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Talking Content Marketing – With Jon Burkhart


Talking Content Marketing welcomes author and speaker, Jon Burkhart.

I am a big fan of Jon’s energy and what he stands for.

Jon is the co-author of Newsjacking: The Urgent Genius of Real-time Advertising. To surmise, “I’m a sprinting coach and play therapist for brands.” 

SPRINTING COACH: I help brands tweak their set-up to be a bit quicker so they can make content that’s more relevant to real people. 

PLAY THERAPIST: This relates to my approach to speaking gigs and workshops. I’ve studied improv comedy as well as interactive play and gamification techniques. I know that people forget 90% of what you say, and this really disturbs me. I try to make learning fun and memorable. 

Six questions on an approach Jon has and are many businesses still playing it safe?

Lets go….

Can you explain the whole premise behind your BALLSY content approach? 

BALLSY actually represents what I attempt to bring to brands. It’s a mindset. It’s about having the guts to change your way of working. It’s about listening more to your customers. It’s about taking risks. It’s about experimenting. It’s about being more human and genuine. It’s about never doing something just because you have to. It’s about interrogating everything. It’s about asking “Would people really care about this?” 

I’ve summed this up in a BALLSY acronym which I use to judge all content: 

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 09.44.06


Where have we ballsed up?

We’ve all just made stuff up for way too long.

Clients buy our fake strategies informed by made up data. We fail to create a content strategy and commit it to actual paper with actual words. We then create content that we hope folks will go out of their way to read and share but they don’t.

Instead, we should let the real-time data inform all of our decisions and take lots of “little bets” and create a big hairy content plan that allows us to do some “planned spontaniety” in between our bursts of reactive magic where we properly connect with people so much that they’d seek out our next bit of content.


Are many businesses still playing it safe when it comes to content creation?

I would say that most brands are hopeful but still waiting for the CEO to retire so they can rip up the old playbook.

Let’s not blame the C-suite for everything. It’s mostly about the way companies and brands are structured. They’re too big and siloed to be responsive. 

I help big brands take small steps and small brands take big leaps. What does this look like? I create “war rooms” where we come up with every possible scenario that could happen for their customers. Then we create the content they’d need for each eventuality. We base this on real data as well as learnings from people going out and have coffees with real customers. We tweak their content game plan on the fly based on what’s working. We learn every day and loving going on this wild BALLSY ride together. 


Which brands, in your opinion, are getting a consistent content approach right?

Consistency is hard.

The only brands that are getting it right most of the time are brands that think like publishers or media companies — Nike, EA Sports, Red Bull, GoPro and LEGO. Also, let me add in Dollar Shave Club and Jyske Bank. 

Of course, it’s easier for sports and entertainment brands as their fans demand real-time content to keep them entertained and informed.

As far as my passion area, there are individual football teams that are nailing it with engaging content. Manchester City, Crystal Palace and West Ham are taking big steps. Also, check out content from NBA teams like Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors.  


How would you define the difference between ‘content’ and ‘spam’

Good content happens when brands develop a strong sense of what customers think of brands. They dig deep into social listening. They get very familiar with their data scientists. They  understand what makes humans tick. They don’t ever slip into “marketing person” mode.

This means they don’t build global creative newsrooms for toilet tissue brands and/or hijack the birth of Will and Kate’s third baby for a German pile cream. That’s spam. 


If Twitter had been around for 100 years, which three accounts would you say would be the ‘must follow’ of all time?

Great question. It’s hard for me to think of a brand Twitter feed that could be so compelling as to break me from doing what I love doing more than anything else — speaking at conferences about BALLSY brands and hanging with my three blondes — wife, son, daughter. 

To inspire me to be funny/interesting as I walk on stage, I’d read @OldSpice and @Skittles tweets. They exist to surprise and delight. They make you laugh or at least smile. They know who they are. They are your oddest friend. Good odd. Not weird loner odd. 

Now if you’re catching me during family time, I won’t naturally say “so what brands should I fill my free time with?” Instead, I’d go to two feeds that brands should learn from — at least from the craft of composing interestingness in 110 characters. This week, I’d go for Very British Problems (@SoVeryBritish) and Rob Delaney (@RobDelaney).

The guy that writes Very British Problems takes several hours to craft delicious tweets that make you think “Oh, that’s so true — I’d never thought of it in that way before.” And Rob Delaney was voted funniest man on Twitter for a reason. 

Many thanks for Jon taking the time to share his perspective. Why not spend some time in the places that Jon resides.

Jon on Twitter: click here

Jon’s Newsjacking book: click here

Jon at Google Firestarters: click here

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