Thursday, August 2, 2012

What Chief Content Creators can learn from TV Development

Creating captivating content for a brand isn't as hard as it looks - just flip on your television sets and watch some factual programming. As a television development manager, I've always found that what's true is what rates, and brands can use this knowledge to leverage compelling content for all their channels. By putting aside traditional marketing scripts and finding the truth behind your brand, content will drive value.

In a recent Fast Company article, “How Chief Content Officers Can Resurrect Marketing Communications, the idea of creating “not boring” content was hailed as a revolutionary idea. As with most flashy new buzzwords in marketing, the article focused a lot on the “why” and very little on the enigma that is the “how-to.” So, if you’re one of those C-suites that they were talking about in the article and are still scratching your head – I’m here to fill in the gaps.

As a television and film development manager I have often found myself on corporate websites/social media for products and brands thinking how they missed the mark with corny or cliché content yet again. To better understand content creation and how to apply this mindset, the basic tenants of my own job should be explained; it’s one part journalist, one part subculture interloper, and one major part storyteller. If you can encourage those on your content team to think in this mindset, you will captivate your audience.


  • Journalist: Scripted is unbearable if done badly, and that happens more often than not. If there is an opportunity for your company/brand to tell a real story with real characters and real drama, conflict, and story arc, tell that story! The kind of content that touches the most emotional side of an audience does not come with airbrushing and professional lighting.


  • Subculture Interloper: I’m not talking tattoos and anarchists – what I mean is the sub-communities and pre-existing cultures that are worth exploring. Your team can find these by exercising a healthy sense of curiosity, meeting as many new and different people as possible, and even asking friends and family about their lives. Content about subculture isn’t limiting the audience to that particular group – quite the opposite, the most powerful content transcends demographics, and can speak to any viewer.


  • Storyteller: At the end of the day, you have to remember your content is only as powerful as the story behind it. This content shouldn’t sell the consumer on a product; it should act as a conduit that pushes a consumer into a mindset, whether that’s inspired or infuriated - that is up to you as the storyteller to convey. Once you’ve primed your customer, bring in the marketing side and give them a way to take action based on that story.


Don’t just try to be “not boring,” try to be authentic, true, and daring in your content. Don’t hire just marketing professionals, look to journalists, writers, and film people to add to your mix. If you follow those steps, real content can turn into real business. 




Meghan Cassin is a part-time graduate student pursuing a M.S. in Integrated Marketing & Communications  at Northwestern University. Meghan began her career in television development for National Geographic Channel and is currently at Siskel/Jacobs Productions.
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