The Secret of Creating Ideas that Resonate with Your Audience

October 18, 2012 by Kelsey_Libert - 1 Comment

The following is a recap of part two of my PubCon presentation on Blogger Outreach and Relationship Building.

Seth Godin once said, “When everyone is playing the same game, your execution is critical.” Well, we’ve proven that everyone is playing the content marketing game, so, how do you stand out?

You create ideas that resonate with your audience, not with your anchor text. Sticky ideas are understandable, memorable and effective in changing thought or behavior. There are six principles of sticky ideas, and while you don’t need all 6 – the more the better. These six principles include:

  • Simplicity
  • Unexpectedness
  • Concreteness
  • Credibility
  • Emotions
  • Stories

The key idea for content marketing is that you want to  create ideas that resonate with your audience, not with your anchor text. Sticky ideas are understandable, memorable and effective in changing thought or behavior. There are six principles of sticky ideas, and while you don’t need all 6 – the more the better.

I. Simplicity: How do you strip an idea to its core without turning it into a silly sound bite?

For starters, you definitely don’t want to create content that is text heavy, lacks data visualizations, and is poorly designed. Your goal is to create simple ideas that provide value to a broad audience.

Simple ideas are “succinct enough to be sticky, meaningful enough to make a difference.” Analogies are great, because you’re comparing new concepts, to something already known – which makes your message easier to understand.

II. Unexpectedness: How do you capture peoples’ attention… and hold it?

For our ideas to endure, not only must we must generate interest and curiosity, but we must also have our audience experience “the aha moment.” Albert Einstein encapsulates this core principle with the following quote:

“I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein

I identify with this, as does much of human kind. But, why are we so passionately curious?

Professors George Loewenstein (Carnegie Melon University) explains it as the “information gap theory of curiosity,” which creates curiosity on demand. This theory is based on an innate human behavior that’s triggered when people feel there is a gap between what they know, and what they want to know. When people feel this gap, they are compelled to fill it by taking action, such as reading, engaging and spreading your content

Therefore, your content needs to create knowledge gaps. You can do this with curiosity based headlines (such as those used on HBR), studies that disprove a common thought, etc.

III. Concreteness: How do you help people understand your idea and remember it much later?

Data is concrete and memorable, an abstraction or idea is not. Use actual events and case studies to make your ideas more concrete.

IV. Credibility: How do you get people to believe your idea?

So, what you think is credible includes doctors, lawyers, Harvard Law, etc. However, what is actually credible is the audience. Let’s admit it, we’re narcissists sometimes . More often than not, we believe our knowledge is the most credible source. Our knowledge is credible because we learned it personally, it wasn’t hear say, or outdated. So, what we have to do is involve our audience in the learning process of our message. Instead of shouting an idea at them, we engage the audience by having them be a part of the content learning process. The goal is to put your audience into the story with powerful details and testable credentials. Microsites are very effective at building credibility.

V. Emotional: How do you get people to care about your idea?

Two Wharton marketing professors tangentially answered this question, when they pondered, “Why are certain pieces of online content more viral than others?” The study took a psychological approach to understanding diffusion through emotion.

Using unique data set of all the New York Times articles published over a three-month period, the two professors examined how emotion shapes virality. I broke down the key takeaways in the following slide: In order to generate viral content ideas, you need to focus more on “Positive Content emotions,” such as awe, anxiety, anger, and less ideas on “Negative Content emotions” such as sadness.

VI. Stories: How do you get people to act on your idea?

To do this, we have to take a key lesson from journalists. The best journalists create stories that understand and demonstrate what these facts mean to people. This is what you need to do with your content.

For example, let’s take a look these two identical Subway campaigns:

These two campaigns had one message: “Hey, we’ve got 7 new subs with 6 grams of fat!” Can you tell which one was more successful? It was the one that created a story, not just data. Most stories naturally come with concrete, unexpected and emotional details. That is why Jared was such a successful campaign – because it created a story, and in turn, the six points of SUCCESs:

  • Simple: Visual message
  • Unexpected: Man loses 245 pounds in a year, eating fast food
  • Concrete: This image serves as testimony, and clings to your memory
  • Emotional: His weight was debilitating
  • Story: It’s Jared’s fight for his life