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The Big 3 of Old School Marketing (PT 1)

This blog post is an adaptation of Pieter’s workshop through the Maryland Small Business Development Center.

Connecting with your audience is hard! How many times have you published new content to your website, channel, or feed to be met with no response? In my career as a broadcast journalist before working at HighRock, I learned that there are three crucial steps to getting your audience to pay attention to your message. Reporting the news is a different beast than marketing your company, but these three steps still apply in connecting with and engaging your customers:

How to Connect with Your Audience

  1. Grab Them

  2. Surprise Them

  3. Move Them

Let’s talk about how to grab your audience. News stories rely on sparking an emotional response to get their viewers to pay attention. You can use this same strategy in your marketing, as long as you’re not cheapening your content or the response you expect from your customers. There are five motivating factors to get your audience to care about your content––something I learned after attending a seminar with journalism guru Al Tompkins from the Poynter Institute.* In the news, each story usually has at least one of these factors, but often stories can include more than one category. In marketing, these factors are also key elements in getting your customer to pay attention to your message – how does what you’re saying relate to one of the five motivating factors they care about?

Woman at a computer with the caption "Grab them"

Five Motivating Factors for Your Content

  • Money: This content asks and answers questions like “Is this going to help me save money?” and “What will this cost me?” In the news, money is a reason that big lottery stories go viral; people want to hear stories like that and believe that it can happen to them.
  • Family: This type of content centers on the question “How will this affect my family?” This topic is often closely connected to safety and health.
  • Safety: People want to keep themselves and their loved ones safe; that’s what this motivating factor focuses on. You often see news stories about crime – those are fueled by the safety factor.
  • Health: Related to safety, this topic includes content like medical news, how to live longer, feel better, and other public health risks.
  • Community: Everyone is part of several different forms of community (your neighborhood, school district, city, country) and the content they consume reflects that. People are interested in news and content that is local and relevant to them and reflects how they think.

When you’re writing content for your website or other marketing materials, ask yourself if it fits into any of these categories. If not, does your audience have a motivation to read it? Thinking about these topics is another great way to brainstorm topics for your SEO content like blogs and other news posts.

Beware of Clickbait

If you’ve watched the news or browsed any big brand’s social feeds, you’re probably aware that there’s another way to grab people’s attentions: clickbait. Clickbait can be effective in getting views, but most often it cheapens your content and ends up disappointing customers. Topics like curiosity (think celebrity gossip, sneak peaks into the homes of the rich and famous, etc), moral outrage (posing a hot topic question that is sure to spark debates), and trending social items (big headlines and popular memes) will grab attention, but they probably won’t keep it or leave a positive impression with your customers. You can use these motivators, but tread carefully. I still find it’s better to build content with lasting emotional appeal that strengthens your connection with your clients.

Stay tuned for part 2, on how to surprise and move your audience!

*I highly recommend Al Tompkin’s book, Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia.