The least favorite blogging format is also the most successful – roundup posts.
Yes, roundups still rank the most effective blog format, according to Orbit Media’s seventh annual Blogging Survey published in fall 2020.
With that in mind, let’s explore a few ways to do roundup articles better – that don’t just include quote after quote in hopes the experts will share and expand your audience – and still deliver the results your business demands.
Tell a good story
Don’t publish a collection of straightforward advice, turn it into a story.
Think like a journalist rather than a marketer. Write a story that truly matters to your audience and provides them with powerful insights.
It starts with choosing a topic that resonates with readers.
Focus on their most prevalent or important questions. What problems do they have to solve? What challenges do they face in their industry, their workplace? The answers lead to topics that have genuine value to your audience.
Now, look for a tie-in to current events. If something newsworthy is happening in your industry, use that as a starting point. (Studies and surveys can be good fodder for this.)
Forbes contributor Ethan Carp used these tactics to craft a compelling roundup story on what’s ahead in 2021 for manufacturing. He doesn’t rely strictly on expert quotes to tell the story, using the results of two surveys to expand the narrative. By tying together timeliness and research, the piece goes from a collection of generic advice to a newsworthy roundup.
TIP: If you don’t have any industry events to feature, media or news trends can be a great substitute.
Choose the right experts
Roundups are often referred to as “ego-bait” content because they often are designed solely to appeal to the egos of the quoted experts (who, flattered by the positioning as a “leading” expert, will share the content with their audiences). But roundups don’t need to be simply used as ego bait. Roundups are a great way of networking with others in your field while providing actionable insights to your audience.
Here too, a journalistic approach is important since you need to ensure that you feature those experts who have something relevant and insightful to say about the topic. A mix of industry influencers and subject matter experts is an ideal way to share unique perspectives on the topic at hand.
TIP: If an expert’s response isn’t unique or relevant, don’t include it. Think about your reader, not the expert’s ego.
Expand your roundup expert list to include professionals from other fields who can provide additional context or unique perspectives. For example, media analysts, sociologists, or psychologists could offer keen insights into trends. Incorporating those sources can evolve your roundup into a truly unique story that really connects with readers.
A great example of this roundup type is the Fast Company piece, 6 Common Beliefs About Productivity That Are Total Lies. Its expert sources range from a business coach to a management consultant to a software company CEO. Those multiple views offer a well-rounded view of the topic.
In this roundup structure, the ego bait now resonates better with your audience and the extended audiences accessed by the quoted experts sharing it. On a side note, these more relevant roundups also are more likely to receive backlinks and garner thought leadership attention (i.e., media mentions, interviews, and speaking engagements).
Do a deep dive on data
A data-driven approach also can take your roundup to the next level. You can use it to shed light on the more nuanced aspects of a topic and ask the experts to address specific points in the research.
For example, the basis of this Big Commerce blog article is its Omni-Channel Retail Consumer Shopping Report. It rounded up experts to share their insight on specific results, publishing their comment below each relevant graphic:
While data can be a powerful way to craft a more interesting story, it also lets you build trust with your audience. By combining data and opinion, you can guide them from awareness to action.
Don’t be afraid to be disruptive
The most effective roundups often possess a unique angle or perspective. Tackle tough subjects or craft typical topics with a fresh context. Say things others aren’t. Don’t avoid controversy if you have an authentic way to do it. A distinctive position creates a more meaningful conversation among your experts and attracts a wider and/or more interested audience.
CMI’s 2021 Content Planning Guide is a good example. The marketers quoted in the roundup don’t pull punches when it comes to discussing the challenges marketers face in a landscape significantly changed by the events of 2020.
Play a better roundup game
Done right, a tried-and-true format like roundups can have a notable impact on your business. Going beyond the strictly “ego-bait” purpose can help you create thoughtful conversations that will be appreciated by the experts AND the readers. Taking time to tell authentic stories backed by data featuring a range of experts builds trust with the audience and develops a long-term value for the brand.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute