January 25, 2017
Take Some Cues From Westworld to Inspire your Content Strategy
Guest Post by Chad Fisher, co-founder of Content Runner
Westworld season one just finished up on HBO and has become an instant classic new series about artificial intelligence (AI). If you have heard about AI but don’t understand fully what it is, stop and read this illuminating two-part series: Part 1 and Part 2. AI is a broad subject and there are many people smarter than myself worried about it, but the risks involved in creating artificial intelligence is a topic for another post. For the purposes of this article, we are going to use Westworld as motivation for skillfully kick-starting your 2017 content strategy.
OLD WEST OR SAMURAI WORLD?
Are you trying to figure out how to get rolling on your 2017 content strategy? It helps to focus your efforts by picking a setting and an overarching theme. Westworld chose a western themed amusement park to show off the interplay of humans and androids. The setting (amusement park) and the theme (artificial intelligence) stay consistent throughout all 10 episodes of the first season.
For your content strategy in 2017 where do you plan to roll this out (setting)? Are you planning to ramp up blogging efforts, or maybe focus on your social content? Have you determined the theme of your content? Are you trying to educate your potential customers on new developments in the industry? Do you have technical insight that you want to highlight to show off your expertise? So many things to consider, and a clear content setting and theme will lend consistency to your message that your audience will appreciate.
Research has long proven that repeating your message over and over is an effective marketing strategy. Odds are strong that if you’re over the age of 35 you remember the following advertising slogans: “Got Milk?” and “Just do it!” Westworld repeatedly uses the same short mantra by discussing “The Maze.”
The Man in Black character (played by Ed Harris) is looking for the maze that lies at the heart of Westworld. Every time the storyline switches to the Man in Black, Ed Harris repeats that he is in search of the maze, or the “game within the game.” In reality, the act of going through the metaphorical “maze” is what the robots on the show have been going through every day of their existence in Westworld. As they navigate the maze the robots continue to learn and evolve and even start to achieve consciousness (as evidenced by their many flashbacks). The Man in Black is searching for the maze, and he repeats his message often so everyone knows it.
So what does this have to do with your content marketing message? Once you have established your theme you need to repeat your message consistently across all of your platforms. The average sound bite in media is roughly 7 seconds or 23 words, so keep the message simple. When you have defined your message don’t be afraid to be repetitive, your customers need to understand exactly what you’re trying to sell.
ASSEMBLE A CAST OF CHARACTERS
Westworld has many major characters: Dr. Ford, Maeve, the Man in Black, William, Bernard, and many others. Each of these characters and their story arc was critical in a specific way for Westworld to fully develop its theme about artificial intelligence.
When you create your content marketing theme, you also need to assemble an actual group of characters to help you fully execute your strategy. For example, if you are going to create weekly blog posts, do you have someone on staff who can handle that? You should consider assigning multiple people as it can get monotonous for just one employee to bear the burden of writing all the posts. Also, consider using freelancers to help with the heavy lifting of idea creation and the writing. Keep this platoon structure in mind across all types of content creation you choose to employ.
In addition to the internal team of characters, you recruit to help you with content, you need to start making friends outside your company. One of the best ways to propel your content marketing strategy forward is to start looking for guest blogging opportunities. Reach out to companies that you regularly work with and see if they would be open to creating content for them and vice versa, it pays to expand your network!
DARE TO COMPARE
On Westworld, a central tenet of the show is the interplay between humans and robots. This core question was also the height of the drama as people asked, which Westworld characters are secretly robots? While watching the show viewers pay close attention to mannerisms and the story to see if it can be determined which seemingly human characters are really robots.
It is an innate human characteristic to compare things. You can see that when you look at Google search query data – people compare items before they purchase. Think of the last time you bought a TV, most likely you went to Amazon to read reviews or went to your local electronics store to look at prices and features.
You can take this same mentality and apply it to your business. Are there different services you provide that people often compare side by side before purchasing? For example, if you were trying to decide which e-commerce platform is right for your company, you would want to do a thorough review of all of the features. As a tip for your content efforts makes sure to use a tool like SEM Rush or Google Analytics (look at your organic traffic) to search for the comparison queries that people are already doing every day and might be a good topic for a future piece of content.
GIVE CHANGE A CHANCE
The final episode of Westworld’s first season showed that they were willing to flip the switch on the plot and change the entire tact. The journey of the hosts from being tools for humans to use however they saw fit caused the hosts suffering that was necessary for them to eventually develop consciousness. *SPOILER ALERT* Everything comes together at the final gala where Dr. Ford orchestrates his own death and unleashes a robot revolution. The implication of change is massive, and probably risky, but will undoubtedly lead to an entertaining season 2.
For your content strategy, the main message here is that you must be aware of new opportunities and channels to spread your message. 15 years ago most Fortune 500 companies didn’t maintain a company blog, but that has changed dramatically. Seven years ago most companies didn’t have a Facebook page, but now every major company has a presence on the social network. You should also consider Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms where you disseminate your content message as they continue to evolve. Stay on top of the latest changes with your content strategy and your brand will be rewarded!
Chad Fisher is a co-founder of Content Runner, a marketplace for bringing together users and writers to develop unique written content. Looking for a freelance writer to help out with a writing project? Chad would love to give you a writer recommendation and will personally connect you with a writer on Content Runner.