content strategy for marketers is a multi-headed beast. deciding what to say to your audience is the obvious challenge. compounding the problem is the dilemma of where and how to say it. the problem of maria, of course, is that she needs to take a different path than the one she is on at the convent. a more interesting problem for me is the one that maria solves – that of winning the minds, and eventually hearts, of the von trapp children.
maria’s solution is to engage her audience by taking expected forms and presenting them in unexpected contexts. curtains re-imagined as play outfits. a frightening storm as an opportunity for creative inspiration. this gets the children’s attention and inspires curiosity.
“But Todd,” you’re asking, “What does julie andrews have to do with content strategy?” the answer is everything. maybe your intended audience (customers, prospective donors, board members, fill in the blank) is not slipping frogs into your pockets, but most likely you are not getting much or any of its attention. how can you earn the chance to deliver your message and build to a compelling call to action? maria doesn’t send out an rfp for a campaign to re-energize her base. she looks at existing assets and uses the materials at hand, together with imagination and passion, to do it herself.
the best content wears its heart on its sleeve
winning attention is a great start, but it is only the first step to winning engagement. after maria leaves, the baroness attempts to engage the children with a pale imitation of the same strategy. sure it’s a copycat move, but that’s not always a bad thing. maria and the baroness both earn the right to be heard. the baroness doesn’t fail to win the children’s attention, but she fails to win their hearts because her heart clearly isn’t in it. maria wins the hearts of her audience because her words and subsequent actions demonstrate her commitment to hearing them in a world where their feelings and opinions are too often ignored.
the understanding that people want to be heard is reflected in the “open-ended close” to pretty much every blog post, where the author asks (with varying levels of sincerity) for input for readers. does he or she really want a critique of the post? fawning adulation? the answer to both should be yes. the former because critical input can expose sides to an issue worthy of consideration and discussion. the latter because..well, because compliments are really nice (hint, hint).
the value of the unexpected
maria does have one advantage many of us do not – the luxury of a captive audience. she may only have one chance, but at least there is someone there. what to do when you don’t have much of an audience, or any audience at all? a couple of ideas. first, if you have an idea for how to use something in a new way, there’s probably someone out there who thinks it’s interesting, too. if you give that person a way to share the idea with his or her network, it might catch the eye of a few others. some of those people might go out and buy your widget, or call you for a project, or take whatever action it is you are hoping they will take.
second, if you have an idea for a new new thing or that reframes an old thing in a new or unexpected way, present it in new or unexpected ways. maybe it’s the notion of using a classic movie metaphor to express a marketing cliche. or something else. for example, what if I made a quick video of me singing the post dressed in a dirndl and fleeing from nazi thugs? spoiler alert: I get away. 🙂
proof of concept: I repurposed a lot of this post from a cover letter I wrote for a marketing gig with a company that does amazing bike tours in europe. tell them I sent you.
do you solve your problems like maria? tell me and the world in the comments!
feature image is a content strategy experiement with thinglink. if you mouse over the image, you should see a gold circle. click to enjoy a musical interlude.