Content Marketing

When did we stop believing we could change the world?

I know I’ve had a good meeting when I’m still thinking about it hours later. I love it when someone says something that stays with me and gets me thinking.

It happened last week during a presentation given by a fellow content strategist. His talk contained some content topic ideas for attracting a particular student market. It wasn’t so much that his list of story ideas were groundbreaking per se, it was more that they were aspirational, big picture type stuff.

“Let’s inspire them,” he said. “Let’s tackle some big questions.”

‘Yes!’ I thought.

Thanks to the research I regularly carry out on behalf of our clients, I now know quite a bit about the millennial demographic. However, a key thing that I’d forgotten was that when you’re say, 19 or 20, you still think you can change the world. Millennials want to make a difference; they respond to brands with ethical values who are also trying to make a difference, and who communicate their efforts in an authentic way.

How can we help?

Remembering that led me to think that with every piece of content we produce on behalf of our clients, we should be inspiring that 20-year-old who’s still inside us all somewhere by trying to make a difference. We should be thinking, ‘How can we be better than the rest and actually help in some way?’

Being genuinely useful is the thing that’s going to make you stand out

If there are any devotees of US marketer Jay Bear reading, I know I’m going to sound like I’m a little late to this party. His wildly successful book Youtility espouses his general philosophy that marketing should be so useful it actually makes people’s lives better. And by extension, if it is that useful then people should be willing to pay for it (the guy is a marketer after all). In the book, he says:

“If you are wondering how to get more attention and how to make your products seem more exciting online, you’re asking the wrong question.

“You’re not competing for attention only against other, similar products. You’re competing for attention against your customers’ closest friends and family members, and against viral videos and cute puppies… You must ask ‘How can we help?’”

Being genuinely useful is the thing that’s going to make you stand out amid the myriad of blogs, social media posts, videos and other content that’s already out there.

Recently, we were lucky enough to have a workshop with brand guru Dr Paul Temporal and he shared an example of a Coca Cola campaign from 2014 during which the company set up booths for migrant workers in UAE who earn so little they can’t afford to call home. Coke installed a ‘happiness’ phone booth where the workers could use plastic Coke bottle tops in lieu of coins to get three minutes of ‘free’ time to telephone their families.

Cynics will say it was a gimmick and the guys still had to buy a Coke, but a cold drink is cheaper than a phone call in that part of the world and thanks to a bit of big picture thinking by a marketing department, that Coke made some people feel good in more ways than one.

Being helpful isn’t the exclusive territory of B2C communications; I think in the B2B space there is often even more opportunities to make a difference as you often have an audience who is time poor and under pressure. Next time you’re brainstorming your content calendar, don’t just churn out more of the same. Instead, why not think about what you can produce that will actually help your audience, inspire them, make them keep coming back to you time and time again because what you’re telling them is so amazing? And if that’s an ebook or a blog post about your service that’s fine – this isn’t about reinventing the wheel but it should be about actually producing something of real value.

Far too many companies come at content marketing from the wrong angle – asking, ‘How is this going to help me?’. I’m not oblivious to the bottom line but if instead we ask, ‘How can we be of help?’ it will lead to all those good things like brand awareness and engagement that contribute to ROI in the long run. Sadly, I’m a long way past 20, but I want to change the world. Who’s with me?

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