This blog post was originally published on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog.
I’d like to start with a very simple challenge: As content marketers, let’s be entertainers.
Whether you’re writing a blog post, producing a video, or getting up in front of a live or virtual audience, how often do you really challenge yourself to ensure what you’re creating will be entertaining? It seems pretty obvious that this should be our No. 1 goal as content creators, but too often I see other priorities ranking ahead: leads, SEO, or even worse, (but understandably) shares. I am challenging myself in the coming year to always start by figuring out how my content will entertain my audience.
Let me give some credit to the source of inspiration for this recent prioritization in my content efforts. I’m fortunate to co-host a weekly podcast through Convince & Convert called Content Pros (side note: Convince & Convert is the agency of one of the best entertainers on stage when it comes to content marketing: Jay Baer). On a recent episode, we were chatting with a customer of mine named Amanda Nelson at Salesforce. I asked Amanda about her takeaway from the conference we were at (MarketingProfs B2B Forum) and she stressed the importance of entertaining. Amanda is a rockstar marketer to begin with, but these words sparked something in me and I couldn’t shake it.
On my flight home, I started to think more about this and realized how simple it was. That said, I tested my assumption by asking people what their goal was when creating content and the simple answer of entertainment was rarely mentioned as a focus. The closest goal was typically “to educate”. There is a very clear difference between educating and entertaining. Think back to your days in university or grade school – all of our teachers were there to educate, but your best teachers entertained you every day. You couldn’t wait for their class. For me, looking back I probably learned the most from those who were most entertaining. Perhaps that could be attributed to my attention span (my peers or wife can vouch that it wanders quickly!).
Attention span (squirrel) is another reason we need to up our game as entertainers. We’ve all heard about the other options our target audience has for content and that goldfish can lock in longer than us. It’s true. Just look at your smartphone. Open it up and think about being “entertained”. Which app will you open? Here are some screen grabs from some of my folders:
And these are the buckets of apps I use less often. Funny enough, I actually have a category specifically called “Entertainment.” There’s some tough competition for you creators there. You’re up against Netflix (hours on binging), OpenTable (a night with my wife), access to tickets to see my Toronto Raptors (night out with my kid), and maybe the only time I really zone out heading to a movie theatre (big thumbs up to Moana for fun with the whole fam!).
I know these seem like a whole other category, far away from the content you’re creating but I assure you it’s all about how we divvy up the 1,440 minutes we have a day! Yes, that’s right – your content is competing with my shut-eye, too. How do you get me to tune into your blog and stay up an extra 60 minutes the same way I did for "Westworld"?
I hope you’ve been entertained through this post so far, but here come the tips (aka the education). Here are six strategies to try when creating your next piece of entertaining content:
Ask anyone on my team: I love a good old analogy. An analogy can take the most boring of topics (yes, some of us do have to write content about boring stuff) and frame it alongside something that has recently or historically captivated people. Props on this to Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media. Recently at the UFX conference, Andy spoke about SEO and analytics. No offense to SEO lovers, but I’ve tuned into some lullabies on SEO. Andy, on the other hand, had fun with the topic, comparing delivering a lead with SEO to birthing a baby. You’ve got to watch his “delivery of a lead” – I guarantee you will be entertained.
It’s amazing how many of us don’t have a proper definition for content marketing. My favorite definition comes from Content Marketing Institute:
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
There’s a lot to work with in there, but my favorite word is “relevance.” Don’t you hate it when people are dwelling on a stat from 2009? (This post was written in late 2016). Just take this post – I’m not sitting here telling you about why you need to write content. You’re content marketers – you know there’s value – it’s been preached to you for years now! Instead, I’m here to tell you to raise your game the same way Joe Pulizzi of CMI did at Content Marketing World this past Fall. He changed the conversation to say "do it right" or "Just Don’t Do It" at all. Joe tied in an awesome analogy with that one playing off the famous Nike swoosh.
I know everyone’s doing it, but that’s because it’s so much fun and you can inject a GIF into your post or presentation without waiting for the lights to dim and hoping the audio works (fingers crossed!!!). With a little creativity, you can pull in GIFs (try Giphy) to get a laugh, illustrate a point, or just to be silly. Earlier this year I used a series of GIFs from "The Lion King" to address our sales team on how we were going to rebound from a misstep. I played off the Circle of Life analogy. Let me share this secret equation for success: ANALOGY + GIF = BUY IN.
Before GIFs, there was video. But that doesn’t mean video is so 1999 – video has continued to capture our attention, especially as access to video has been made easier over the years. Embedding video on your site is easy; my company partners with many video providers – from YouTube to Vidyard – to stream content as part of a company’s content hub.
The excuses on cost and complexity of creating video are gone. Creating amazing video is relatively easy and inexpensive. Whether it’s the previously mentioned Jay Baer who brings to life Jay Today on YouTube using his phone to record or my team who managed to create this amazing video below learning Adobe After Effects in a matter of weeks, the entertainment opp with video is huge!
It’s one thing to create an entertaining piece of content, but to reach its full potential we need to account for the experience in which that content will be consumed. A Corona tastes better on the beach than in your unfinished basement, just as next Summer’s new Spiderman movie (can’t wait) will be better in the theaters than on the plane I’m sitting in writing this post.
Take time to think about the vessel for your content. Is your site responsive, intuitive, and wrapped in relevant context? At the outset, I called out Amanda from Salesforce who got me thinking about entertainment in the first place. Kudos to her for building an amazing experience for the content created for the Salesforce AppExchange with this hub. Amanda understands the value of the stage.
An important part of the Experience mentioned above is how that translates to live (and virtual) presentations. Back to Jay and Andy mentioned above – they are both amazing presenters. Delivering your content in front of a crowd has become important with the revival of the conference and opportunity to earn a keynote or run a webinar. One thing to consider is getting training in how you present. Our company provides a professional development allowance for employees to improve their skills. Recently about ten people from our company used their credit and brought in Speaker Labs to train them on how to present, covering slides, presence, tone, and more. It’s amazing to see how much more entertaining some of these talented members of our team have become even with internal presentations in recent weeks since they finished the course.
When this article first ran, we put out a call to marketers for entertaining content. Here's a roundup of content we love!