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  • Mike Culton

Digital Marketing Lessons from Baghdad

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Delivering Effective Content with Pinpoint Accuracy



Authoring data-driven reports, finding imagery that corresponded to targeting coordinates, and maintaining the military's version of Twitter, all while trying to ignore the blast concussion in my chest from the latest rocket explosion was quite a rush in the summer of 2006. Although, nothing compared to hitching a ride in a Blackhawk (like the one displayed above) to deliver several terabytes of digital imagery to a remote Forward Operating Base. Under these singularly harsh conditions, I learned how to keep my head down and discover these three universal truths about content marketing that apply in the civilian world of content marketing.


Hook 'em with a BLUF


The first thing that comes out of your mouth or keyboard should be the most pertinent information to the situation at hand. There may not be time for details, facts, and figures when the bullets start flying or a reader gets distracted by a fluffy kitten in a cowboy hat on his Facebook timeline. In the Intelligence world, our commanders drilled "Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)" into our skulls.


According to various studies, on average, page visitors and article readers invest between 8 and 55 seconds on online written content.


It's absolutely imperative to lead with your strongest material. The Digital Marketer's BLUF is either the emotional hook that draws the audience in or it’s a revealing answer to a specific customer pain point. That should at least capture enough of the reader's attention to associate the brand with that evocative mental image or produce an "a-ha" moment that they remember later that day. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the majority of what copywriters produce falls into the informatively-interesting-nice-to-know category or settles as SEO fodder. Make every word count in the opening paragraph.


What? So What? Why Should I Care?


Assuming your conscientious customers have more than eight seconds of attention span to give you, regale them with the rest of the story. We got the "what" out of the way with the BLUF, so now it's up to you to explain the "So What" and lead the audience to "Why Should I Care."


"We have a great new product coming out that flashes all the colors and meets all of the certifications, which installs like a snap into--"

"So what?!"

"Well, it's shiny...and new..."

Most of us get stuck on "what" it is you're trying to sell. "So What" goes deeper and it's more persuasive as a result.

How does that flashing light improve safety while a school bus is stopped to pick up a group of kids? What cost savings can an organization expect to see after a year of operating a fleet outfitted with this new telematics technology? Answering these types of questions are significantly more persuasive when showcasing differentiators, features, and benefits.


“Why Should I Care” is an even tougher nut to crack but it's the final blow that wears down prospects’ defenses and compels action. Why Should I Care is closely connected with the BLUF and the emotional hook.


"Not on my route. Uphold your commitment to protect students from distracted drivers at bus stops with the Visi-LED warning system."


What, So What, and Why Should I Care are all integrated into these brief statements. The message is targeted at school administrators and fleet managers who are charged with maintaining school bus safety. It's not everyone's responsibility to protect kids, it's your duty and this is how you can fulfill that obligation.


Same Content, Different Delivery


This should be a no-brainer that most content creators figure out along the way but it can't be reiterated enough. One message can take dozens of forms and it's communicated on a variety of platforms.


I knew that Airman Basic Snuffy is not going to get the same nuanced, analytical briefing that the Wing Commander just received, which is going to be further modified for the sergeants and company officers. It may be the same message but it needs to be transformed to meet different operational needs.


In the business world, how often do you see companies post the same article across all of its social media accounts? Granted, many marketing departments are understaffed and overworked, so it's an understandable convenience. That detailed post on the financial technology revolution in the healthcare industry, which is pulled from a trade magazine article, probably won't perform as well on Instagram, or even Facebook, as it would on LinkedIn. The underlying message is still relevant but the content needs to be transformed into a punchy caption or a hot take that more fast-paced audiences can consume.


Whether under fire or under pressure, these three lessons will fine-tune your message and get you over the target area. Ultimately it's up to you to go weapons-free and drop some killer content on your market. Keep it focused on your target audience and structure the copy around the BLUF and Why Should I Care. There's no better way to win hearts and minds on the crowded digital marketing battlefield.


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