Top Marketing Secret Revealed: Be Authentic

In the past, I’ve discussed a trend that is currently plaguing our industry: the lack of humanization in content marketing. Over time, all the listicles, infographics and how-to’s (which can be valuable, don’t get me wrong) have the effect of watering down a brand. They add to the internet noise pollution more than they provide utility.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, but that’s what my audience clicks on!”

To address the debate, let’s borrow some analogies from the most authentic pop culture brand that came out of the 90’s: the Spice Girls.

Spice Up Your Life

Just kidding. The Spice Girls are actually the perfect example of what not to do: manufacture content in a test tube and then sprinkle glitter all over it. Sure, you might be able to sell 30 million copies of your debut album and become the best-selling female group in history… but at what cost!

I think it’s safe to say that history won’t look as kindly on the Spice Girls as, say, Bob Marley or the Talking Heads—artists who had a fresh perspective to share within the political climate of their generation.

All this to say:

Authenticity is a long play that will create a meaningful brand experience and win favor with the right audience.

Leave a Legacy

Easier said than done, right? What does humanization look like within the content marketing sphere? Here are some ways to start breathing life back into your content:

Focus on Solving Problems

This is possibly the easiest entry point. Your customers have problems and your goal is to solve them. Perhaps along the way you can make a buck in an exchange for the value you provided. Start with a list of the core challenges your various audiences face on a daily, monthly, annual basis. Then create a content map of all of the sub-problems that sit below these. Voila! You suddenly have 30 new topics to develop.

Empower Thought Leaders

Are you the expert on each of these challenges? Probably not, but odds are that you have one (or more) in your organization. Work with them to develop solutions that can be written about and they’ll feel bought-in. Perhaps they will be willing to add their name as an author. The key here is consistency in developing solutions and even showing team members the results of their input by sharing feedback such as, “You got a few shares on LinkedIn!” (So what if one of them was from your mom.)

Build a Real Community

In recent experience with my company, SmallBox, we’ve found that so much of the value of our marketing services isn’t in the outcome, it’s in the journey. Our clients find a lot of fulfillment in meeting and sharing with others on the common journey. We even created a monthly gathering, called Serial Box, to cultivate this community and allow our clients to share their experiences in person. This can even be done online using LinkedIn and Facebook groups.

Leverage Your Organizational Culture

Content is often the most wasted byproduct of an organization. It’s everywhere and your cultural activities are the best ingredient in your secret content sauce.

Are there weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual events that can be written about or shared with the outside world?

Perhaps your organization’s number one priority is customer service. Well, what do your customers think of you? How are they benefiting from your dedication to them?

This is all fodder for excellent, yet authentic, content marketing.

THEN Add Glitter

Once you’ve built a loyal audience and a credible reputation among them, then you can start sprinkling glitter all over your efforts. If you try to execute crowd-sourced contests or develop a funny video series prematurely—before you’ve earned the trust of your audience—they’ll write you off as shallow and out of touch. The fun, creative part of marketing is oftentimes what makes the job such a joy, but you’ve got to do your due diligence and let them see your brand’s humanistic side first.