Clear and concise, always.

Kristi is a storyteller from the United States, whose curiosity about the world and other cultures has led her to explore far-flung places and unsung corners on five continents, including the Middle East, camera in hand. Her degrees in journalism and nonprofit management have inspired her to never stop learning. She is most passionate about tech startups, gender equity, and the future of work.

By now, you’ve probably heard the term ‘content marketing’ a time or seven. You’ve likely also come across more than a few companies that are doing it wrong. While creating more content may seem like a good way to dominate an increasingly noisy marketplace, what you really need is a talent for generating better content, faster.

How can you command attention from Abu Dhabi to Amman? There’s no silver bullet, but there are best practices you can follow—and notorious missteps to avoid.

Here’s how can you break through writer’s block and share something that matters.

Remember: it’s not about you

Make your content about your audience. Write as if you’re speaking directly to current and prospective customers, investors or influencers in your industry. When brainstorming any new article, always take on your reader’s perspective and ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ This is the beginning of dialogue, and not of barking into a megaphone, so don’t use your channels as a means of promoting a product of service without delivering some real value.

Tip: Stuck in idea purgatory? For example, an IoT security startup founder could share honest insights on recent trends in encryption technology, or debunk industry myths about device vulnerabilities. 

An E-commerce company could use its blog to compare the latest platforms, offer practical advice on building a brand from scratch or give tips on selling in new markets.

Answer their burning questions

You can hit the ground running by providing insights into your readers’ biggest obstacles. Don’t know what keeps them up at night? It’s time to look past assumed pain points, and into what prospects are seeking. You’ll find publicly available data in a variety of places and can drill down into specifics; you just have to know where to look.

Tip: Start by scoping out websites like Quora to find relevant questions that are being asked about your field. Use Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner tool to see which terms advertisers are most heavily investing in, and you’ll be heading in the right direction. You also should check out competitor blogs to see what they’re covering—and consider fresh angles. Now, you’ll just need to sift through to decide which ones you’re best equipped to answer.

Seek to educate, not promote

Rather than overt sales tactics, true content marketing draws people in out of its inherent usefulness. That’s the goal, anyhow. With this perspective in mind, you as the author become a problem solver—not a marketer. That’s a crucial distinction: what previously involved hawking ones’ products has turned into an open conversation.

Tip: Reshape headlines to be informational rather than sensational. (‘You Won’t Believe This…’ only works as an attention grabber if you’re on staff at Buzzfeed.) Before typing words like ‘ultimate,’ ‘unparalleled,’ or ‘innovative,’ ask yourself if those contribute something meaningful to the post, or are just unnecessary fluff.

Be authentic and transparent 

Trust is the shortest route to persuasion. When your readers actually believe in your credibility, they take your insights to heart. Those ideas could inspire them to evangelize your product or service or motivate them to purchase. But that kind of influence comes at a price.

Tip: Coming across as a genuine resource means that sometimes, you might have to admit to your limitations, or mention a competitor in a positive light. It’s a long-term strategy that pays off when readers come to you for advice (and in exchange, you receive feedback and intelligence that others won’t).

One topic, with formats for every attention span

Almost any piece of content you create could take on multiple forms. Think about your info consumption style: are you a deep dive person or a chronic ‘listicle’ skimmer? Can you parse out one blog post or case study to satisfy these two very different groups?

Tip: Sure you can; take this Inc. Arabia article, for example. It could be turned into an infographic, or lead to a series of in-depth interviews with successful content marketers. 

Or perhaps it’d spur entrepreneurs like you to test out my recommendations, and offer me a wealth of user-generated content in return. With social media, you can always repurpose for different channels, turning quotes into visuals and data into compelling graphic.