EXPLAINER: WTAF do you do for a living? We’re at the intersection of Content, Comms, positioning and events, of course

Yesterday I was challenged by a relative on what I really do for a living: “So do you think all day long about content then?” he asked cheekily, fuelled by too much prosecco. “The Thought Partnership: what does that actually mean? Do you get paid to think?” Oh gawd, here we go again. I’m sure many of you (those who aren’t doctors, accountants and lawyers) will have been in the same boat. Which led to me to this thought: how do I describe what I do without sounding like a pretentious tw*t? For me and my TTP colleagues, the short answer is: I am a content & communications strategist. But - what even is content? What’s another way of saying “content” without sounding so abstract and vague? And why the hell should anyone care? (If you don’t care, don’t feel bad).

Charlotte Williams

TL:DR (If I could remember to say this each time, this is what I would say):

I (we) work with brands to help them win credibility and trust with influential  b2b audiences. Of course there are many ways brands can do this: excellent service, sales conversations and a strong product/ service are just three ways. But  our tried and tested to do it is by rewarding your target audience with original interesting content - events, podcasts, video, reports - without overtly selling your product and service (which is FAR less annoying and intrusive.) 

But in the interests of creating a proper blog post, I’m going to go a bit deeper and talk about the everlasting, timeless principles of good old content marketing. 

But we’re all baffled by buzzwords

The marketing and comms landscape (I resist the temptation to call it “ecosystem”) is awash with buzzwords and acronyms. What was once marketing is now “content marketing” or the even more grandiose “storytelling”;  what was once “having a point of view” is now “thought-leadership” and/or your “personal brand” and what once never even existed is now all manner of things: vlogging, performance v. brand, digital community-building… we could go on. 

Timeless Principles

An explosion in new ways of interacting with content messaging means that people are exposed to 5,000 advertising messages a day (that was in 2020 ; it’s probably quadrupled since then), a total of nearly 2 million a year, but we only remember 1 to 3% without any prompting.   So that means we need to create interesting, inspired content which cuts through the clutter.

But whilst the message, the medium and the buzzwords have dramatically shifted, the underlying principles remain the same. 

So let’s go back to these very basic and timeless principles. 

You need a clear objective - what are you trying to achieve? What’s the problem you’re trying to solve? Can you be more specific?  “I want to show the top global healthcare marketers our credentials in building patient-centered communities through our case studies with X, Y, Z to convert 5% of them” is better than “I want to communicate our products to global healthcare marketers”.

  1. You need an audience - yes, indeed. Who are they? Can you niche it down? The nichier (I made this word up, will it become a new buzzword?) the better. What motivates them? How do they relate? What do they respond to? Where do they spend their time? What do they aspire to? And who do they aspire to? Do your research: ask them WHY. I love research and there are so many fantastic research tools out there these days: tools like qualtrics and typeform can save the day. I say the more audience research, the merrier. Some say it can hamper real innovation (“Apple didn’t invent the iPod by creating a focus group”) but I say that examples like this are outliers. Good old-fashioned telephone research can lead you down a golden path. 
  1. You need a clear message - oh yes. What are you trying to say? The simpler the better. The more you try to say, the less you’ll get across, as research from Millward Brown has proved. This is a tried and tested principle that probably goes back to Neanderthal times, as it’s all in the way we’re wired. 
  1. You need to convey it in an interesting, sticky way  - And, this is more often or not, when a practitioner like TTP jumps in. What is the essence of the story? What medium/s/ channel/s  are you going to choose? There’s such a plethora of content formats: from infographics to reports; from live events to long-form films; from video explainers to an Op-ed, the format you choose will relate to your overarching objective. Most people talk about creating messaging around the basic human emotions happiness, surprise, contempt, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger and, even in B2B, we’re still basic humans motivated by the same things. Depending on the audience, you might need more facts, stats or pictures (give me an infographic any day). But the principles are the same and always will be: make it entertaining, make it about them, not you, and make it useful. The more they like it, the more they’ll share it, which brings me to….
  1. …A Clear call to action - Again, brutal simplicity is key and the psychological principle of heuristics can come in helpful here: a heuristic is a mental shortcut commonly used to simplify problems and avoid cognitive overload. Heuristics are part of how the human brain evolved and is wired, allowing individuals to quickly reach reasonable conclusions or solutions to complex problems. Check out this Call to Action, from one of the best sales letters of all time, for The Wall Street Journal. 
  1. ….Distribution - You need to distribute, market and iterate. Again the obvious stuff. Be where your audience is, at the time they’re there. The content graveyard is full of wonderful examples of good content gone completely unnoticed. You need a clear marketing distribution plan and buy-in from all the key stakeholders. 
  1. So this is what The Thought Partnership does. We help B2B clients go from the unknown to famous, by helping them craft persuasive and well-researched content products, which can be events, podcasts, Op-eds. Content that surprises and delights discerning audiences. Content experts who strive to make companies and people sound more credible and authoritative by creating interesting stories and formats that elevate what you do beyond your products and services. What we do (and what many of you do too) is built on timeless principles which haven’t changed for a gazillion years. 

Okay, so the long version might bore the pants off someone at a family gathering - and they might have fallen asleep in their prosecco glass - but at least they’ll fall asleep (hopefully) knowing WTAF I do for a living. 

Shall we work together?

You can either book straight into a meeting with Charlotte & Jo using the link below or fill out the form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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