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Do You Really Care How Your Audiences Are Doing? [The Weekly Wrap]

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And that’s a wrap of the week ending April 17, 2020

This week I’m wondering how you’re doing (and I really want to know the answer). I offer my take on a new article that explains how content helps brands keep calm and carry on. I talk with Tanzen Consulting’s Carrie Hane about content design, new operational models, and how we get to a new normal with better content strategies. And I point you to an article about Agile marketing principles that’s especially relevant today.

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Our theme this week is keep calm and carry on (and on … and on … and on …) Let’s wrap it up.

One deep thought: How are you (and your audiences), really? (3:25)

In English-speaking countries, most people ask a question as part of our universal greeting: “Hi, how are you?”

Often, the person asking doesn’t want or expect to hear the real answer. Imagine a stand-up comedian on stage in front of thousands of people saying, “Hello, Los Angeles! How are you?” and hearing someone in the middle of the audience say, “Well, I’ve been kind of down. My job is unsatisfying, and I’m not really sure of my place in the world, you know?”

When an answer is expected to that greeting, the standard reply is “Good, thanks, how are you?”

Isn’t it funny how the shared experience of a crisis changes that standard? Or at least changes some aspects of that standard?

I’ve noticed in all my Zoom calls, online meetings, and even email and online chats, people are giving (and expecting) real answers. Last week at the market I asked a citrus farmer (through my mask) how they were. I was surprised and delighted to hear details of how happy they felt to be able to sell their fruit to grateful neighborhoods.

But this renewed focus on the shared experience hasn’t transcended everywhere.

The renewed focus on shared experiences hasn’t transcended to all brands, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

In marketing and communications strategy, we often talk of creating experiences to share with audiences whatever the channel. We talk about making the experiences emotional. Valuable. Connected.

But two emails I received from companies last week reminded me that not all marketers are listening. Both asked how I was doing and expressed that they’re here for me. But when I wrote back to share how I am and ask how they’re doing … well, just listen to this segment to find out (hint: I wasn’t satisfied with my care).

A fresh take on keeping calm and virtually carrying on (12:19)

David Brown, executive chairman at content marketing agency Manifest, wrote a great article for the Association of National Advertisers, for which he serves on the content marketing committee.

Content marketing has been nascent in this community, but that’s starting to change. Although I hate the reason, I’ll applaud the rise – the current crisis is putting a big focus on creating valuable content for customers even among this group.

Near the beginning of his article, David offers this prediction:

As marketers emerge from the initial shock of the pandemic’s effect and begin to make tactical plans for the short term and prepare for the uncertainty of the near and long term, content teams will be tested mightily because of the need to adapt and change (perhaps often) … In fact, content maturity models have really missed out on this variable – the ability to adapt to dramatic changes in customer needs, their journey with the brand, and massive changes in supply chains.

#Content teams will be tested mightily because of the need to adapt and change, says David Brown of @Manifest_Agency via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

He goes on to define how Manifest would have defined strategic content leadership before the virus outbreak and then offers a plan for the next 30 days. I won’t spoil that here, but I’m offering full-throated agreement with what David has laid out.

He ends the article by acknowledging that there will be winners and losers. The losers, he concludes, will be the brands that focus on one side of the business or elsewhere in the portfolio, or try to launch a new brand or sub-brand.

The winners, he says, are likely to be those that leave all legacy thinking aside, show a complete understanding of what content drives engagement and action now, and then use that as a critical input into the direction their brands should follow.

That’s not only a recipe for a way to pivot out of this, but also a road map to long-term success after we emerge from the current crisis. I was so struck by David’s words that I called him up to ask why he felt compelled to bring this message to ANA’s audience. It’s worth listening to the segment to hear what he says.

This week’s person making a difference in content: Carrie Hane (17:45)

Carrie Hane (I love how she puts this) teaches organizations how to stop the content madness. Since 2015, her company, Tanzen Consulting, has worked to make content future-friendly by starting outside of an interface or delivery channel. Her methodology for doing this is detailed in her 2018 book, Designing Connected Content: How to Plan and Model Digital Products for Today and Tomorrow.

Carrie was a content strategist before content strategy was even cool. We had an interesting conversation about content design, operational models, and how we might be seeing the future of content strategy coming to life in this current crisis.

Here’s Carrie’s explanation of the impact of content design:

So often people want to put messages out instead of thinking about what people need. Who is this for? What do they need? How can I best give them that information? The answer might be some words. It might be an image or an infographic. It might be a calculator. It might be a table of data. It could be any of those things. But if you start with ‘OK, I’m going to write all this down,’ you might be missing a big opportunity to connect with your audience and serve them, thus building trust and credibility and making their lives easier.

So often people want to put messages out instead of thinking about what people need, says @carriehd via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

Listen in to our conversation, then learn more from Carrie:

One content marketing idea you can use (33:18)

The CMI post I’d love for you to take another look at this week was written in 2015 but feels like it could have been written yesterday. In Agile Principles + Content Marketing = Long Term Success, Andrea Fryrear writes: “(J)ust imagine how terrible it would be if you managed to get buy-in, crafted a beautiful content strategy, and then burned out all of your content producers before you could see it come to fruition?”

If that’s not still relevant, I’m not sure what is.

Andrea brings up a point I’ve also made: Marketing is too often (even without a global pandemic) working in triage mode, trying to reactively keep up with what the business should be saying next. Andrea suggests that Agile practices offer one way out of triage mode. It’s a great article filled with great tips.

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The wrap-up

I hope you’ll tune in next week when we’ll be talking about breadwinners (and going against the grain). I won’t charge a penny for my deep thoughts about a topic I hope will make cents and help you change. I’ll share a news item that will be like a sign that says “watch for children” (I think that sounds like a fair trade). And I’ll point you to one content marketing tip you can bank on. (It’ll help you get your balance and the credit you deserve). And it’ll all be delivered in a little less time than it takes another one of your friends to publish their senior pictures on Facebook.

If you have ideas for what you’d like to hear more of on our weekly play on words, let us know in the comments. And if you love the show, we’d sure love for you to review it or share it. Hashtag us up on Twitter: #WeeklyWrap.

To listen to past shows, go to the main Weekly Wrap page.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute