[EDITOR’S NOTE: This post alludes to some of the plot for Season 3, but we’re considering it spoiler-free.]
You’d never want to be like Kevin Spacey’s President Frank Underwood from the Netflix hit House of Cards. At least, I hope not – Frank is a despicable human being. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from him and apply it to content marketing.
Episode 8 of the new season features two quotes that serve as reminders for content marketers – specifically, about what it takes to create great content.
In the episode, Underwood has hired a novelist to write a book to help sell a jobs program to the American people. That is, marketing. Interestingly, the author decides that the book should not mention the program; rather it should tell a story that moves and engages the audience. In other words, it is content marketing at its audience-focused, non-product-oriented best.
There’s a great, late night scene in the White House in which memoir-writer Thomas Yates reads the prologue of his draft to the President. Their subsequent conversation should be familiar to anyone who cares about writing.
Yates says to the President, “I think it may the best thing I’ve written in years. It could also be utter and complete shit. But when I can’t tell the difference it’s usually a good sign.”
If you’ve written – created content – you know this feeling. It’s a feeling of writing something that is aimed at people’s emotions, that steps outside the comfort zone and takes a chance and you think you may have hit the target. But you don’t know. You won’t know until other people read it and declare it good or bad. Some people are afraid to find out. But the ones that put it out there and dare to be great are the ones that ultimately are declared great.
The lesson for content marketers is to be bold. Create daring content. Don’t hide behind jargon. Don’t do what is expected. Even if you’re creating B2B content, try to move people. After all, they’re people first, and workers second.
As the conversation between Underwood and Yates continues, Frank tells the camera that “imagination is its own form of courage.” He’s talking specifically about a lie he’s spun (pro tip: Don’t do that).
The point for content marketers is that telling great stories takes courage. It requires stepping beyond the old product marketing mindset and focusing on the audience rather than playing it safe and doing what we’ve always done.
There’s so much content out there in the world today, and our job is to break through the noise and get noticed. It requires putting aside the formulaic approach and using our imaginations. Stepping beyond the standard approach takes courage. It runs the risk of ridicule.
But it is the way to win.
It’s the way to create awesome content.
Also-ran content will doom your marketing efforts to the back shelves of the Internet, but the power of imagination can fuel awesome marketing programs and help your organization move forward. When a content creator simply reflects back the reality in front of them, the results are usually mundane. However, when we spin the story forward and put our imaginations to work, we begin to tell stories that lead the audience forward, draw them in… and create higher levels of engagement.
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