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When Frank Underwood speaks, the content marketing world listens.

Kevin Spacey was a guest speaker at Content Marketing World 2014 in Cleveland, hosted by the Content Marketing Institute. So, why was Spacey a speaker at the event?

“I could give you 45 minutes on the ROI of effective SEO,” he said, joking, as report by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “That’s right, I know your f-ing terms.”

As he pointed out, actors and content marketers alike share a critical objective: connecting with their audience. And the way to do that is through great storytelling.

“Isn’t good storytelling just luck and a guessing game?” Spacey said, as reported by Fox Business. “No. Good content marketing is not a crap shoot — it has always been about the story.”

Spacey went on to detail three critical components to great storytelling.

1. You Need Conflict

“Conflict creates tension and keeps people engaged, and the best stories are filled with characters that take risks and court drama,” Spacey said, according to Fox Business. “It’s the decisions that characters make in the face of these challenges that keep us glued to our seats.”

Dan Kassis, a web content developer marketer, perfectly summed up this point:

“As content marketers, we operate in the world of daily conflict,” he wrote. “Consumers have needs and desires, and it’s our job to explain how our products and services will meet them.

“But the days are over when we can simply present a list of features and benefits and expect customers to line up at the door. We can’t just show them how our stuff works. We must tap into their desires and hopes, and show them what it would look like to be the best versions of themselves they want to be.”

Nimble Media’s take: You don’t have to hit readers over the head with how great your products or services are. That’s nothing more than an infomercial/advertorial. Instead, write you content in a way that your readers can relate to.

Take a recent series we wrote for an insurance agent based out of Florida during the hurricane season. We used real-life stories to illustrate what happens when you’re not prepared for disaster and the huge financial impact it can have. However, we never mentioned the client by name in any of the posts. We didn’t need to. All the stories were well read and shared, thanks to the great content and the Viral Blogging Program, and the insurance agent picked up more clients.

2. You Have to be Authentic

“I think it’s absolutely essential to keep in mind ‘what is it that makes something feel absolutely genuine’ to an audience,” Spacey said, as reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We turn off when something doesn’t feel authentic.”

Spacey used Volkswagen as an example here and the risks the German auto manufacturer took when it started selling the Beetle in the U.S.

“Yes, I’m cheaper, more economical, and squeeze into any space I want!” Spacey said, according to Fox Business. “The truth? Face up to it. Consumers appreciate this authenticity.”

Nimble Media’s take: Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, does a great job of this with his QuickSprout blog. Consider his blog post, “7 Content Marketing Lessons Learned from Losing 225,418 Visitors a Month,” which Nimble Media also wrote about. The headline alone shows you that he’s not trying to hide anything. But it was written in such a way that it provided insight, and it was highly informative.

3. Know Your Audience

“The audience doesn’t care about the platform – they care about the content,” Spacey said, as reported by Fox Business. “The audience wants control, the freedom to binge. I believe we should give (them) what (they) want.”

Nimble Media’s take: Here’s what your audience doesn’t want: a sales pitch.

“Power has indeed shifted from seller to buyer,” Duct Tape Marketing says, “They want less of a pitch and more value from you. They have an ocean of information at their fingertips, so you’d better know your stuff. And with the opportunity to quickly research prospects online, there’s no excuse to pump out generalized messages.”

In other words, they want a great story.


meniceJake Rigdon is the executive editor at Nimble Media, a content marketing firm based out of Toronto. You can reach him on FacebookLinkedInGoogle+Twitter or by email at