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Promposals or Genocide: It All Starts With a Great Story - 5/29/2014 -

World Vision’s publishing team shares how a great story was at the heart of a recent, highly effective content marketing program.

By Jean Christofferson

What does content marketing have to do with promposals (extravagant and public invitations to prom that flooded social media during prom season) and Rwandan genocide? It’s all about storytelling. In an interesting twist, speakers Greg Breeding from Journey Group and Jane Sutton-Redner of World Vision US, kicked off last Tuesday’s session at the Association Media & Publishing 2014 Annual Meeting talking about how important storytelling is to content marketing.

Just days before the AM&P Annual Meeting, Breeding’s daughter had been asked to prom by a 6 ft. 7 in. Brazilian exchange student via serenade outside her window. In addition to making Breeding nervous about his daughter dating, the promposal made him think about how content marketing can’t start without a good story — which, of course, this was.

That’s where co-presenter Sutton-Redner came in with her own storytelling. As the editorial director for World Vision, she knew the magazine needed to cover the 20-year anniversary of Rwanda’s horrific genocide that would inspire readers to donate to World Vision’s mission, which is to fight global poverty.

Sutton-Redner said the planning for the issue featuring the anniversary started nearly a year in advance. In partnership with Journey Group, the team set a plan in motion to tell the story of two men, Andrew and Callixte, whose lives changed forever during the genocide. But contrary to what one might think, it actually ended up being a story of hope and forgiveness.

Attendees’ jaws dropped during the AM&P Annual Meeting presentation as Sutton-Redner told the story of Andrew’s family members who were killed by a mob, which included Callixte himself, during the genocide. But, she explained, the team wanted the first photo in the story to be of Callixte and Andrew, arm in arm, rather than some of the traumatic images from 1994. Sutton-Redner wanted to tell a story of forgiveness.

Using a vibrant digital media approach developed by Journey Group, Sutton-Redner said she felt positive about the results. At conference time, Sutton-Redner said hits on the magazine’s website were up dramatically, but since the magazine had just been released two weeks before the conference, exact results weren’t available. But even more critical to the mission, donations were up by at least six times the normal amount.

On the magazine’s website for the anniversary coverage, readers can find spectacular, one-of-a-kind photography, as well as a timeline, maps, video, and pull quotes. The coverage was modeled after The New York Times’ famous "Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” a completely immersive, interactive digital media experience focused on a devastating 2012 avalanche in Washington.

During the session, Breeding and Sutton-Redner shared the following tips for ensuring content marketing efforts get maximum results:

  • Make sure the material is audience driven
  • Use a multimedia approach
  • Make sure the package is art-directed, immersive, and branded
  • Create an entire package with your material

While many of AM&P’s member associations may not have anything dramatic with which to create an interactive media experience, the opportunity for creating one-of-a-kind content marketing does exist in every organization. "You have to get creative,” Breeding said.

And he reminded attendees that measuring results is as important as packaging and marketing the content. "Measure the right stuff,” he said. Why? Because metrics can give association editors evidence on which to build a business case for future investments in technology and talent.

Jean Christofferson is managing editor for WorldatWork in Scottsdale, Ariz.


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