The legendary copywriter Dave Trott (whose books I heartily recommend) recently sparked a bit of an online furore by suggesting that the craze for ‘content’meant that channels were now being afforded more importance than ideas.
It’s something that I’ve struggled without throughout my time in media. I’ve had a slightly unusual route to where I am now, having spent 16 years performing as a stand-up comedian, with writing for TV & Radio along the way – including a two-year stint working as a script-editor at The Comedy Unit production company.
I’ve written for live stand-up performance (for myself and others), for TV, for radio, for newspaper and magazine (online and offline), for corporate websites and for corporate social media accounts. For many, it can sound quite jarring as a CV. It doesn’t tally with the ‘silo’ thinking that some companies have become used to over the years.
For me though, it makes perfect sense. The running theme throughout everything I’ve done is that I’ve had to be able to come up with an idea (or refine an existing one) to reach an audience and spark a desired reaction from them.
If you’re an experienced marketer reading this, I realise that your next question is – “But what do you know about getting people to part with their cash?”
Well, one night I stood onstage in Aberdeen as a 20p coin bounced off me. I leant down, looked at it and then said to the drunk guy swaggering past the stage, “Did you just throw a 20p coin at me?”
“Naw! It wis a 1p!”
At this point I picked it up and watched a stereotypical Aberdonian’s world fall apart as he realised that he’d thrown a 20p at me instead of the 1p he intended to. To him, throwing 1p at me represented value. Throwing 20p at me represented a waste of 19p.
So don’t tell me I don’t know about getting people to part with their cash or about the importance they place on feeling like they’re getting value for their money.
Anyway, like a famous Scottish comedian significantly shorter than me, I digress.
My point in mentioning my past roles is that they only represent different channels. What should always be more important is the quality of the idea that’s being conveyed via those channels.
Though my current role is as a community manager, for me that doesn’t just mean thinking in terms of social media channels. It means thinking about the stories, messages and attitudes that a brand wants to get across.
It means considering how their social channels can support and amplify good ideas for the brand – whether those ideas are hosted on the brand’s social channels, the brand’s website or even on another publisher’s site. In fact, even if they’re not an online-hosted idea but rather an offline experiential piece.
You want to boost your reach? You want to boost your conversions? You want to boost your visibility? You want to boost your Google rankings?
You won’t do that with channels; you’ll do that with ideas. Ideas that can then be shared, promoted, amplified and generally nurtured via all of the channels that are available to you.
You don’t need to be on social media. But you do need the kind of ideas that are good enough to spark a reaction on social media. Or put in a more old fashioned (but perhaps more honest) way, you need the kind of ideas that will get people talking.