Blog post

Solve the Challenge of Content Marketing, SNL Style

By Jennifer Polk | September 30, 2013 | 4 Comments

digital marketing

Last week was Chicago Social Media Week. After attending a number of sessions, a few common themes became clear. First, brands, big and small, are still trying to replicate the Oreo model for real-time marketing without clearly understanding how to apply and measure real-time marketing to drive business impact. Second, big data and data-driven marketing still confound many marketers who are struggling to understand where to find the data and how to use it once they’ve found it. The third theme from Chicago Social Media Week was the importance, and persistent confusion, around content marketing. Some sessions like Content Marketing That Wins: Making Brands, Readers AND Google Happy provided solid primers on what works, what doesn’t and why. While this type of introduction to content marketing can put your brand on the right path,  you may be left struggling to take the next step—operationalizing content marketing within your company. 

My colleagues, Jake Sorofman and Allen Weiner, have provided useful frameworks to help you understand the basics of content marketing and build a process for creating and curating content to tell your brand’s story in a compelling and creative way. If you’ve read this research and you’re still challenged by tasks like finding web content or filling your editorial calendar, consider the approach taken by Saturday Night Live—everybody writes. SNL writer and actor, Kenan Thompson, was a guest on The View, where he introduced several new cast members, many of whom were writers for live sketch comedy show. When asked if  he and other cast members still wrote their own material, he emphatically replied, “Yes. Everybody writes.” Saturday Night Live has been on the air for 38 seasons and has received 37 Emmy awards. While this success can be attributed to several factors, one of those factors is content. How do you create 745 episodes worth of relevant, satirical content? Two words—everybody writes.

While everyone in your organization may not be a writer, everyone is—or should be—knowledgeable about a particular subject. This knowledge, once vetted, structured, and (potentially) massaged into an easily digestible format, can comprise a rich library of content that fulfills a myriad of purposes. You will need a strategy that defines the purpose of your content. You will also need a process to create, curate and manage content, internally and externally. You may need a business case for asking people who are not writers to start writing, in addition to doing their day job. The business case is quite simple. Let’s look at retail as an example. No one in a retail organization has a better understanding of a specific product than the buyer. They may not be equipped to field comments on social sites—that’s the job of a community manager. But they can write a blog post about the product and product trends that informs the community manager or helps a customer make a purchase decision.

One lesson that marketers can learn from Saturday Night Live is that everyone is responsible for writing good lines. The lines may need to be edited to fit new formats, refined to meet the expectations of the audience or repurposed for a different episode, but the content is there. It isn’t enough for an SNL  cast member to be a good actor who recites someone else’s lines. Simply being good at your craft doesn’t cut it if you can’t communicate your ideas to others. At a time when content is the currency on which brands are built, everyone in the organization must contribute to that economy. Marketers can serve as producers who understand and convey the direction of the show (marketing strategy) to writers (colleagues) helping them develop and tailor their content appropriately.

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  • Kathy S says:

    During the conference or in conversations have you uncovered any sources showing data on click throughs, comparing human edtior generated contact vs machine generated content? I’m in need of click through data on RSS Feeds where content is selected and published using human editors vs automated algorithyms. Thank you for any references you can give.

  • Love this article! Not only is it entertaining to read, it’s also packed with lots of useful information! I’m really impressed with how you incorporated SNL into marketing content.

  • Aw, I wish I would’ve been in this event. The key takeaways you shared can really be helpful for a lot of professionals around the world. The content strategy you discussed is a good one, and I think it will be implemented by some soon enough. Thanks for the share! You’re so lucky to attend such an exciting and educational event! I love social media. 🙂

  • seo says:

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this,
    like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you can do with a few pics to
    drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is
    excellent blog. A great read. I’ll certainly be back.