Emerging content strategy - Keith Finnegan


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  • Open with Don’t Mess with Texas

    In the 1980s Dan Syrek and his organization, The Institute for Applied Research, were hired by the state of Texas to put together an anti-littering campaign. Texas had a serious littering problem; they spent $25 million per year on cleanup efforts, and costs were rising 15% per year. The standard anti-littering messages of that time – Give a hoot, don’t pollute, pitch in, and the Native American with the tear rolling down his cheek had some emotional appeal, but the messages really didn’t cut it with the Texas crowd. Dan had his work cut out for him. We’ll come back to this story in a few minutes.
  • I’m using a very broad definition of content.
  • I’m using a very broad definition of content.
  • The first problem of communication is getting people’s attention.

    In the NYT Bestselling book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, you capture the attention of your audience by means of the unexpected.

    Why? The unexpected cuts through the clutter—it captures people’s attention. Have any of you seen the new Delta airlines safety video? It reminds me of a more tasteful version of the film Airplane.

    Unexpected: Surprise is an effective way to get people’s attention. Why do rumors often take hold? They tend to be surprising.

    However, surprise for the sake of surprise can backfire. Does anyone remember the 2000 Super Bowl commercial in which marching band members were attached by ravenous wolves while performing? Once you grab the attention, the trick is to keep it. If you get too gimmicky, you’ll lose the audience after hello.

    In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes one aspect of content that sets it apart: stickiness. Making content sticky depends heavily on knowing your audience and often requires experimentation. Two children’s shows—Sesame Street and Blues Clues—set the standard for sticky educational children’s programming. Sesame Street discovered that blending fantasy and reality—something that psychologists recommended against—made the sticky connection with children. That’s why you see puppets and Big Bird interacting with real people. Blues Clues discovered that repetition made their program sticky with children. Although it would drive you and I crazy, repeating the same show five days in a row pulls in children and gives them an opportunity to master the material.
  • Who are the people who most resonate with your organization’s story and message?
  • When you try to be all things to all people you become nothing to everyone. There are different groups of people – tribes if you will – who resonate with certain content and messaging. I’m a big NFL fan, so content directed at me related to the NFL has a better chance of getting my attention than the same content directed at my wife, who’s more of a casual fan. Broadcast advertising utilizes this approach. It is very expensive, but advertisers count on numbers reached to make up for lack of targeting. This approach was once pretty effective, but with all the noise and clutter in the marketplace, it is costly and inefficient to go this direction. You can be much more focused in reaching specific groups of people with your advertising and fundraising efforts today, particularly with digital marketing.

    What kind of people resonate with you story, your brand, your mission? Why do they? What characteristics describe this group of people?

    You may find different tribes of people who resonate with your mission. So who do you try and reach? Focus your time and energy on the audience that has the greatest potential for helping you achieve a successful business outcome. It’s that simple. Back to the Texas litter problem. Once Dan’s team had a good handle on the character traits, likes, and dislikes of the typical Texas liter bug, they gave him a name: Bubba. They knew if they could reach Bubba, they could make a dent in the Texas litter problem.
  • Getting back to our story about Texas and its litter problem. As I mentioned, Dan had his work cut out for him. All previous initiatives had flopped. So Dan started with learning about who the biggest offenders were. Research revealed the biggest offenders were 18 to 35-year-old pickup-driving males who liked sports and country music. They didn’t like authority and weren’t motivated by emotional and polite appeals.

    Bruce Tognazzini, Tog on Interface. Bruce was one of the architects of the Apple operating system user interface. He and his colleagues spent hours studying their audience and learning everything they could about the people they were trying to reach with the Apple computer. They even brought in people from this audience for the purpose of testing out various elements of the user interface to measure its level of intuitiveness.

    A persona is a fictional representative of a target audience. The purpose of a persona is to help you in formulating your content and messaging specifically for the tribe you’re trying to reach. “Bubba” became the persona for the Texas anti-litter campaign.
  • in The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell identifies three types of people who are key in spreading an idea: Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople.

  • Geoffrey Moore in his book Crossing the Chasm introduced an interesting twist to the typical product lifecycle bell curve. Rather than the nice smooth, symmetrical curve that goes up and down, Moore introduced gaps in the curve that he referred to as chasms. He theorized that products that do not cross the chasm to the next audience segment will fail to go mainstream.

    Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point refers to individuals who help take the message over the chasm to the next audience group as translators. Gladwell describes three kinds of translators: mavens (those who have a vast knowledge of certain subjects and willing share that knowledge), Connectors (those who naturally build and maintain relationships with hundreds of others), and Salespeople (those who love to sell others on great ideas and products).

  • Translators take your message to the rest of your audience.

    Why? CASE: The City of Philadelphia started up a needle exchange program several years ago in an effort to stop the spread of HIV among HIV drug users. Discovery of the guys carrying the bags of needles to the exchange wagons (weekly program).

    Back to he Texas litter case. Dan needed to find those who could translate the message to the average Bubba in such a way that Bubba would receive it. He couldn’t depend on Bubba’s friends to be the translators necessarily. Dan knew that Bubba liked sports and country music, so Dan found those who could translate the message in such a way that Bubba would receive it. So he recruited sports and country western stars—Texas sports and country western starts—to be his message translators.

    Who are those in your audience who can help translate the message to others? Influencers – those who are often viewed as translators. Pastors (often a target of publishers), popular musicians (World Vision and Compassion), influential bloggers, and the like help translate the message to others.

  • In other words, the content is perceived as valuable in some way (useful, entertaining, helpful, inspiring, educational) and elicits emotion and a desired action.
  • Chip and Dan Heath discovered what makes some ideas thrive and others die. They documented their findings in NYT Bestseller Made to Stick.
    Simple: Find the core of the idea; strip it down to its essence. For example, what has made Southwest Airlines consistently profitable for over 30 years?
    “We are the low-fare airline.“
    Coming up with a profound, compact phrase (proverb) is incredibly difficult but is worth the effort.

    Concrete: People need to be able to grasp the message of the content. Making prejudice concrete: The story of Jane Elliott and the 1968 Blue Eye, Brown Eye experiment.

    Credible: The content must be believable. NBA rookies and the threat of HIV AIDS.

    Emotional: Somehow great content touches the heart of the audience. Let’s pick up with Dan and the Texas litter problem once again. Dan knows Bubba. Dan has his translators. How does he have them deliver the key message (Texans don’t litter) in such as way that they’ll receive it?

    Story: I won’t spend much time here since Amelia is covering the subject, but when you think of story, think of Jared and the amazing weight loss that he attributed to eating Subway sandwiches.
  • So you have your great content. How do you move your audience to the action you want? Enter the Triangle of Relevance (http://www.convinceandconvert.com/content-marketing-2/3-angles-to-create-magnetic-content-with-the-triangle-of-relevance/).

    This content model, developed by Angie Schottmuller, takes the concepts of user interest, business interest, and time significance into consideration in the formulation of relevant content. We’ve addressed audience interest up to this point, but what about time significance?

    Time significance can be anything from a birthday, and anniversary, an event, a time of year, a holiday – something that gives context to the content. In 1945, a Chinese teacher took a vacation visit to a small New England town on the Atlantic coast. The time significance—WWII—turned this seemingly innocent adventure into a rumor that a Japanese spy was gathering intelligence and taking pictures (the guidebook turned into a camera). Time significance can add a powerful context to your content, whether intended or not.

    The final element is business interest, which can mean anything from soliciting a donation, to recruiting volunteers, to selling, to changing behavior. In the case of the Texas litter problem, the “business interest” was a change in Bubba’s behavior. And Bubba’s behavior was changed significantly. Within one year after the campaign was launched, 73% of the people polled could remember the campaign ads, and Texas roadside litter declined by 29%.
  • Emerging content strategy - Keith Finnegan

    1. 1. WHAT MAKES CONTENT GREAT? “Great content gets and keeps the attention of your audience, is perceived as valuable, touches their hearts, and inspires them to action.”
    2. 2. CUTTING THROUGH THE CLUTTER “Great content gets and keeps the attention of your audience, is perceived as valuable, touches their hearts, and inspires them to action.”
    3. 3. CUTTING THROUGH THE CLUTTER Get and Keep the Attention of Your Audience • Unexpected Delta Safety Video • But Not Gimmicky Outpost.com • Sticky
    4. 4. REACHING EVERYONE VS. REACHING SOMEONE “Great content gets and keeps the attention of your audience, is perceived as valuable, touches their hearts, and inspires them to action.”
    5. 5. REACHING EVERYONE VS. REACHING SOMEONE • Why Not Just Reach Everyone? • Who Are You Targeting? • Why Are You Targeting Them?
    6. 6. REACHING EVERYONE VS. REACHING SOMEONE • Do You Really Know Your Target Audience? • The Value of Really Knowing Your Audience • Developing and Using Personas
    8. 8. REACHING EVERYONE VS. REACHING SOMEONE Translating the Message to the Rest of Your Audience • Depend on Translators in Your Audience • Reach Your Translators (Influencers) Directly
    9. 9. WHAT MAKES CONTENT GREAT? “Great content gets and keeps the attention of your audience, is perceived as valuable, touches their hearts, and inspires them to action.”
    10. 10. CRAFTING YOUR CONTENT • Simple • Concrete • Credible • Emotional (Ed Jones, Mike Scott, Willie Nelson) • Story
    11. 11. GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS The Triangle of Relevance
    12. 12. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER • Know Your Audience • Target Influencers Directly when Possible • Get and Keep the Attention of Your Audience • Unexpected, Sticky Messaging • Craft Content that Is • Simple, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Story • Craft Relevant Content • User Interest, Business Interest, Time Significance