While reading the “rules of the road” I couldn’t help but think that the rules for creating a successful TV show can serve as a great guide for producing content marketing in general.
As a social product of 90s television, I can attest to the power of Bill Nye and wanting to watch, and that’s the goal of content marketers today. We want our audience to run home from school to check out our owned media, enjoy it, subscribe, share the experience with their friends, and actively search for the next instalment (even when that content is educational!).
Bill Nye actively planned for catchy content, and thanks to his rules, so can you.
Bill Nye’s Content Rules
Have a defined purpose
First and foremost you’ll notice Bill Nye the Science Guy had an objective (and a pretty impressive one at that). While your B2B content marketing doesn’t have to change the world, you should have a solid reason to justify why you’re creating marketing content that doesn’t necessarily speak directly to your brand’s products.
Also defined in the rules, Bill’s show was supposed to be primarily entertaining and producers wanted school curriculums follow the show’s lead on this. This point’s important as you should set a primary goal for your content marketing. Maybe you want to educate and entertain (edjutainment!) just like Bill Nye? Maybe you want to increase traffic to your website? Ultimately, you want to drive more qualified leads based on your content and this could be your primary goal. You’ll want to set up a way to measure click through rates and the progression leads are taking through your calls to action. How many land on your content, then click through to a trial of your product? These are the kinds of metrics you’ll want in place to measure your primary goal.
You should also set an ideal content scenario. For example, you could aim to be approached by top blogs in your industry to write contributing articles, or aim to see your content shared socially by a particular set of influencers. You might want to be recognized with blog badges for industry-recognized content, or be included on a list of top blogs as compiled by a major name in your industry. No matter what your ideal content scenario, aim big and set some quantifiable criteria.
No unnecessary drama
As rule three states, the science or real meat of the Bill Nye show had to provide all the action. In other words, the writers couldn’t rely on cheap gags or gimmicks to create filler.
In terms of content marketing, this relates to the idea of relevance. You can have fun with your content, but at the end of the day it has to appeal to your target audience’s needs at various stages in the sales funnel, and there needs to be a way to drive action. If your audience is looking to have specific questions answered, your content should address these issues rather than being flashy or too high-level to be of real value. In other words, create content contributing to the buying process or content addressing any friction you discover along the buying process.
Don’t serve Kraft Dinner content to an audience that expects a meaty lasagna.
The Science Guy is Always Himself
While the rule for Bill Nye to always be himself was likely for clarity (it is after all the Science Guy’s show), it applies to content creators in a different sort of way.
If I’ve read it once, I’ve read it a million times. Customers can smell a fish when your content isn’t genuine. If you’re writing for SEO and don’t sound like a person, you’re doomed. People endorse the brands they feel most connected to, so build that connection with an authentic voice in your content; be yourself.
Mix things up
As the fifth rule indicates, Bill Nye doesn’t need any exposition to keep the audience caught up. They’ll see him in a lab, then the jungle, then a Nascar track and understand it’s the magic of TV.
Your content marketing can be guided by the same rule. You can write a guide about how to target customers effectively and then a white paper about achieving white hat SEO. There doesn’t need to be a step-by-step or logical, sequential order to your individual content pieces as long as they relate back to your primary content goal and are relevant for your audience. If you notice there’s a content gap for items to address the mid-sales funnel, it’s alright to abandon top-funnel content to cater to this need. You just need to make sure you don’t drop the ball in any one particular area and that cohesively, your content works on a whole.
How to interact with your audience
One of the rules that appeals to me the most is the idea of Bill Nye interacting with guests on the show as peers, addressing everyone by their first name.
Marketers are not supposed to be handing down the fundamental laws of their subject area to customers, clients, or readers. It’s about educating and helping rather than coming across as an ultimate authority. Bill addressed all guests by their first names and spoke to them as peers, and that’s the same tone your content can adopt. Informative, friendly, approachable, and without a sense of superiority.
The Science Guy was always sharing ideas and was way ahead of the content marketing concept that “it’s not about you or your brand,” it’s about sharing valuable information you have with others to help them out. As Lee Odden shares in the tweet below: “build trust, relationships, expertise, teach, learn, network, partner” – Via Magnet 360’s Director of Marketing, Jennifer Zick.
— Lee Odden (@leeodden) September 19, 2013
The world is your laboratory!
The show’s final rule was about using the world to show viewers real examples on location. This not only keeps things interesting, but centres around practicality. Applied to content marketing, you want to go above and beyond to provide actionable tips for your audience. This may translate to finding experts to write about what your audience is interested in and having them guest blog with practical content.
What are your Content Marketing Rules?
Bill Nye won 18 Emmy awards in its 5 season, 100 episode run and – governed by these thoughtful rules – it’s no wonder why. No matter what your content goals, you should be trackin’ ’em and mappin’ ’em to clear metrics to measure your success; and I want to make sure you have something to get you going.
Click here for a handy Word doc you can use to plan out your content rules of the road!
Write ’em down, refer to them, and share some of them here to spark some discussion.