelling piece. And because we are also PR experts, we know which juicy details to leave out. 😉 This integration across PR and content is absolutelykey, and will always provide stronger results overall.  

Find the right fit

When you hire an individual in your company, you want to ensure the culture fit is right – the same goes for onboarding a new agency. Do a chemistry test with the entire working team for your account. Meet in person, see if you get along, talk about things other than your jobs. 

Throughout this chemistry test, make sure you gain an understanding of the agency’s processes and turnaround times. How do they handle a high volume of work on short notice? How do they adapt to writing with different tones and styles (which shouldn’t be a problem for a bunch of former journalists), and how would they handle certain situations that are likely to crop up. The best results are produced in a partnership, so make sure the agency will really slot in with your team while having your best interests at heart. 

Be wary of agencies that outsource everything  

If it sounds too good (ahem, cheap) to be true, then it probably is. And it’s probably being outsourced somewhere with fewer checks and balances – and therefore way more difficulties and frustrations at your end. 

At the end of the day, do you want something done cheaply, but that needs multiple rounds of edits to fix tone, grammar and spelling, all while dealing with people who don’t really understand your business? Or does it make more (financial) sense to increase your budget to get things right the first time around? Remember, you get what you pay for. 

Ask about results

If an agency can’t share tangible results with you about the content they have produced, this should be a red flag. Results should always be the main driver behind any content – otherwise what the hell is the point? 

How they will measure your business success with the work they are creating should be a key factor in choosing an agency. Not only will it help get management on board at your end, but it also means the strategy will actually work. Which, you know, is sort of important. 

And there you have it – some key considerations to help you choose the right content agency. 

If you have any further questions about content and what it means, feel free to drop me a line at [email protected].

3 Ways To Infuse Life Into Your Content

While creating content may seem like a simple task, consistently keeping your audience hooked is a different ball game. Blog posts and articles are often the first thing which come to mind, we talk about content. While this is true, content exists in other forms such as videos, infographics, e-books or audio. Thanks to social media, short-form video content is all the rage – all you need to do is scroll down Instagram, Facebook or YouTube, and check out the staggering number of views that some videos manage to clinch.

Want to keep your content alive, so audiences always keep coming back for more? Here are three tips:

Re-use, re-purpose, re-cycle

Great advice not only for the environment, but also the content you have generated so far. Most of which is probably timeless, so don’t let it go to waste. Posted a blog on your website two years ago? Give it a fresh lease of life, and repurpose it for a different platform. Trending topics tend to be cyclical – a specific topic you wrote about a year ago could be relevant in the present moment.

For instance, events such as the Oscars, the Super Bowl, and the prominent Fashion Weeks never fail to be a yearly occurrence. If you wrote a listicle about the major looks sported at celebrities at the Golden Globes, or penned an insightful op-ed about fashion and sustainability, why not rehash the content by giving it a fresh new twist and sharing it across your socials?

Reel them in with an irresistible headline

Putting time and effort into creating your content is great, but it’s the headline that will compel people to click on whatever you have put out. Writing a good headline involves balancing the right amount of information to let people know what to expect, yet being mysterious enough to pique their interest. Clickbait is annoying, and will only turn your readers away – be genuine with your headlines, and you will earn the clicks you deserve.

Make it personal

Customers nowadays are all about authenticity. Thanks to the Internet and social media at large, people want to see the “real” you. They want to know your story so they can be invested in it, and hopefully get to know you and talk to you (just like dating).

Give people what they want. Share stories about the team working behind the scenes to help your brand or product come to life. Hop onto Instagram or Facebook Live, or record a “Storytime” video for your YouTube audience. Social media allows for two-way communications, where your customers and fans will tell you what they think of you and your product in real-time.

Let your customers in, so they can see you for who you really are. Tell your brand story with flair, and make it human. Instead of turning it into a hackneyed old sales pitch, show people what you and your brand can do. Your content strategy should leave people hungry for more.

Want to give your content a fresh lease of life? Drop us a message at [email protected]

Why More Brands Should Jump On The Livestreaming Bandwagon

In 2019, Singles Day broke all retail records with sales hitting more than $38 billion in the 24 hour period. In fact, merchants and brands participating in the online retail festival earned as much as 20 billion USD from livestreaming alone, selling furniture, apparel, beauty, and consumer electronics.

Livestreaming’s roots can be traced back to live television shopping shows such as QVC and Home Shopping Network, where people could shop for, well, anything under the sun. The faces of these shows were enthusiastic individuals who hoped to make the audience believe in the brand and product. Decades later, we have influencers, actors and other social media stars doing the same thing – only this time, we get to carry them around in our palms and pockets.

In China, livestreaming has become a source of entertainment, with many brands and influencers using it as a tool to launch and quickly sell their products. On livestreaming platforms such as ShopShops, luxury brands and independent re-sellers alike have found themselves a dedicated audience that is quick to lap up their offerings.

But just because a bunch of brands are jumping on the livestream bandwagon, should you? Here are some compelling reasons:

To woo your Gen-Z audience 

Young audiences want quality content at their fingertips, and they want it now. Tune in to Instagram, Facebook, Twitch, Periscope – any platform which facilitates livestreaming and it’s easy to see why.

The scope for consumer engagement and interaction is unlimited – people can ask questions, make purchases, receive updates on their favourite brands or insider information about exclusive launches, and send the host love and appreciation in the form of react buttons and stickers. What’s more, all of this occurs in real-time on people’s handphones.

Beauty brands favoured by millennials, such as Fenty Beauty, Glossier and Sephora have been innovating with their usage of livestreams, where they regularly invite influencers, makeup artists and celebrities to create looks and conduct tutorials. Rihanna herself has regularly taken to livestreaming to promote and educate consumers about the latest products.

To showcase your brand and start a conversation

Why fork out precious marketing dollars for a promotional video campaign, when you can just as easily and effectively leverage live-streaming at a lower cost, and ensure that you reach a wider audience. With livestreaming, you can kickstart a long-lasting conversation with fans and customers, and build credibility by having professionals display and vouch for the quality of the products.

Announcing new products and offering exclusive packages and deals during a livestream is also an excellent way to gauge demand for it.  However, live-streams should be more than simply getting your product to fly off the shelves. You want to connect with people emotionally so they keep coming back to watch you.

To increase authenticity

There is also something inherently raw and realistic about live-streaming, which comes across as intimate and authentic to fans. While polished video campaigns highlighting new products in detail are undoubtedly appealing, the spontaneous and uninhibited nature of a live-stream draws in people easily.  

There is no scope for editing, deleting or revising parts of the content — all the action unfolds before the viewer’s eyes. Sometimes, live-streams do not even need to be in a professional studio with perfect lighting. Influencers and indie brands will often film a session from the comfort of their homes. This makes viewers feel as though they are being included in the private world of an Internet personality.

As a brand, you would want to make yourself accessible to customers at all times. Why not turn to a tool which will help you reach a wider audience, and lend you the visibility to grow?

Want to make livestreaming a part of your media strategy? Write in to [email protected] and we’ll make it happen!


Content Localisation, aka How To Be Relevant To Different Audiences

You’ve heard it before: what speaks to me might not speak to you. This is the overarching idea behind content localisation,  a buzzword in content marketing, which is – just like content marketing – often misunderstood. Officially defined as “the process of making something local in character or restricting it to a particular place”, localisation is often only talked about in the context of different markets or languages. This isn’t wrong, but it does ignore a full scope of what the term means.

So what does content localisation mean, then?

Localisation isn’t just about translating text into another language, exchanging images to make the people them look like ‘local’ people or changing certain keywords to make your content more searchable in different countries. (Although that part of localisation is important, too).

Localisation means relevancy. The basic question brands need to ask themselves is this: how is my business / offering / content relevant to a particular audience?

Content localisation doesn’t just apply when moving across borders, but  when appealing to different audiences in the same market. A brand’s product or offering may be of interest l to both young millennials and baby boomers, but not in the same way.

For example, the reason why Gucci has recently risen in popularity among millennials and teens is not the same reason why celebrities and more affluent older generations love wearing the fashion brand. They like it for different reasons. The brand is relevant to them in a different way. As a result, Gucci markets, or localises, its brand differently to these two audiences. 

Fashion labels in particular are a great example of how a brand can be perceived differently across borders. The American brand Coach, for example, is considered a premium designer label in Southeast Asia, but has a somewhat more ordinary positioning in the U.S. 

So here comes the next question: is it great content localisation if a low-quality beer from Germany is sold in Southeast Asia as a top-shelf premium import brew? I would say: yes (although slightly misleading in this case). 

After all, the positioning of a brand changes with different audiences and markets depending on what else there is. (Reader: Are you saying Southeast Asia offers such bad beer that it makes other low-quality beer seem premium? Me: I would never say that.)

Let’s remember that localisation isn’t just changing imagery and translating social media copy – it’s about branding and positioning, finding a new audience, discovering a different value product. For Gucci, it was finding a way to appeal to a younger audience. For the German beer, it’s insinuating that a beverage imported from a country renowned for beer is a more informed, more high-quality choice than what is available locally.

What can content localisation look like?

  • Adapting your visuals to resemble your target audience (regardless of the market)
  • Using the right tone of voice and language complexity that will speak to and resonate with a particular audience
  • Be aware of cultural and political sensitivities across customer segments, generations and markets

Create a flexible content strategy, instead of following a yes-or-no, black-or-white, brand strategy. Remember what is true for your brand in one market, or with a certain customer segment, may not be universally true. Rolling out a localised version of a global brand campaign is not an oxymoron. 

What’s the ‘local’ channel?

The localisation of your content extends to considering which channel it will be published on. While Facebook and Instagram enjoy great popularity in Southeast Asia and across different demographics, other markets may also have other more popular channels. 

For example, if you are planning to venture into South Korea, you’ll want to be on KakaoTalk, on WeChat in China, or on Line in Japan. Crossing borders doesn’t just require translations – brands also need to adapt their content to each new channel.

The same applies for different target audiences. While young millennials and Gen Zs may scroll through the TikTok and post on SnapChat, older millennials and Gen X tend to dig through Reddit to consume content.

Finding the right channel for your message is important. So do your homework and find out where your audience plays online.

Here is your content localisation checklist:

  • Market Research: Find out as much as you about your new market and audiences. Is there a need for your brand? What are consumers looking for?
  • Brand Research: Who are your competitors? What’s their positioning? How does your brand fit in the market?
  • Cultural Considerations: What sensitive topics should you avoid? What major events and trends can you leverage?
  • Content: Revise your text, images, videos, reports and more. Translate, transcreate, adapt and curate new content.
  • Audiences: Find new audiences that you may have not considered previously. Test and learn about who you are talking to.
  • Measure: That’s the only way to find out what actually works. Make sure you measure your activities and campaign.

Get lost in translation? Don’t worry, it even happens to Bill Murray – and he’s great. If you want to talk about how to upgrade your content to cross borders or find new audiences (or chat about Bill Murray over some Suntory), send us a message to [email protected].