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Content Marketing Interview: Andrew Davis on Showing, Not Telling #CMWorld

One of the most fundamental requirements for content marketing is also one that unfortunately tends to get overlooked most: It needs to be entertaining. As marketers, we can get so caught up in conversions and funnels and business outcomes that we lose sight of this imperative. If your content doesn’t hook someone and draw them in, it isn’t going to accomplish anything. 

Andrew Davis is someone who doesn’t need to be reminded of this because he launched his career in the entertainment industry. Now a cherished keynote speaker and best-selling author, Andrew got his start as a program producer for WABU-TV, a local station in Boston. He later served as Workshop Production Manager for the Jim Henson Company, helping out with brands like The Muppets and Sesame Street.

With this background, Andrew offers a helpful perspective for content marketers who want to reconnect with their most essential objective. The theme of this year’s Content Marketing World event (and the new interactive experience courtesy of TopRank Marketing and CMI, featuring insights from Andrew and many others) is putting on a grand show under the big-top tent. It’s a hearty reminder that dazzling audiences should always be our utmost priority.

To do so, Andrew recommends thinking like a television executive, developing unique twists, searching for moments of inspiration, and making appointments with your audience. Read on to learn how you can compel folks to tune in and take action by showing, not telling.

Andrew Davis Shares on Video Marketing and More

1) You’ve got a history of working in entertainment and television. What techniques and philosophies do you carry over from that experience as a content marketer?

Everything I know about content marketing I learned in the television business. There are a few key areas where this comes into play when you’re creating content.

Number one is to think like a television executive. The reason I say that is television execs always think audience-first. They want to create content that is so valuable the audience falls in love with it, and as a result, they can sell stuff. In the television world, they sell time and space in their programming and are hoping to inspire people to buy something they didn’t know they needed. So as long as you’re thinking audience-first, and how you can add value to their lives by creating content that they fall in love with, you’re thinking like a TV executive.

The second thing is to make an appointment with your audience. I truly believe you should set a specific time and day in the mind of your audience as far as when you’re going to deliver your content. That doesn’t mean they can’t listen to it or watch it or read it on-demand at any time, but making an appointment with your audience and releasing it at a time in their lives that your content is going to be more relevant is going to make a big impact on your marketing, just as a television executive picks the right time for a show. 

The third thing is to build a format. A format is basically an outline for your content. People fall in love with a television show in the following order: they fall in love with the format, then the hook, then the talent. So number one, you need to deliver the same kind of content every week consistently, just like a television show. You can’t be all over the map and have a different format, because people enjoy consistency. The next one is a hook. A hook is just a simple twist on a familiar theme, designed to trap or ensnare your audience, and that’s something I definitely learned in television. An easy example of that is a mash-up. Like if you were selling software, your hook might be “Mythbusters for Software” or something like that. And the next one is using talent. We live in a social-driven world, and your brand has to have a person attached to it that we can fall in love with. All the most successful content plays have a person who delivers the content so we fall in love with that person. That’s a really important piece.

At the end of the day, thinking like a television executive is all about using valuable content that can increase demand for the products and services we sell using an audience-first approach. @drewdavishere Click To Tweet

2) Video marketing is a  clear passion of yours. What do you see as the biggest areas where practitioners are currently missing the mark with this medium?

Most importantly, video is a “show-me” medium. This means you have to show me instead of tell me. So if you’re shooting a talking-head video, you need to add some B-roll to it. B-roll is the second track — the stuff I see while you’re talking. That’s a really important piece of the puzzle that I think people miss. If you’re going to create video you need to show me something, don’t just talk to the camera. If you’re going to do that, you might as well just use audio, right? You don’t need video for it. Shooting a lot of B-roll is really helpful.

The other thing is speaking in the present tense as much as possible. A lot of people tell stories in the past tense, but we all have the ability to shoot video as things are happening, so shoot in the present tense as much as possible.

The last thing I’ll say is that in general, talking-head videos are boring. So challenge yourself to create something that’s unique, that isn’t just a talking head, and really start thinking about what it might look like if it wasn’t just a person talking in an interview.

If you're going to create a video you need to show me something, don't just talk to the camera. @drewdavishere Click To Tweet

3) For an organization that’s just getting started with video, what is the one single thing to prioritize above all else? Is there an example that comes to mind of great brand content getting this right?

You have to shoot with what you’ve got. The technology can get in the way of creating great video. You can always upgrade your equipment — people always want the best camera to start with, and they want the best microphone and the best lighting. That stuff is great, and you eventually should get there. But the key is to start thinking like a television executive or an editor, and just start shooting with your phone. Don’t just shoot yourself, shoot the B-roll and then try to edit the B-roll into your video.

Even if you’re just making something for Instagram, you can shoot on your phone and then edit with some very simple tools so that you’re actually understanding what it’s like to show instead of tell. 

As far as a brand that gets this kind of content right, one example I give a lot is the testimonial for a weight loss program created by the wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. It’s called Vance’s 365-Day Transformation and it’s all shot on an iPhone essentially, except for a few pieces. It’s all shot in the present tense and it’s just really well put together. Take a look at that video and I challenge you not to watch the whole thing.

4) Can you give a practical example — real or theoretical — of your “Loyalty Loop” concept being applied in a content strategy? 

My favorite example is the story of Jenny Doan, who runs the Missouri Star Quilt Company. Let’s start with her moment of commitment, because when you’re creating a content platform, the goal is to get people to subscribe to the content you’re creating. Instead of just sending out an email newsletter, we’ve got to give them value each and every week that’s designed to create a new moment of inspiration, to trigger a new question in their mind where we’re the prime brand. 

What Jenny Doan does is every single week she creates a new quick quilting tutorial on her YouTube channel, and invites people to subscribe not just through YouTube, but to her email list. Every one of those videos is designed to inspire someone to make a new quick quilt. And as a result, they say, “Oh, I want to make that quilt.” That’s a moment of inspiration. Their trigger question might be, “Where can I get the fabric and pre-cut pieces to make that?” The prime brand for that is Missouri Star Quilt Company, so they go right back to Jenny Doan’s company and buy again.

The key is not to try to interrupt active evaluation, but to create content that gets someone to commit to the brand, using one piece of data like an email address, or two pieces of data like an email and first name, so you can create moments of inspiration in their lives.

5) As visual content and multimedia continue to take over, writers might be feeling a little undervalued. In which ways will copywriting and the written word remain vital to delighting audiences?

The video content you create should actually be written, so… write it! It needs to be a little different than if you’re writing a blog post or an email — it needs to be written as you speak. So if you’re a writer and you’re feeling undervalued, challenge yourself to start writing video. The most important thing is, when you’re writing a video, read it out loud. If you’re using words or sentence structure that you wouldn’t use in conversations, you’re all of a sudden not writing for speaking. So write it. I write all my videos and I really enjoy it, by the way.

One technique I like is using a lot of ellipses so you’re actually writing as you’d speak. End thoughts with a next thought instead of just a period. It’ll be much better, it’ll be more clear, and it’ll be smarter. 

But listen, if you’re a writer and you’re feeling undervalued you’re probably missing the biggest opportunity to build real relationships with people and that’s through email. An email is a text-driven medium that’s interpersonal, and if you focus on your email writing — making it personal and creating that moment of inspiration for one person on your list — you’re going to start improving your writing and growing the impact you can make. Even if it’s to get someone to watch a video, you need to write a better email. Writers are not going away. In fact, if you can just expand your skillset and focus on moments of inspiration as your writing goal, whether it’s for video or audio or text, you’re going to make a big impact.

The most important thing is, when you're writing a video, read it out loud. @drewdavishere Click To Tweet

6) When done well, testimonial videos and case studies are among the most compelling, persuasive lower-funnel content assets. What do you see as the most essential elements of an effective one?

Firstly, I don’t like to use the word “funnel.” I’m all about Loyalty Loops. But the most glaringly missing object in almost every testimonial video is drama. There is no drama. It’s all about the client or customer you’ve served, and it always starts with an introduction of who they are. Look, people don’t care. They want to feel the tension and the drama in solving a problem that they can identify with. So the most important thing you need to do when creating a really well-done testimonial is to create drama. You need to raise the stakes by showing me something that the audience wants and desires in this story, threatening it for as long as possible, and making sure the payoff you deliver matches the tension you’ve built.

The other thing is that brands are very eager to talk about themselves in the testimonial video. So usually it’ll introduce who the client was, with them saying something like, “Before I was using company/product XYZ, this was my problem.” Well people don’t want to know the solution before they’ve heard the problem and feel the tension, so people tune out immediately. You’ve got to delay the reveal of the company or the product that did it.

7) Which speakers and/or sessions are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Content Marketing World?

Oh man. This is a long list because I’ve been for the last 10 or 11 years. There’s so many great speakers it’s hard to get them all. I obviously want to see Tamsen Webster’s keynote, Scott Stratten’s keynote — they’re both fantastic speakers and I really love to watch them. I love Andrew and Pete. Can’t wait to see Jay Baer, Ann Handley, Heather Ritchie, Doug Kessler, Jay Acunzo, Marcus Sheridan, Kate O’Neill, Lee Odden… there’s a long list of people. But those kinda the top-of-mind ones that I look forward to seeing every year at Content Marketing World. 

Come in & Enjoy the Show (Preview)!

Andrew will be one of the many entertaining speakers taking the stage at Content Marketing World 2019, which kicks off on September 3rd in Cleveland. His workshop, Video Marketing Makeover: Transforming Boring Case Studies and Testimonials Into Stories That Inspire Action, will feature plenty more in-depth insight around his mantra of showing, not telling, with video content.

We hope to see you at CMWorld. But before the big event, you can prepare (and sharpen up your rubber duck hunting skills) by checking out The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth!

Nick Nelson: @NickNelsonMN