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Why Your Content Marketing Never Works Out the way You Plan

Excited about Content Marketing

Remember back when you bugged your boss to let you do content marketing? Wait, what? You didn’t beg for an addition 20% workload? Oh, my mistake.

The Truth

Most people become content marketers because they happen to be sitting near the decision maker the day they read the article on Forbes about how it was about to become the next big thing. Does that sound more familiar?

You were already handling writing for other platforms, maybe the blog, the press releases, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, the technical brochures and maybe even helping spruce up a few PowerPoint presentations before the big meeting. Content marketing seemed like a natural fit for you.

Arranged Marriages

The problem with the boss telling you that you have a new responsibility is that you’re probably not in love with it. You were just barely hanging on to the dysfunctional relationship you have with the company Twitter stream.

Here’s the thing, you can learn to love it. Over time you will find out that your content can love you back. Content marketing is work, hard work even, but the payoff is a life changing evolution with how you view your entire marketing world. I realize that sounds crazy, but stick with me just a bit longer.

Brand Voice

This is often where content marketing takes it’s first wrong turn. There is a meeting of VP’s where a decision is made about what voice a brand wants to be seen as having. Great, your “brand voice” will be authoritative, caring and smart. Way to go out on a limb guys!

How about this instead, let the leading voices in your company be your brand voice. Here’s another place where the turns can get tricky. The leading voices at your company may or may not be who you think. Maybe the mid-level manager is a leading voice instead of the CEO. Maybe the newly hired technical writer connects with your audience in a way that is changing the way your entire brand is viewed. That’s when it happens. That’s when the entire flow chart that the VP’s plan goes out the window and the magic starts happening.

Nobody cares about your brand

People follow brands like Dollar Shave Club or Old Spice because they love the voice from the guys who are featured. Ditto the cute gecko at Geico, the duck at Aflac and Flo at Progressive. It’s the people (or duck) that we associate with, not the brand itself.

You're good. Get better. - Don Draper in Mad Men

I never understood the byline on newspaper articles that was “Staff Reporter”. It’s almost as if the person who wrote that was such a commodity they didn’t even rate their own byline. For anyone doing marketing on the web, that would be fatal.

You are now the brand

This post sits on ASPE‘s blog, which means that they trust me with their brand. That’s not an easy step for a brand to take, but your boss thinks YOU are the person worthy of being the brand ambassador for your company – pretty sweet when you think of it that way.

So what can you do as the newly crowned brand ambassador? Almost anything, but choose carefully. The work you did last year probably isn’t good enough. The content you put together in a hurry for the meeting last month, scrap it. Mediocre content is the new garbage heap. The only thing you can do now is great work. It’s the only thing that will work.

Think of yourself. When is the last time you read a press release? How about read a 750 blog post that was nothing but features and benefits? Right, we don’t have time for that BS any more. You now have to raise your game up, no more hiding, no more “I’ll just put out crappy blog post to meet the minimum requirements”. You need to channel your inner Don Draper, you need to become the story.

Story is Everything

Your features and benefits are never going to make me cry or laugh and probably never going to make me share anything you say. Your story on the other hand, is powerful. When Simon Sinek talks about “Starting with Why” he’s talking about connecting with people at a completely different level.

Nest thermostatI didn’t spend $250 on a Nest Thermostat because it controls the temperature in my home any better than my old one. I bought it because I wanted a thermostat from a company that is trying to revolutionize the theromostat business. They allow me to have complete control over every aspect of my home’s heating and cooling at any time from anywhere in the world. They then designed a beautiful piece of art that also happens to be a nearly self-aware thermostat and finally made it available to me for only $250.

There aren’t many things in the world that are considered more boring than a thermostat, but the people at Nest sold me the story. They connected with me. I wanted to do business with them because I like the way they view the world and what their goal is.


I read Tim Sander’s book, Love is the Killer App, a few years ago. It had a profound impact on the way I see almost every marketing interaction now. Am I giving value? Am I doing everything in my power to help someone be their best?

Your job is to create a constant drumbeat of content that helps, interests and emotionally connects with your audience. If you’re not on that path, you will fail.

If you don’t love your customers, you’re competition will.

1 Comment on Why Your Content Marketing Never Works Out the way You Plan

  1. Steve Bonin
    October 10, 2013 at 2:48 am (4 years ago)

    Hi Phil, great article. I love Don Draper and the inspiration you used from him. The show Mad Men really makes your point – Story is Everything


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