Don’t be original, be great!

An important part of our process for coming up with new content ideas is the research phase. We look at what other content formats are out there, analyze the high performers, and iterate off of what’s working.

When we’re explaining our system to clients, we sometimes get asked about originality. “Where’s the room to get creative and be original?”

To be blunt: when it comes to content, originality is overrated.

First, there’s a difference between being creative and being original. Being original is pulling something out of thin air at random; being creative is putting a unique and clever twist on something that already exists. If your goal as a content creator is to get your message out to as many people as possible, you definitely don’t want to be original—what are the chances that your never-before-tested format connects with a mass audience? Being clever within an existing framework, however, allows you to deliver your unique message in the most entertaining way possible.

Don’t worry — even if you are iterating off of proven formats, your unique voice will still shine through. Look at all the covers of the Leonard Cohen song, “Hallelujah.” The same song has been done by so many artists, including Jeff Buckley, k.d. lang, Bono, and Bon Jovi. Yet they all sound completely different from one another, despite being the exact same song. The Pentatonix cover of “Hallelujah” has 665 million views on YouTube, but there are thousands of artists doing the same song with just 665 views. The song is clearly a successful format, but the song is just the vehicle for the artist to showcase their unique self. It doesn’t limit their creativity; rather, it enables it.

So when you find a content format that connects with an audience, use it! Don’t avoid it because you feel like you have to be original. Give the world your version of “Hallelujah.”

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