A couple of months ago, Joe Pulizzi published an epic post, "Why Education is a Powerful Content Marketing Strategy: 17 Examples." Required reading in my book, er, feed.
The lengthy show and tell style post featured a long roster of real-world examples of brands delivering on the promise of content marketing by becoming publishers of useful content that can unquestionably be deemed educational.
The article is not a run-down of metrics, but I'd venture to guess each of the brands turned publishers are enjoying the benefits of drawing customers and prospects closer to them by putting the power of utility before promotion.
Interesting comments followed.
As is often the case with CMI's thoughtful articles, a healthy heap of comments poured in.
Copyblogger's Brian Clark wasted no words, stating, "Content marketing is education." If you're familiar with Copyblogger (and who isn't?), you understand, this is a content marketer that practices what they preach.
Tim Danyo of Imagination Media followed with, "And the best content marketers are the best teachers." Joe (and the congregation) said "Amen."
This got me thinking about how to get an A in education.
As a responsible journalist, I'm compelled to cite my sources. While Joe's article along with Brian and Tim's comments inspired the idea for this article, a good portion of what I'm about to write comes from a conversation that ensued with my kids, Jayna and Leah, ages 14 and 12, two experts in education from the customer's point of view, which we all know is the point of view we most need to tune into.
I explained to my girls (who generally don't look up from their iPhones to discuss what the old man writes about) content marketers that stand out from the crowd, elicit sustained interest, and can be counted on as catalysts for inspiring learning experiences are the best teachers.
So, being careful not to talk explicitly about blogs or eBooks, I asked my kids to explain why they so often say school is boring. They were all over that one.
We got into a conversation about the rare occasions when school isn't boring-what it takes, in their estimation, to make it exciting. Of course, much of that conversation was about the tricks their favorite teachers have up their sleeves.
I'm thinking you'd like to be someone's favorite teacher. Let's have a look at what a couple of millennials can offer for insights on becoming an ace educator and thus, an effective content marketer.
Funny teachers rule.
The results were unanimous. My daughters didn't hesitate to cite humor as the teaching tool that works for them. Then examples came fast and furiously. One science teacher likes to light her lab counter on fire. One makes use of a marshmallow gun. (The school's not as dangerous as it sounds.)
I thought back to my favorite teachers. They too were funny. Perhaps this one little gene pool doesn't make this theory absolute, but I suspect a larger sample would confirm the hypothesis: sense of humor is a serious teaching tool.
Think about your challenge as a speaker or writer. Your challenge is to engage the audience. Your challenge is only intensified when you have dry material to cover. Can you get a joke in there? An anecdote? How about a little self-deprecation or stunt of some sort?
I'll tell you, after having attended a whole lot of conference sessions and webinars the past few years, the short list of the ones I remember vividly are the ones where I did a fair share of laughing.
Get the class to touch your stuff.
Call me biased, but I thought it brilliant when my 12-year old, soon to be 7th grader, said, "The best lessons are hands on." She went on to explain props are great teaching tools.
Now let's be realistic. Your content lessons aren't likely to include the dissection of frogs or art projects. However, I believe you can indeed inject some "connect the dots" into your lessons.
Perhaps you write something that calls for interaction and follow with the feedback you've collected. A quiz? An exercise? A comparison? A two-way webinar? A Twitter chat? I gave a keynote at a marketing conference that was a game show. The audience was buzzing from start to finish.
The possibilities are many. Instead of approaching the task as one where your job is to deliver a lesson, think of it as hosting a lesson. Use your imagination to engage your audience's imagination.
Predictability is poison.
My kids' biggest rant on school was almost every day is the same routine. What a great reminder this is to do battle with predictability.
Don't take this to mean I'm suggesting you bail on your agenda or schedule. Simply take it to mean you mix things up.
I asked my girls, "What if you got to school one Monday and the teacher said this week, instead of lessons, each day will feature something different: a movie, an experiment, a magic day, a music day, and game?" Two big smiles.
You need to try this. If your routine is 100% blog posts, break it. Inject video, audio, case studies, cartoons, infographics, slide shows, and whatever else you can to put some variety into your teaching.
Field trips-no permission slips required.
Shocking, I know, kids dig field trips. The ultimate monotony breaker from school is getting on a bus and leaving it for the day. Honestly, what's more exciting: the history lesson or the trip to the railroad museum? The state government class or the tour of the capitol building?
Effective content marketers are excellent field trip planners. They charter trips to exciting destinations where the learning takes place organically.
The obvious example is showcasing a brand that exemplifies what you're attempting to teach. Take this idea further. Tell remarkable stories. Present enthralling biographies. Have an online event. Showcase a book or documentary. Borrow interest from a seemingly irrelevant person, place or thing and connect it to your lesson in a meaningful way.
You don't need a bus. You need to get the wheels spinning in your mind.
Remove the stress.
I'm pretty sure I don't have the answer to this next one, for school, that is. See, my kids pointed out it's stressful to have to learn stuff they don't care about, like math. And the stress is compounded by the fact that they'll be tested on the material.
Of course, some students adore math and sleep through music class or dread PE.
As content marketers, we really don't have to force anyone into any lesson or subject. But still, this notion is lost on some.
If content marketing is education, we'll be far more successful when we teach what our students covet. Do you know what that is? I propose it's incumbent on you to find out. Work with the "class." Ask them what they want to learn more about. Ask them if they're getting bored or excited. Ask them where you've succeeded and failed.
Pay attention to the signs too. Your successes and failures will present themselves if you care enough to perpetually learn and improve. Conduct surveys and exit reports. Refer to your analytics. Have teacher/student conferences via social media.
Your favorite cook knows your tastes. Your favorite teacher does too.
School's out for kids right now. It's never out for us teachers, not if we're serious about getting better and better at our craft.
Our job isn't just to deliver knowledge. Our job is to remove the boredom so often associated with learning and make our lessons unforgettable. Are you with me?
Have you put any tactics to work you believe make you a better teacher? Share them today. Educate the readers, if you would.