Effective Content Strategy: 5 Rules for a First Date

How many first dates have you had? Five? Ten? Too many?

We’ve all been there. It’s awkward. It’s stressful. But sometimes, it’s magic. You connect. You actually want a second date. Effective content strategy is like a magical first date. It connects with your audience as if each one was sitting across from you at the local coffeehouse sharing your favorite movies while sipping a pumpkin spice latte.

Wait. What? There are rules for a first date. (Go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait.)

In early September I had the opportunity to hear David Beebe, VP Global Creative and Content Marketing for Marriott, speak at Content Marketing World. Beebe presented one keynote and one session about how Marriott International is working toward its goal of becoming the trusted source for all their consumers’ travel needs. They want to own the travel entertainment space.

What really caught my eye was a slide that said, “Content marketing is like a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second date.” It sounds so simple. But when you look at what Marriott International is doing, and what their competitors aren’t, it seems this isn’t as easy as it sounds. So, let’s review those essential rules for a first date content strategy.

Rule 1: Don’t talk about yourself all the time. No one, not even the most interesting person in the world, should talk non-stop. This includes brands. Your audience is reading your content, whether it’s on Twitter or a blog, because they have a question, need a problem solved, want to be entertained, etc. Think about them, and let them lead the conversation.

Rule 2: Be on time. It’s rude to arrive late for a date. That’s just as true when delivering what your audience wants. Your job is to be there when they’re looking for information, no matter where they are in the course of their journey. That means being ready with content that applies to those just beginning to think about where to go on vacation, and info on how to quiet a tantrum at 30,000 feet on the way to Florida.

Rule 3: Be authentic. There’s nothing worse than expecting to meet Brad Pitt, based on his dating profile, and having Joe Schmoo show up. Too many content strategies mimic what everyone else is doing. Effective content strategies speak to their audience in a real and authentic voice, sharing honestly and openly about the brand and what they represent. They understand the purpose of each channel, the audience on that channel, and provide custom-tailored content for that audience.

Rule 4: Ask for a second date. If things go well, ask for a second date before the end of the first. No one wants to be left wondering about where things stand. Your readers feel the same way; no piece of content should be a one-and-done item. You need to think beyond those first few pieces of content to implement a long-term engagement with viewers. Writing destination content? Approach it like a magazine. If Vogue only worried about the fall and spring lines, there’d be no need for more than two issues per year.

Rule 5: Respect your date. Mind your manners, be polite and treat them like you wish to be treated. That’s what smart brands do best. They respect and value their audience, delivering valuable information that readers can use and want to share.

I know not every first date (and content strategy) works out. Heck, even Netflix knows that viewers don’t get hooked on a series by watching the pilot episode. But following these rules to meet your audience where they are offers a better chance at success than just showing up when you feel like it, talking only about yourself and leaving abruptly.

Enjoyed this post? Read other articles by Kathleen.

Kathleen GossmanProject Manager

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