Content Consciousness In a Post Covfefe World

During the last few weeks it seems as if the media has been deluged with news about a select number of current events - the tragedy in Manchester, the arrest of Tiger Woods and Paris Climate Agreement just to name a few. Instead of creating a world of more informed citizens, the unrelenting stream of media often numbs us to the major events. We are inundated with news, pop culture, tragedy, and viral videos.  

However, the prevalence and accessibility of media today also gives brands and individuals the platform to take a stand, represent a cause or champion an idea. This month smith & beta is focusing its’ content around the connection between current events and the digital and creative industries.

Is there such thing as a digital butterfly effect? We shall see.

Last week the internet was buzzing with talk of some of the largest content blunders published in the last decade.  Whether it be President Trump’s “covfefe” tweet or Kathy Griffin’s photo that cost her her role at CNN, it seems as if recently public figure after public figure (and big corporation) can not seem to get their content right. As an industry that produces thousands of pieces of content daily there are some lessons advertisers  can learn from the front pages of last week’s newspapers to ensure that our organizations do not publish some crazy covfefe.   

And organization’s image is a complex aggregate of its work, people, positions, associations, and content. In today's narrative drive world the value of carefully created and positioned content cannot be overstated.. Since the invention of modern technology, a handful of images, videos and other forms of content have profoundly resonated with the public.

 But brands are increasingly catching on and utilizing powerful content to drive brand awareness. But with great reward often comes substantial risk.  We must never forget that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Pepsi learned the hard way in April that content needs to be meticulously planned - just because your intention is a social justice message does not mean it is easy.  

Brands are not just pushing stories about their products or employees, but also using their influence to engaging in political dialog. Moreover, brands and agencies are increasingly realizing that a successful content strategy does not just involve avoiding blunders, but also utilizing their position for good.

Australia, currently in the spotlight for not legalizing gay marriage, has seen multiple heavy-hitting brands use content to protest the lack of equality. For instance, Ben & Jerry’s recently released a statement that it has banned Australian scoop shops from selling two scoops of the same flavor, saying “love comes in all flavors.” 

Although Ben & Jerry’s does not have any direct pull with the Australian Parliament, they are using their content to encourage people “to contact their MPs to tell them that the time has come – make marriage equality legal!"

AirBnB has also released content to protest Australian same-sex marriage laws.

Steps to lead with great content: 

1. Ensure your organization is not the next headline for a content disaster

  • Consider not only the content itself but the potential effects
  • Get input from multiple sources
  • Research Research Research
  • Be clear in your message

2. Leverage your position for good

  • Consider the influence your brand might have
  • Stand up for causes your company, employees, and customers support. (Any cause is better than no cause!)
  • Speak to your consumers
  • And be genuine. We cannot stress this enough. Consumers can see right through insincere gestures


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Our business at smith & beta has always been focused on the development of people walking in the doors each day. We believe that if a company focuses on the current talent, what they know today and should know in the future, it can make all the difference to the bottom line. But some leaders aren’t familiar with talent development. It’s new. It feels unmeasurable. It seems foreign compared to hiring a few new experts. It’s a mindset and strategic shift. Yet we know talent development works. We also know that experts don’t scale. Often those superheros we hire land at the new job only to find that no one at the company understands them. They get siloed into a back room. They are change agents without support. They eventually leave. It happens time and time again. Take a minute to consider your budget for hiring experts this year or even a single leader and then compare to your training dollars. Is there a big difference? Do you operate as “training is nice to have” but not required? If so, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to scale and distribute capabilities beyond a few people at your company. Digital is not a department. Digital is shared knowledge, common language and collective understanding. When we design talent development programs, we work with industry leaders directly to lead content design. They are the experts. They know what should specifics should be covered. They walk in the room and own the conversation with employees. Below we’ve included a great workshop to get started this year.