The other day a wise man told me something that I think is very true. He said, "everybody seems to be writing but nobody is reading"! He has a point. So much focus goes to producing content but not enough attention goes to figuring out what the audience wants or needs.
In this piece we talk about why thinking like Hollywood will help you produce better results with content-inbound marketing.
Stories are always about things that happen to people. In today's rising tide of information overload, only the stories that cater to emotional reaction survive.
Hollywood knows it has to put its audience first and needs to figure out what makes large crowds want to spend time and money to consume their productions. There is so much we can learn from the entertainment industry because they are the true masters of the attention business!
All their stories are about people who have experiences that resonate with us on an emotional level.
Another thing the entertainment industry understands very well is that when people truly identify with a story they will share it with others. So, no matter how interesting the topic may be, unless it creates a personal allegiance, it will probably just go by unnoticed.
I often hear people say, "all this stuff about content is really interesting, but my business is probably too boring to produce anything of interest".
Think again, if a television series can make people want to follow a story about a hospital (ER) or the happenings at a funeral parlor (Six Feet Under), there must be stories about your business that are worth telling. In another time, you may even have ridiculed the idea of a series about a forensic laboratory but today we have the popular CSI series!
Any business, regardless of how dull it may seem, has the possibility to get a following because it is essentially all about the humans in and around that business.
Its all about the anecdotes.
Let's take the example of the insurance sector. This is an industry from which I have often heard that it is really too boring for content marketing. I think this is a limiting belief not only because insurance truly touches all kinds of human themes, but also because it is all about mitigating the impact of misfortune. It is full of experiences and anecdotes that could make up for great story lines.
And while the insurance industry has been trying to stand out with its traditional advertising by making comical stories about misfortune such as short ads that make you smile for a little while, they often fall short of converting its audience into loyal followers.
Arguably, these ads address the reasons why people buy insurance. They focus on creating an awareness of potential risks and hazards that may affect our daily lives by showing stories about people's cars crashing into their neighbour's houses because they forgot to put on the brakes. This form of 'Mr. Bean Marketing' is good for a one-off distraction, but is it really useful?
Sticking with the example at hand, I believe there is a bigger and more impactful story to be told for insurance companies. First of all, by reminding people that they should buy personal liability cover doesn't bring them closer to you, but rather to your industry. Your efforts may motivate people to buy an insurance policy with the company where a friend or family member works.
What you really need to tell people is that they need to buy coverage from you and the way to do that is by understanding that people like to do business with people they know, like and trust.
So, putting on our Hollywood producer's cap, what we need to do is create an emotional impact on 3 main levels:
Let them get to know you.
Share your best anecdotes. Cast your own people as the characters in the show.
Let them like you
Tell true stories. Let your audience become familiar with the humans behind your employees. Allow them to be themselves.
Let them trust you
Share anecdotes that show how your people had your customer's interest at heart. Make it credible and be brave enough to also tell the stories about the things that didn't always work out. Your company certainly must have learned valuable lessons that make up for great insights. If you are brave enough to speak about your failures you will earn more trust. This is terrifying, but it makes your business look very confident and experienced.
So that's the human connection. What about finding the kind of themes that will truly draw the attention and the following you are looking for?
First of all, your content needs to be useful and relevant. If a financial services company would provide recipes for healthy cooking, just because it is a popular theme, it may not be very effective to convert attention into business.
And even though it is great practical advice, it may not be relevant to what your business is all about, unless you can tie it into a wider strategic purpose of making your clients and prospects more healthy, of course.
How do I find the right themes?
I like to 'filter' the social grid by using keyword-driven RSS readers. I insert the relevant keywords, names and buzz words into the ongoing search criteria so all the content that is published around my themes of interest comes to one single place for me to rummage through.
In my case I want to know what investors are talking about as well as what is on the minds of certain influencers. It helps me understand what the buzz is about. It also works as a source of inspiration around which I can craft my own stories while keeping them relevant. Cross-reference the buzz with your own anecdotes, it can help you create the kind of content that truly stands out.
Production, Delivery and Format
When you have the stories and the characters all figured out, you'll need to think about the format and how you will deliver it to the audience.
Just as a TV series producer would prefer, I am always looking for content with a long shelf life, because you simply get more mileage from your pieces if you can run them by a large audience over a long period of time. I also like to structure my campaigns as if they were a TV series.
Once you have your main theme and characters figured out, you can chop up the soryline into episodes that have a continuity. And, just as I am doing here, you need give your audience a reason to read the next installment.
I'll cover the 'TV-Series approach' in more detail shortly.
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What do you think?
About the author Baldwin has been active as a business developer in the investment industry for more than 20 years. He is a partner at Silk Invest, a fund manager dedicated to the frontier markets. He was an early adapter of social media within the investment management industry. His efforts have helped position Silk Invest as one of the leading managers in the frontier space. In collaboration with Perfecta Partners, Baldwin also helps other financial services companies improve their content marketing and social media strategies.