Be good or be good at it: content strategy and likability

I read a blog by Julianne Staino (SEOmoz) last week, and her ideas about agencies and likability really hit home with me. I don’t agree with everything she asserts (and I’ll tell you why), but I think it’s an important issue to consider and to address.

Do your clients like you? 

I hope so, because there’s nothing quite like the sting of rejection (middle school, anyone?). Julianne writes a first-hand account of a meeting with a potential client – when she asked why the client was meeting with her, they indicated that while they were getting positive results with their current agency, they were checking out other options.

As marketers, that’s scary. It should be scary. You can provide great reports, positive results, kickass trends, but if you’re not likeable, there’s a good chance you’re out the door.

Julianne’s list of the 5 ways to be liked is a good one, but the whole idea of “getting people to like me” seems inauthentic from the get-go. It’s at odds with my entire vision of content marketing, which rests wholly on the idea of honest presentation. If we’re doing the right things, I see little reason for our clients not to like us. Alternately, if my clients don’t like me, I doubt that taking them out for a few beers is going to really change their minds. More specifically, I disagree with her last point: Do work they haven’t asked for. She admits it’s dicey, and that it’s likely to be met with incredulity. I’m not incredulous; I do, from time to time, do work that I’m not contractually obligated to provide. But it’s the exception to the rule, and I don’t do it to improve my likability score with the client.

What’s missing here, I believe, is that trying to get folks to like you doesn’t always result in… folks liking you. People dig genuine. They get real. They know when you’re playing them. And I don’t buy Staino’s assertion that freebies = likability.

Likability Can’t Be Bought

Be yourself. We like you.

Do your job. Do it so well and with such content-lovin’ fervor that you knock every sock off in the tri-state area. Be yourself. Be honest and real and throw yourself into the awesome work you do. When you do all that, you don’t need to work for free. Let’s take it on back to middle school. Could you buy likability then? Nah. Let’s take it on back to yesterday. Could you buy likeability in a presidential election? Nah.

Am I encouraging marketers not to go above and beyond? Not really. There are exceptions to every rule, and I’m the first to admit to breaking it because of my preoccupation with perfection. But it’s a fine line—when we’re talking about hours of billable time spent on freebies and extras.  Am I encouraging marketers to do a job so well that extras aren’t necessary? Yes!

In the words of that other Bard (Lil’ Wayne), “Be good or be good at it.” When your content strategy is solid, you believe in what you’re doing, and you have a vested interest in your client’s campaign and success, the likability will come.

Sara Fraser – VP Content Strategy

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