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Treat Content Publishing as a Privilege by Sharing the Awesome

news of the brandNowadays, any brand can become a content publisher, but we sometimes forget to treat content publishing as a privilege. Just because we have a soapbox, doesn’t mean there will be an audience to listen to us.

As marketers we are traditionally trained to repeat our single-minded proposition until consumers buy whatever it is that we’re marketing. In an effort to get our features and benefits across, we often lose sight of what’s actually valuable to our audience. Great content marketing turns a mirror on the audience.

That’s why earlier this year we created a cartoon series for Intuit focused on the world of professional tax preparers. Rather than simply illustrate the features and benefits of QuickBooks, we designed the series to commiserate with tax season headaches. One cartoon called, “How To Tell It’s April 15th” showed an error display of the office printer: “Toner Life End, You’re All Out, And The Stores Are Closed. Bwah Ha Ha Ha Ha!”

toner life end cartoon
Image via Intuit.

We took this series a step further and invited tax professionals to share some of their tax preparation horror stories. The winning story was memorialized in a cartoon, showing a 5-year old pushing the off button on the computer to get her dad’s attention, losing all of his tax preparation work. The winner received a framed print of the cartoon, capturing the story and recognition from fellow tax preparers who shared the series because it reflected their world. 

tax preparer nightmare-cartoon
Image via Intuit.

The cartoon series struck a chord because it wasn’t overtly about QuickBooks. It was about the audience of professional tax preparers.

As software developer Kathy Sierra says, “It does not matter how awesome your product is or your presentation or your post. Your awesome thing matters ONLY to the extent that it serves the user’s ability to be a little more awesome.”

Start-up fashion brand Betabrand built its company on the premise of making its audience awesome through content publishing. The company describes its brand as “One percent fashion, 99 percent fiction.” Every article of clothing comes with talking points to make the wearer more awesome. For example, for Thanksgiving, Betabrand introduced Gluttony Pants, with extra buttons to create more space in the waist over the course of a Thanksgiving meal. (The pants come with their own napkin!)

To channel the awesomeness of its supporters, Betabrand redesigned its website around its audience of “Model Citizens.” The company invited customers to send pictures of themselves doing something awesome with their clothes. Every entry received a special link on the site, as if they were the stars of the Betabrand website. Betabrand evolved so that the website was no longer about the products; it was about its Model Citizens.

betabrand-model citizens
Image via Betabrand Model Citizen.

Betabrand knew it wasn’t enough to sell pants made of disco-ball material. It needed someone from the audience to be so inspired that he would sky dive into the annual Burning Man festival wearing those pants, and then share the awesomeness with the world from the Model Citizen website.

In content marketing, we need to focus less on how awesome we are and more on making our customers more awesome. We need to treat publishing as a privilege.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our quarterly magazine.