The secret to content marketing success? Know the reader.
Writing about a topic that you're completely unfamiliar with is a recipe for digital disaster. There's simply no way to make a connection with your audience if you don't know what you are talking about because they can actually sense it. By knowing the needs, wants, and problems of a prospective visitor, you're able to focus in on content that makes a difference and compels action. The best way to do this of course is to survey your existing users through a solution like SurveyMonkey (or the many alternatives).
Monitor Topics Closely: The amount of information published on the Web each day is overwhelming. While the audience members (customer-base) are really those who should drive content development, the media gatekeepers (and they exist for every vertical) have their own opinions, which is why it is so important to keep track of what specific outlets, and more so, specific authors and influencers are writing about. You'll likely find hundreds of information sources so in order to manage and maintain, consider the use of a feedreader like Feedly.
Move Quickly: Information is not only published in great quantity it is also being published very rapidly - meaning that as soon as news breaks, someone, somewhere is already typing away at their keyboard. In order to compete these days, content developers have two options (1) focus on the timeless or (2) the timely. If choosing the latter, being first obviously matters most. Keep in mind that this is not an endeavor suited to perfectionists. Publish quickly and go back repeatedly as more ideas or content emerges that further supplement the content.
Provide Context: Selecting topics that resonate with your audience and being first are two important parts of Web content writing, but they are far from the only ones. What potential Web visitors are looking for is information and specifically education on a particular topic. For this reason, commit to providing at least one paragraph (regardless of the topic) to explain why the topic is important, or how the situation evolves. This provides much needed context to the reader and builds the writer's (and the outlet's) authority. Another way to provide context is to connect the content to the needs of the reader; this can be done by answering questions that they might have. For example, why is this important to me?
Be Critical (or Outrageous): Up to this point, you've been a pretty responsible content developer - you care about the reader, sharing what's happening with those readers and you're working hard to publish first. Now that you understand that, realize this: you need to be memorable to make an impression. It's not enough just to provide information - people's attention needs to be captured so be critical of things, make outrageous suggestions, provide outlandish alternatives. Whatever you can do to make someone sit up and take notice will benefit the success of content initiatives.
Remain Sensitive: It is, of course, easier to make enemies than friends - so be very careful about the words you use and what you are being critical about or outrageous in tone. It is a best practice to avoid sensitive subject matter (religion, politics) of course as it only calls unnecessary attention. Unless you like hate mail and managing comment spam, try to be sensitive to the plights and preferences of others, and just avoid some topics. You'll be glad you did.
Push The Brand: The most common failure in most content development initiatives is not finding a way to connect the content to the brand (the one ultimately paying for its development and promotion). Think long and hard (or short and soft, whatever) about what each post you develop should compel a reader to do and commit to developing creative ways to include it. This might include linking to a related page (great for increasing time on site and pageview metrics) or suggesting a resource (ideally directing users to a lead form of some sort).