A report from Forrester five years ago revealed that people didn’t trust corporate blogs. It was the evidence that many skeptical executives needed to shut down their companies’ blogging efforts. Not so fast, Forrester exec Josh Bernoff wrote in his blog. It’s not because it’s a corporate blog that people don’t like it.
“Blogs exclusively about companies and products are what I think generate these low trust ratings,” Bernoff wrote. “So don’t do a blog like that.”
If your corporate blog—indeed, if any of your content efforts—are just more channels for pushing messages you want your customers to get, it will fail. The overarching concept behind content marketing is to deploy content your customers will seek, consume, engage with, and share. Another product announcement just doesn’t inspire that kind of excitement.
Your content has to focus on what your customers want, not what you want them to know, while still delivering measurable results for your brand. So how do you go about figuring out what your customers (or other audiences) want to read, watch, or listen to?
Learn the questions they're asking
By monitoring your customers’ public, social conversations, you should be able to detect issues and problems they’re facing. These don’t have to be questions about your products or services, just the general category your business serves. Your content can reduce hassle in customers’ lives. Your content can even address your own products, if you’ve detected a common problem, issue, or concern. You can even spread the word when customers find a new benefit of your product, since others could take advantage of it to get more value from their purchase.
If customers are complaining, you can address their problem, as OXO did last week in response to allegations from a competitor that the ubiquitous British brand had ripped off its design. The smart post is not defensive, but rather outlines the facts
in a readable and informative manner—and it generated tremendous positive response on channels such as Twitter.
I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as information overload. I can stand all the information you can possibly throw at me—about the stuff that interests me. People can stand to learn more about their own hobbies and interests.
The latest post from Whole Foods Market is a good example. It’s safe to assume that there’s a contingent of Whole Foods shoppers who like to cook. So Alana Sugar wrote a detailed post
about why bell peppers are the pepper of choice. It’s not about a sale on bell peppers, but rather the various creative ways bell peppers can enhance a meal.
At Brighter Life, the content portal from financial services company SunLife, you can watch a simple, pitch-free two-minute video
(embedded from YouTube, which means it can also be embedded on other sites) that explains mutual funds to help customers make informed decisions.
We don’t take enough time in our communications to explain stuff. Your content marketing program is an opportunity to fix that. How-to videos, like those offered by Home Depot showing exactly how to install a new garbage disposal or replace a toilet, also fit in this category.
Recognize your fans
People like reading about themselves and each other. I have never been able to verify this, but someone told me that Archie Bunker, of "All in the Familiy," once said that his only regret after retiring from the loading dock where he worked was that his picture never appeared in the company newsletter. Smart organizations make sure they recognize their fans, advocates, and ambassadors. For example, the American Red Cross used its blog to share “Do Gooders Spotted on Instagram Doing Good,” pictures of Red Cross volunteers in action that had been shared across the popular photo-sharing site.
Show customers what’s behind the curtain
The sports term for this idea is “inside baseball.” You have fans who want to know more, but operational processes are often hidden from view, not because they’re secret but because of the assumption that nobody cares. One of the best podcasts I ever heard from General Motors was an interview with an engineer explaining how the Pontiac Solstice was taken from concept to showroom floors in a mere 18 months, half the normal cycle, at the behest of Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. That kind of behind-the-scenes insight was gold to people who can’t get enough content about cars.
Meanwhile, the Disney Parks blog provided a photo-rich guided tour
of the exclusive, private Club 33 at Disneyland. It’s well-known among Disneyana fanatics, but most will never set foot inside. It’s another peek behind the curtain to satisfy brand advocates’ curiosity. Behind-the-scenes pinboards are getting popular on Pinterest, along with boards from staffers who share what inspires them.
Be interesting and entertaining
You don’t even have to mention your own company to produce relevant content that supports business goals yet entertains your customers. Cisco Systems has amassed a respectable audience for its My Networked Life documentary video series that “takes you around the world for a look at how young professionals, entrepreneurs, artists and students are using connected technology to achieve goals and realize dreams.”
Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology. A version of this story first appeared on his blog a shel of my former self.