College Basketball Tournament’s Most Important Piece of Paper: A Lesson in Content

It’s tournament time! With the college basketball season winding down, and the tournament starting today, it’s time for millions to sit and watch upset-after-upset-after-thrilling moment-after-agonizing defeat. As an avid college basketball fan, it’s easy to understand why I love this tournament. But I watch college basketball religiously throughout the year, so the fact that I believe this is the best time of year is not a surprise. However, why do so many, non-fans feel the same way?

Here's my favorite bracket ever, in 2008, when Kansas upset Kentucky for it all!

Here’s my favorite bracket ever, from 2008, when Kansas upset Kentucky for it all!

First and foremost, we have to start with the product. With the one-loss-and-you’re-done design of the tournament, there’s a feeling that every second counts, creating an edge of your seat experience that people can’t get enough of. Add in the passion of the players and coaches, and you can see why people suddenly find hope in an underdog, and spite for the favorite that wins out.

But beyond the product, there’s more to it. It has to do with the brackets. We all love filling out the brackets. We compare what we have to our co-workers, friends and families. We bet on who will win. We take pride when our bracket, which is only 42% correct, comes out as the winning one. We call ourselves experts, even as our grandma who couldn’t tell the difference between a 12 seed and a 2 seed, destroys our 42% with a 75% effort. It unites us and gives us something to talk about. It was an original social network. An it’s so niche, that it’s a social network where we only discuss basketball, picks, upsets and front-runners. We only discuss the NCAA. We only discuss college basketball. How many companies would love that same passion in their social efforts?

How does this come to be? After all, it started with a tournament of 8 teams in 1939 at a time that very few probably filled out such predictions. But now for decades, people have eagerly filled out such brackets in hope of guessing correctly. As far as I can tell, there’s no clear indication that someone has filled out a bracket correctly all the way through, although back when it was 32, 22 and 8 teams, the possibility seems much more likely than with the 147.57 quintillion possibilities that are available with today’s version.

And yet, we all fill it out because of the connection it creates. Continue reading

The St. Patrick’s Day Symbol

This weekend, while you’re pouring yourself a Guinness and toasting to Ireland, you will probably be wearing green, in honor of the Irish. And if you’re headed to a bar, you will find the iconic four-leafed clover everywhere you look. From banners across the bars, to logos on beers and decorations on T-shirts where flirtatious women might want men to look, they’re everywhere!

You'll see a lot of this symbol on Sunday, and that's, in part, why St. Patrick's Day is so popular.

You’ll see a lot of this symbol on Sunday, and that’s, in part, why St. Patrick’s Day is so popular.

And the four-leafed clover grew to become a myth to not just represent St. Patrick’s Day but all of Ireland. ‘The luck of the Irish’ is tightly entwined with the belief that a four-leaf clover will bring you good luck, which is just an uncommon form of the three-leaf variety. The small, delicate little shamrock has become enmeshed with the Irish people, at least in myth and lore.

But where did it come from? When Saint Patrick traveled to Ireland in the fourth century, the story goes, he explained the Catholic religion and its belief in the Holy Trinity, using the three-leaf clover. That’s a neat story. It’s interesting, memorable, easy to share and plausible.

Now, no one can truly say if that really happened. Not many records have been kept that provide much insight into the life of St. Patrick. Yet, the Catholic church celebrated the day, and Irish immigrants throughout the Western world began to share the tradition, turning it into a day of recognition for the Irish culture. Not bad from just a little story of a three-leaf clover.

But that’s the power of a strong story that can turn an object into a symbol. It doesn’t need to be real, and it doesn’t have to be large, but it can grow to mean so much to so many.

On a smaller scale, that’s the type of myth or allure you want to develop as you create your own story or content. Continue reading

photo by: faith goble

Content Development In Yoga?

One thing I enjoy once or twice a week is yoga. I’m trying to build my flexibility – not easy for  someone who was told by a doctor in seventh grade that he was the least flexible person the doctor had ever seen. But it also helps me relax.

The interesting thing about yoga, for those that go often, is the selection of music that the yogi or instructor selects for the session. Some go with the classical yoga mantras that include Enya-like soothing sounds while others go with contemporary, low-key tunes. Others mix-in hip-hop while more traditional classes won’t use music at all. It varies depending on the session and teacher you choose to go to.

As someone who picks the class based on time and skill level, I get to hear many different musical selections. And one thing you notice, as you go from one of the classes to the next is that not only does the music tend to reflect the teacher, but it mimics the type of student as well. You start to notice certain people always goes to one class that incorporates some soft electric, while others always show up for the teacher playing a bunch of Mumford & Sons. It has become a way for yoga instructors to not only showcase their personality, but also to entice students to return.

It has become a content strategy in action. Continue reading

Content Development Lessons From Doctor Who?

A little secret about me is that I love science-fiction. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of my favorite books, Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors, and my dog’s name is Wookie… enough said. So when I’m looking for new shows to watch, I often stumble into a sci-fi of some sort. And I’m now knee-deep into BBC’s Doctor Who?

Can you mimic what Docto Who does in your content strategy as well as this reproduction?

Can you mimic what Doctor Who does in your content strategy as well as this reproduction?

If you haven’t seen it, and you like sci-fi, then I would recommend it as long as you can deal with corny special effects and over-the-top acting (which you probably do, if you like sci-fi). But this isn’t a commercial for the program. Instead, I want to talk about developing your company’s story using Doctor Who as an example.

The series, which has been around since 1963, has had countless of re-airings, movies and even plays. And now there are talks of JK Rowling writing an ebook of the show. Why does such a concept continually get new play at a time when there’s a number of options for showcasing a time-traveler story? There are two main reasons that stand out to me, as I watch the show. And these should be mimicked by anyone trying to develop their own company story.

1. It Inspires

While you can have all the great points in the world, there’s really one tried-and-true way to encourage people to keep coming back to you. And it’s not always the quality of your product. For example, you could argue that the Android phones are in fact better than the iPhone (they’re adaptable, cheaper and there’s more variety) but because of Apple’s marketing, the iPhone continues to outsell any other company’s version of the Android phone. It’s not even close, in that sense. And the reason this happens is because it inspires users.

Doctor Who inspires fans by going to far off places, and exploring new, made-up worlds. It’s interesting because it’s something that so many want to do: travel, explore and have new experiences. That’s inspiring, even if it’s using a land 3000 years in the future for its backdrop.

How does your company or brand inspire another with your content strategy? What do you showcase and offer that will encourage someone to read what you write, then sit and ponder it throughout the day? What will drive them to come back and read again?

Continue reading

photo by: JD Hancock