Writing content that people will be into is no easy task, but it’s a hugely worthwhile one. When Manitoba Hot fell into my lap four years ago, there wasn’t much to it. Oh sure, there were a few informative posts here and there, but not many pageviews to speak of (oh, Google Analytics, always speaking the truth). And it certainly had no personality. But after mixing my love for good content with a little care and a lot of effort (and a better CMS!), the blog started to blossom, which eventually led to more writing resources and increased interest with our industry partners.
Since January 2015, the blog has amassed over 1,000,000 pageviews. Not too shabby for a site that was barely scrounging up a 100 views a week in 2012. Managing and building a blog that became hugely popular and relevant has been one of my greatest accomplishments. In my four years leading it, I believe I wrote way over 300 articles. Many were the usual marketing stuff, but the stories that had an interesting hook, or were tongue-in-cheek silly, or displayed my heart on my sleeve, are the ones I’m most proud of. Here are 10 of my favourites with a few thoughts on why I think they resonated with our audience…
The one that started all the fun — Writing a top 10 post? Might as well start with a top 10 post. We had done some great lists before this one, but for me, this was the first one where I truly wrote in my personal voice and style. So it obviously included a few good pop culture references and a lot of cheese. It was also one of the first “evergreen” pieces I did, meaning it’s still relevant more than a year after it was first published.
This particular piece was popular not only locally (within Manitoba), but it performed great nationally and internationally. It’s just one of those pieces that a person from far away can be into because a: it’s about animals (we all love ’em!), b: it showed off the uniqueness of Manitoba’s wildlife, and c: it had damn good visuals. It performed particularly well in California, New York and Texas. And because it’s a piece of evergreen content, Google has indexed it much higher over time. It’s always a huge win when you can achieve great organic reach.
The one they didn’t get — This is one of those things that comes out of nowhere. March Madness was coming up and I was filling out my brackets (I will fill out a bracket anytime, anywhere. I always lose, but I love them), when I thought, could we do a bracket for Manitoba? What do we have a lot of that people would actually care to vote on? I brainstormed this with my awesome colleague Alexis and voila! Roadside statues!
When we mentioned the bracket to people in our department, we got a few “huh?” stares back. But since the content was going on our blog, it wasn’t seen as a risk of any sort. I hoped people would like it, but you never know. I do know that people would rather quickly vote on things than enter contests, so I thought we might have a moderate hit on our hands. I sent the first post to a few of my favourite media people, including Ace Burpee, and after that it went gangbusters. I was hoping we would get a couple thousand votes after all was said and done. We ended up with over 75,000 votes! We got votes from every continent in the world. People from Flin Flon and Glenboro (the two finalists) must have relatives everywhere! This was one of my busiest and stressful work weeks ever, but boy, was it fun.
The best part is the people who have told me they are now on a mission to see all of Manitoba’s crazy roadside statues. Madness, I tell ya’!
The one that got me all nostalgic — If I’m not trying to make you laugh, I’m probably waxing nostalgic on something from my past. This is a problem when you don’t forget anything, ever. I mean, I forget my grocery list all the time, but the good stuff, the meaningful stuff, the stuff that you did with friends and family… I don’t forget that.
Before writing this article, I had been invited up to the Interlake area on a lovely Saturday in summer to attend Water Awareness Day and from early morn to late afternoon, I spent some good alone time in one of my favourite areas in Manitoba. Have to admit, I kinda felt like a creeper as I watched and snapped pics of people doing their Lake Life thing. This lazy summer day made me remember a time long, long ago, when I would bike with my mom and she would sing me “Show me the way to go home.” I sang it in my head all day and it eventually became a central theme to the article.
This piece became more personal than I initially expected it to be. But from the many lovely comments I received, I wasn’t the only one that holds a special place in their heart for the Interlake. Sharing something so personal can feel like a risk, but maybe a worthwhile one as you could end up connecting with your audience on a deeper, more honest level.
The one that got featured on BuzzFeed — Last year, we took Polar Bear Week up a few notches. I love this week, but up until we got involved, much of the content created around Polar Bear Week is a little dry, important for sure as it’s conservation focused, but dry nonetheless. And since our main focus is to entice you to visit Manitoba to experience polar bears in the wild, we wanted some of our content that week to be a bit more light-hearted and show off the funny antics of those big fluffy balls of cuteness (dangerous cuteness).
So what could be better than taking some funny polar bear footage and mashing it up with classic hip hop beats? Nothing. Stop trying to think of something. The answer is nothing. BuzzFeed eventually discovered the videos and featured them at the end of this article: 17 Adorable Facts About Manitoba.
I love creating videos like this (here’s another!), it’s so fun to see what kind of song will fit perfectly with video footage. It’s also a great way to create meme-worthy content to align with a hot trending topic in a short turnaround time. Oh yeah, and that’s me in the polar bear suit dancing with Drake to Hotline Toba. Holla!?
The one that showed good content trumps contests — I’m not a big fan of contests. They have their place, but I don’t think they should be your first thought when promoting something new. Case in point was this piece I wrote on comparing prehistoric beasts as the new Jurassic World movie was just about to premiere. A few weeks before this piece came out, I ran a video contest to promote the CFDC and the results were ok. The content for the contest reached many, but very few participated. I always feel like most people see a post that says “Enter to WIN…” or something similar and go, “meh, no thanks, moving along.”
After seeing the contest didn’t get the best results, I decided to come up with a simple piece to show that maybe contests are not the way to go all the time. This fun comparison article did exactly that. It was tongue-in-cheek sassy, mentioned a hot trending topic in #prattkeeping, took no time to write and it blew whatever contest engagement we got right out of the water, so to speak.
Oh, and gifs! Always add gifs.
The one with a kick-ass infographic — In my former life, I was a graphic designer. It’s not something I did for very long, but if you put me in front of Photoshop or Fireworks, I am not going to be idle. Nowadays, my skills go to creating silly “Photoshopped” pics (see Drake one above), but for the first year of #BelugaWeek, I thought designing an infographic for it might be a good idea. I had fun creating one a couple of years ago about a prehistoric fish and thought to give it another go.
A little bit of factual content mixed within a striking visual can make a world of difference for comprehension. For this piece, I wanted the visual to be sweet and summery, the facts to be few and interesting, and the call-to-action be about how you can interact with these lovelies up north.
The one that got in a lil’ trouble — Ok, I didn’t get in real trouble, but I did get a “we’re concerned” email before the piece went live. The concern was how amateurish the video looked, which to us, was kind of the point. We certainly don’t have HBO money to create those intricate Game of Thrones credits, instead we had passion, an iPhone and a selfie stick (works as a decent mobile camera dolly in a pinch).
Game of MB Thrones was a hit. Our friend from the CFDC, Peter Cantelon, loved the house banners so much he wanted one created for Bruce the Mosasaur. We obliged, of course. One person told me they started chanting “MAN-I-TOBA!” repeatedly in their head as the actual Game of Thrones credits rolled every Sunday. YES!
This piece was a fun way to do a little real-time marketing by adding a dollop of Manitoba into one of the highest trending conversations online as well as one of the largest pop culture phenomenons of today. Think of it like Manitoba got dressed up as The Red Woman for Comic Con — not everyone’s going to get it, but those who do, oh will they love you for it.
Plus, creating low-quality video doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a low quality piece. Just ask Chewbacca Mom (160M views and counting!). There will always be a want and need to create high-quality, high-cost video, but with how freaking short our attention spans are nowadays, if you have something you can shoot quickly that you feel will be a hit, don’t wait. Just freaking do it. But make sure the audio’s ok. People will watch crappy video, but will not tolerate bad audio.
The one that got someone to write a detailed response — I literally wrote this piece while The Bachelor was playing in the background. I’ve never added so many emojis to anything in my life, and I’m pretty sure I said “literally” incorrectly about 20 times. But that’s what you do when going full Bachelor. At least I know I wrote it for “The Right Reasons.”
After this post went live, one of our favourite local ambassadors, Todd Scott, sent us a 500 word piece on the best “Post breakup Manitoba hot spots.” It’s hilarious. So hilarious that we posted it on the blog and put some images around it. This is what happens when you cultivate an engaged community and continually encourage them to be part of the conversation.
The one that brought the beat down to Shark Week — For years, the motto on my business card has been a quote I once heard on 30 Rock: “Live every week like it’s Shark Week.” So yeah, those sharks have it good, pop-culture-wise. In their corner, they boast one of the best blockbusters of all time with Jaws, one of the worst in Sharknado and have a full week dedicated to them every year, which people freak the “f” out about. In the other corner, Polar Bear Week is a little more recent and just hasn’t reached those Shark Week highs.
But are sharks really better than polar bears? I did a little investigation and pitted the land predators against the sea predators in six different battles. I’m not going to give it away, but you might be surprised who wins. You probably won’t though, I worked for Travel Manitoba. Just sayin’.
Again, comparisons make for some of the best content. Everybody has an opinion and we all love to share them with each other. Go polar bears! Go sharks!
The one where my partner wrote a poem that made me weep — This was a hard piece to write. Not hard in the writing, but in trying to convey the feelings the Canadian Museum for Human Rights leaves you with after a visit. Luckily, my partner Chuck had a much better way to share how complex a place this is by writing a beautiful poem, which still makes me tear up every time I read it.
This was a piece where the beauty lied within the personal poem and statements from Chuck. It made the piece more personal and added the right amount of heft to the subject matter. Adding a special type of element, such as a poem or quotes, to your content by another source is a good way to present a more robust, thought-provoking story.
That’s it! Those are my faves. Do you have a favourite or two? Did you find any of the content tips helpful? Let me know in the comments!