I’ve always been called the ‘funny one’ of the group. So when someone asked me to try stand-up comedy back in college, my response was a confident ‘sure’. Being funny in front of a crowd of largely known faces, felt like such an easy-peasy feat. I figured, I’d just be myself.

While that’s a great quote for a bookmark, when it comes to stand-up comedy, the rules are a lot more precise. For a start, contrary to popular belief, imagining the audience in their underwear DOES NOT work. Being funny on stage is a lot different from just being funny. It’s hardly about who you are. On the other hand, a lot of it begins with having a thorough understanding of the audience you’re talking to. The same is true for any activity that requires you to attract, and sustain, the attention of a large group of people. Which is why the rules for stand-up comedy also double up as the rules of content marketing.

So, without further ado, here’s my diktat on what guarantees a stellar content performance.

Research the hell out of your audience

Just like stand-comedy, the first step towards making interesting content is to get to know who you’re talking to. This is pretty basic stuff, but we’re not just talking about traditional persona outlines that look something like this:

Why Content Marketing Is A Lot Like Stand-Up Comedy_Research Audience

P.S.: I think stock image models are magical creatures that live on a separate planet. Real people DO NOT look this pretty.

When it comes to content, you’ve got to go deep.

Extensive research about preferred topics that click with the audience, the format they prefer to consume the content in and the places your audience frequents are all integral in increasing your chances of getting noticed. You’ve got to think like your audience, be the creepy stalker and find out all there is to know about them. Here are the initial prep questions you need to begin with when you start conceptualizing your content idea.

  • Who am I talking to?
  • What are their interests?
  • Where do they go to be entertained (or educated)?
  • Which formats do they relate to?

Assume the audience is smarter than you

That person in the corner of the room who wouldn’t laugh no matter what you said? Your mission is to crack him up.

When it comes to content, it’s good to assume that’s your entire audience.

While it’s true that the best content is also the simplest, it takes effort to keep things simple. However, simplifying a concept isn’t the same as dumbing it down. Never underestimate the intelligence of your reader and ensure you’re always creating something that adds value. Assuming that you’re writing for an audience smarter than you, helps in capturing the essence of a topic without oversimplifying it. As you get to know more about your audience, you’ll be able to understand what kind of formats they respond to, the narratives that grab their attention, the right length and verbiage to use and even the perfect timing to post a piece of content.

Know a little bit about everything

But, know a LOT about your own topic.

The previous rule stressed on the need to assume that you’re dealing with an audience smarter than yourself. How can you add value to someone like that? By knowing more than they do.

It’s imperative to keep yourself well updated about what’s happening around you, in order to create insightful and interesting pieces of content. Ideas have a way of hiding in the most unexpected corners and getting to them is all about being hungry enough to discover them.

Why Standup comedy is a lot like content marketing_Know a little bit about everything

I love reading Neil Patel’s blog for two reasons: the variety of topics and the level of detail with which he elaborates each topic. Glance through his blog and you’ll find articles on topics ranging from human psychology and personal brand building to conversion optimization and growth hacking. However, most of his pieces are about SEO and building web traffic. If the number one goal on your mind is to get more people to your website, a good place to start would be to listen to Neil.

Make sure you’re telling a story

Traditionally, writing has been categorized into expository and narrative in nature. Expository writing aims to inform or educate the reader about a topic and narrative structures attempt to entertain.

Writing for content marketing lies somewhere in between both these kinds of writing. Whether the purpose of the content is to entertain or educate, weaving it around a story ensures that you grab the attention of the audience. Campaigns like Sungard’s Zombie Apocalypse or Australian Metro’s Dumb Ways To Die are examples of how guides or public service announcements that are traditionally boring in nature, can be made entertaining too.

Why Content Marketing Is A Lot Like Stand-Up Comedy_Tell a story

You’ve got 8 seconds to pull ‘em in

Recent research indicates that the attention span of the average human is down to 8 seconds. That’s lower than the attention span of goldfish. Which means if I’ve been fortunate enough to hold your attention till point number six, it’s time to ask my boss for a raise!

The start is the clincher. If you manage to get your audience cheering in the first few seconds, you have a win on your hands. Stand-up comedians at least get the undivided attention of their audience for the first few seconds. Content marketing doesn’t give you that luxury. At any point of time, your piece of content is competing with a blinking banner on the side, an unrelenting Instagram feed and an endless stream of funny baby videos. Managing to break through all that and get 8 seconds of time that’s all about you, is a gargantuan task indeed.

Always get feedback

Feedback for stand-up comedy is real-time. You either get to gloat over the thunderous laughter of a room full of well entertained people, or you get deafening silence and are classified as comedy roadkill. But either kind of feedback is great in telling you what to do (or what not to).

Feedback for content can be gauged by looking at the engagement it generates. Tracking the content to identify the number of shares, likes or comments it generated across networks as well as the conversations it triggered is a great way of knowing whether you’ve got it right. Even though you may be running on a tight schedule of ‘write, post, next!’, ensure you take the time to analyse content performance to the extent you can and measure them against the right objectives.

At the end of the day, whether it’s stand-up comedy or content marketing, success is all about finding a way to enthrall your audience. The availability of data and processing tools that translate data into insights make it possible to ascertain the ingredients that contribute to that success.

A definite bonus that helps in all activities that are pull-based rather than push, is cultivating a high level of empathy. You need to be a better listener, an ardent observer and develop an interest in knowing more about the industry and the people you’re writing or performing for in order to really appeal to them.


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