Having travelled through the crazy worlds of publishing and marketing for nearly 20 years, I can now claim with full confidence, that we’re finally witnessing a huge shift in our business. Some might call this a crisis. Digital landscapes have been around for years, but it seems that we’ve yet to figure out all the potential highs these new channels have to offer. One term that has us scratching the back of our heads is content marketing. And I believe, content marketing could be the answer to our prayers. According to numerous reports on digital advertising, content marketing and native ads in particular have the potential of driving in massive revenue by 2021.
Whilst wondering about some of the earlier days in my publishing career, I quickly realised that it all comes down to storytelling. The fundamental truths in journalism (values, formats) are engraved into good content marketing and advertising in general. Great. Stories. Sell. But what are the secret ingredients behind these stories?
Firstly, let’s cover the basics. You might think that journalism is a mixture of coincidence, talent and perseverance. Well actually it’s a lot more rational than you think. There are clear values and models that have proven to work for ages. Therefore, I’d recommend using the following common journalistic values as the basis for your story:
What’s hot? Whilst people are growing tired of media’s overwhelming obsession around Trump’s latest antics, there are still plenty of fascinating topics to choose from daily. Just offer something new or tie into a current event in order to be considered timely (note for advertisers: newsjacking).
How is your audience affected by the story? Does it contain information which is a) interesting b) relevant?
Events that occur close by always have more significance. People are attracted by stories close to them. Someone from your neighbourhood became a millionaire? Bet you’d take a closer look into that.
This one’s a no-brainer. Famous people get a lot of media coverage. Consider partnering up with a relevant influencer or an otherwise newsworthy persona.
- Human Interest
A purely emotional value, demanding more finesse to get right. It’s important to tap into the right emotion; be it sadness, inspiration, amusement, excitement or anger. The emotional appeal or impact will drive human interest.
Can you recall your favourite childhood fairy-tale? Or maybe a Disney cartoon? There’s a reason we love these stories. This the absolute epitome of storytelling. If you take a second to think, you’ll figure that most write-ups are still based on the common magical models from the past. Here’s a small list of famous storytelling models you might be interested in:
- David & Goliath
The smaller (but cleverer) underdog beats the mighty giant.
- The Hare & the Tortoise
Slow and steady wins the race.
- Richard Branson
The bad boy breaking rules and reaching the top using unconditional ways.
- Robin Hood
The noble villain robbing the rich for the sake of those less fortunate.
- The Ugly Duckling
The one who appears unpromising at first turns out to have the most potential.
Hopefully you now have a few ideas for a top-notch story. However, even the best products need attractive packaging, the same goes for stories. Consider these formats:
- Interactive games
To sum up my brief introduction to the basics behind content marketing, please take a look at this awesome campaign from Germany, which in my opinion is one of the best examples for everything mentioned above.
Advocard, a German legal expenses insurance company needed an interesting story around a VERY boring topic. Together with the agency Achtung they decided to map and compose Germany’s first online ‘Litigation Atlas’! Now every German could assess the risk of getting involved in a conflict. The atlas is divided by regions – a smart move to generate regional interest. Attracting media coverage (earned media) was one of the main tasks. The atlas was originally hosted on Advocard’s website, but could be easily integrated into other sites as well. Online news platforms happily picked up on this opportunity. Geo-specific information made it more targeted and appealing to local media (it was automatically a local story in every part Germany!). Therefore, the conversation took off on all levels. Germany’s biggest daily newspaper, BILD, featured a special preview of the atlas.