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  • Writer's pictureMike Culton

Digital Marketing Lessons from Quantico

Producing Better Content: Get Smart, Write Confidently, and Structure for Readability

I learned a ton about digital marketing over in the sandbox, so I decided to come back home and learn even more about creating better content from the world’s premier law enforcement organization. The FBI taught me how to get smart on any topic quickly, qualify my claims without using “weasel words,” and stick to the five-paragraph format for reports. Clear and concise white papers that explain a problem or trend are the lifeblood of the intelligence community. Those same principles apply in the world of digital marketing and give longer-form content more punch.

Smarten Up or Get Left Behind

What’s going on in the Mauritanian desert? No Mauritania experts on hand? Better get smart on their geo-politics, leadership, social structure, and economy fast because you’re giving a briefing on the situation after lunch today! Never a dull moment in national security nor in digital marketing. The two are often interconnected, as we’re all experiencing. When it hits the fan, agile businesses must immediately adapt or get left cleaning up the mess.

How long did 2020’s content marketing plan last when the entire world went into lockdown? How are current supply chain disruptions affecting the brand’s credibility?

Working with management, digital marketing professionals are compelled to quickly grasp global issues and reassure customers with a consistent, empathetic message that demonstrates reliability through tough times.

No Weasel Words

Like digital marketing, intelligence analysis isn’t an exact science and many of our claims need qualification, disclaimers, and caveats. Leave little to the imagination and use clear language that expresses a concise message with a purpose. Based on everything you know about the customer, the business you’re promoting, and the problem you’re trying to solve, what’s your prescription? When selling your “what,” “so what,” and “why should I care,” avoid these weasley weak-sauce words in your content:

  • Could/should/would (aka, woulda-shoulda-coulda)

  • May and might

  • Possibly, probably, likely

  • Indirect and passive statements like “some might say” or “evidence suggests”

  • Qualifying a claim with “believe” or “think,” e.g. “we believe our product is better…”

  • Referring to your customers or audience as people, users, customers, or the audience. Remember, you are trying to reach a real human being with your message.

Five-Paragraph Format

Effective intelligence reports and blog posts share a lot in common as well. The five-paragraph structure is the most efficient way to express a complex idea or deliver

Source: (5/20/2020)

a multi- faceted message. The first paragraph summarizes the piece and presents the most important information up front. Paragraphs two, three, and four support the first paragraph’s primary claim with the most compelling evidence presented in the second paragraph. The fifth paragraph summarizes the facts, reiterates the overall message, and prescribes a solution. This structure tends to fit on one page and it’s easy to digest, especially when you break it up with bullet points, pull-quotes, and/or supplementary information boxes.

If you haven’t noticed by now, this blog post is structured in the five-paragraph format and demonstrates each of the principles outlined above. When integrated with a strategic message, communicating up to three ideas per article or post builds engagement and spreads brand awareness. In this case, always keep up to date with industry trends, write with confidence, and think about structure as much as the pitch. Whether you’re sharing information on a new terror cell organizing in West Africa or helping homeowners get more out of their water softeners while saving them money, these tricks of the trade get eyes on your content and shape your brand’s identity.

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