Despite my efforts to be the usual contrarian and find random and unknown examples to give a different look at things in the web development industry, I must admit that one of my favorite television shows is none other than the wildly popular and resplendent Arrested Development. As much as I would love to discuss the perfectly timed one-liners or subtle hints placed throughout the show, this is not a post about the show. I do want to discuss, however, the premise and how the show keeps interest.
Arrested Development tells the story of the Bluth family, owners of a mildly successful real estate development firm. Despite the inept family members, patriarch George and middle-son Michael are deft professionals who know who to make money (though they certainly both have no issue bending the law to get it). As the show goes on, it becomes obvious that no one in that family has any shred of true skill or dignity. Even Michael, touted as the “good guy” of the family, has no problem playing the system to get what he wants (which never works).
There is one word that really hones in the theme of the show and where everyone seems to go wrong; that is “transparency”. Everyone has their secrets and does everything they can to keep their cards close to the vest. This includes trying to explain the point to someone that there is always money in the banana stand…
It is exactly those secrets that continually get them into trouble with each other, the law, and anyone else who comes in contact with them. If they were willing to be transparent and actually communicate truth to each other, two things would happen: 1) the show never would have aired as there would only have been 5 minutes of compelling story; and 2) they might have ended up happy and successful.
While Arrested Development and other comedic sitcoms keep us all laughing through our weeks, their success usually rests on lack of honest communication. That is because conflict does not usually occur or fester inside healthy, communicative relationships. While secrets and dishonesty make for great storytelling, they also make hardships for successful lives or businesses.
Honesty and Integrity in Content Marketing…or Lack Thereof
I see an epidemic of honesty in marketing these days. In the last few weeks, there has been two major significant news stories that are not yet fallen off the top headlines: the protests in Ferguson, MO and the death of Robin Williams. Both of these are tragic, painful events and yet there has been an alarmingly high amount of corporate and business blogs (or articles) where the marketing department is using those tragedies to improve their own brand or reputation. Even while writing this blog I am conflicted on whether or not to even name those two events, as I do not want to glorify them or “use” them for the purposes of this article, either (I would love you thoughts on that in the comments). What I want to say is that business marketing, as a whole, has gone down the tubes. No longer are businesses trying to market the true benefits and features of their products, they are pandering to current events and spin doctoring. Thankfully, the Business Insider called out at least one major PR gaffe.
Whether it is leaders who use a situation like civil unrest and protest to advance their political careers, businesses spin doctoring a giant oil spill to make themselves look like the heroes or giant corporations using money to make Congress bend its knee, the lack of honesty and transparency in business growth and development is truly pitiful. Case in point: Cheerios is pushing a newer flavor – peanut butter. To do so, they created a viral sensation, which, for the first time in who knows how long, men (specifically dads) are shown to be competent, loving, participatory and helpful.
As a husband and a father, I appreciate this video in that it shows men worthy of respect, and that we actually exist. However, it bothers me that General Mills had to do it; and they didn’t do it for dads, they did it to sell cereal…and a sugar cereal at that! Thus, his quality as a father is tied to his feeding his children something unnecessary and unhealthful. Though it might be a tad better for you than Cap’n Crunch, it can’t be all that far off. Is it possible anymore to be direct about who you are and what you do, be open and transparent and let your work speak for itself?
The Choice to Marketing Yourself as Yourself
I recently spoke with a friend of mine that is a licensed massage therapist. She’s been on her own as a small business owner for over ten years and has little problems keeping her schedule full. She does not, nor has ever had a website (something I do absolutely think would benefit her), never markets herself and lives solely on her reputation for caring and quality in her service. Within five months of going out on her own she was billing out over 60% of her time every day of the week! She still has no employees and her business has not grown past her schedule, but this is by her choice, as she is not ready for that yet.
Form a business perspective, I do feel she would benefit from some minor marketing efforts—if even just an online presence to show her hours and location (and maybe a few reviews). What I think is awesome about her is that she is focused on doing what’s right in the long-term for her and the business. She does what she does, she does it to the best of her ability and she loves what she does – it’s not just about the money; it’s about desire to provide a quality solution for a public need. She doesn’t want to look like or be someone she is not just to grow her business.
I think content marketing has its place, and I believe used honestly it can work wonders in explaining why a person should choose a particular company. What disappoints me is people using whatever they can to get listed and shown wherever possible in a vain attempt to stand out and get some attention. Focus on what you’re best at; what you do better than everyone else, tell that story honestly and show that passion for helping those you serve. That’s the most real and powerful content marketing advice I can give.
P.S. I do understand the irony in denouncing the use of current tragedies for blog content and naming them in this very article. While I had a hard time choosing to mention them, I figured it was necessary considering the context of this article. I would love your feedback on this point, as well as the thoughts in the article as a whole!