Content Marketing Lessons from Kevin Spacey: Storytelling and Distribution Strategy

BY Rhiza Oyos, LAST UPDATE ON June 24, 2014
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Kevin Spacey is the Content Marketing World 2014's closing keynote speaker this coming September, and the industry can't wait to hear what he has to say. Although, come to think of it, there is already a handful of insights about content marketing we can take away both from him and his House of Cards persona.

We all know who the guy is, having portrayed big roles in many best-selling Hollywood flicks over the past decades. Last 2013, he took the lead role in Netflix's original series House of Cards as Frank Underwood, a fictitious politician who is ruthless, power-hungry, manipulative, and would (literally) kill to achieve his goals.

Everyone who has watched the series loves him and hates him at the same time. House of Cards has been the talk of the town since its debut. And now with Season 3 in the works, I won't be surprised if people keep talking about this show for months to come.

House of Cards is like The Godfather of our generation. Frank Underwood has an answer for practically every question you can think of. You want to try? Humor me for a minute and see how these famous quotes from Frank Underwood apply to our jobs as content marketers.

Q: How to compete with the big players in content marketing services?
A: One blog post at a time.

FU: "That's how you devour a whale, Doug. One bite at a time."

Q: Which content marketing metrics should we go after?
A: NOT money.

FU: "Money is the Mc-mansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn't see the difference."

Q: How to add more value to your content?
A: Position your content close to the source, er, influencers.

FU: "Power is a lot like real estate. It's all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value."

Q: How to get your readers' trust?
A: Be bold. Speak only the truth.

FU: "There's no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth."

Q: What do we get from providing free content?
A: Well that's easy. Power.

FU: "Generosity is its own form of power."


Granted I may have pushed the illustration too far, but success in content marketing, I think, requires us to channel our inner Frank Underwood and have a certain level of hunger for power, and maybe even a little manipulation. You have to know how to position yourself, who to brush shoulders with, and how to make people trust you. You have to know what you're aiming for and work your way there.

Now, let's set aside Frank Underwood's character and talk about Kevin Spacey himself.

Kevin Spacey talks about "Distribution Strategy"

Kevin SpaceyMore than just a highly acclaimed actor, Kevin Spacey has something revolutionary to say about creating content. Him keynoting at the Content Marketing World 2014 is certainly not some publicity act. With years of experience in Hollywood and in the media business, one can't deny the fact that this guy knows how to deliver content and to deliver it effectively.

More importantly, based on House of Cards' experimental format, Kevin Spacey suggests a strategy that can potentially change the way we do Content Marketing moving forward.

To those who are not familiar with House of Cards, it's the first Netflix series that released all 13 episodes of its entire first season at once. A year after, they released all 13 episodes of its 2nd season at once, too. 10 days prior to the release of the 2nd season, it was announced that the show had been renewed for another season.

This is unlike other traditional TV series whose episodes are shot and produced over time. It's like a hybrid of the film and TV formats, because essentially you're like watching a 13-hour film that's broken down into episodes.

Joe Pulizzi talked about this in detail, and enumerated 3 corporate story telling lessons from Kevin Spacey's talk at the Edinburgh Television Festival:

Joe noted the following insights (read more about these items here), as applied to Content Marketing:

  • Customers are desperate for stories.
  • Long-form content has never been more powerful.
  • Use behavioral data to plan your content strategy.

In addition to what Joe said, I want to highlight what Spacey said they learned about distributing content:

[Tweet "Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price."]

Spacey basically described in one sentence what an effective Content Marketing strategy should be.

1. "Give people what they want."

People are desperate for stories, Spacey said. And it's true. They go online to read stories and to share stories. They long to interact, make connections, and join in discussions. More importantly, they begin to care about the brands they use and the stories surrounding them.

[Tweet "People are beginning to care about the brands they use, and the stories surrounding them."]

Many businesses still don't get why it's important to invest in content marketing, and why it matters to bring your story to a level that people can resonate with. But a handful of companies have started to embrace publishing content as part of their culture and as a means to achieve business goals, and surely they're on the right track. It's only a matter of figuring out what makes their target market happy, inspired, and compelled to act and to engage.

What type of content does your target market want? It's time you seize the opportunity and give it to them.

2. "When they want it."

There are many studies that answer the question "When is the best time to publish content?" Blog reading spikes up on Mondays, says this study by Kissmetrics. 11:00AM in the morning, if you want to be more specific. Expect the most number of comments on Saturdays. On any given day, tweet at noon, and then at 6:00PM.

Try digging into your Google Analytics data and I'm sure you'll see unique traffic patterns yourself, allowing you to schedule your posts strategically.

These are all essential in publishing content, there's no denying that. But what Spacey suggests is that people consume content when they want to consume content. They want the control and the freedom to take in content however they want it and whenever they want it.

[Tweet "People want the control and the freedom to consume content however they want it, whenever they want it."]

In fact, we've been seeing this happen for the past years. This is the reason why, compared to traditional advertising (TV and radio ads, billboards, posters), online marketing has proven to be more efficient and longer lasting. YouTube videos that were published years ago still have chances of going viral today. Your website is accessible 24/7, versus a TV advertisement that is gone in 30 seconds. Blog posts that were published last week are still in your rss feeds, and will stay there until you find time to read them.

As an illustration, when I first came across Hubspot, I read its entire blog, and devoured its library of free e-books from cover to cover, 4 hours a day for like a week. All of their resources are accessible in one place, just waiting to be consumed. And I didn't have to wait for a week to see the next "episode", I can blissfully absorb as much content as I want as long as I can.

Is your content available whenever your target market is ready? Can it stand the test of time and remain relevant months or years down the road?

3. "In the form they want it in."

In this age and time, people consume content a thousand and one ways. We read blogs from our smartphones, watch TV shows on our laptops, view YouTube videos on tablets, listen to audio-books while walking, read reviews on our mobile gadgets while driving and looking for a place to eat. You name it. You don't need to make your content available in all medium or formats, you only need to identify the right ones.

First and foremost, you need a broad understanding of what your business goals are and who your target market is. Knowing these will let you know what form of content you should focus your energy on.

[Tweet "Understand your business goals and know your target market to identify what type of content you should focus your energy on."]

With House of Cards, it makes sense that their content is downloadable in formats that can be played on TV, laptop, and mobile gadgets. They maintain social media channels where viewers can react and discuss amongst themselves. They post images and quotable quotes that can be easily liked or shared.

Are you creating content that's accessible in formats that are applicable to your market? About time.

4. "At a reasonable price."

There's a wealth of content in the web that's free for all. Acquiring knowledge in every topic you can think of has never been more attainable than today.

That said, publishing free informative content is a must, if you want to be known as a thought leader in your niche. I've mentioned before that generosity is a tried-and-tested marketing strategy that will gain you customer loyalty, acquisition, and even recognition. Consider providing free content as practicing generosity.

[Tweet "Providing free content is practicing generosity."]

But there are businesses who offer premium content, which are also great sources of data and information that, more often than not, you won't see anywhere else.

I recently joined Jeff Goin's online writing class, and while I benefit so much from Jeff's free writing tools and resources, I'm learning even more from his premium content. Both his free and paid content follow the distribution model, where the content is available for consumption anytime you want, whenever you want, wherever in the world you are, and yes, for a reasonable price.

People don't mind paying premium if what they're getting is worth the bucks. Now you ask yourself, is your content or product worth the price your asking your customers to pay?

Topics: Content Marketing

Riz is Spiralytics' resident blogger and Inbound Marketing Manager. She has 10 years of experience doing SEO, Online Marketing and Professional Blogging before specializing in Inbound Marketing. When she's not blogging, you'll see her holding a camera and taking gazillion photos of her twin daughters. Read Riz's posts here.

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