A How-To Guide for Creating a Killer Content Program

Posted by Krista McComas Rowe

Mar 2

Storytelling can be tough.  Really tough.  One of the biggest challenges in storytelling through content is not only connecting with your audience, but building that connection in such a way that spurs your audience into action.

The following are best practices to live by for creating a successful content program, along with examples of recent client work The Story Lab (the company I work for) did for Chevrolet.  The goal for this campaign was to create awareness and an emotional connection with the Chevy Cruze’s millennial target persona, and to inspire that target to share the videos with their social network.

The resulting program was a three-part video campaign called “Having the Talk”.  The videos garnered 1.85 million, 1.87 million and 2.02 million (respectively), for a total of 5.74 million views across all three videos and an average positivity rating of 92.6%.

Check out the videos here and read on for the seven secrets that made this campaign such a success!


#1: Know your audience (do your research!) and use that knowledge to tap into their emotions

Before even beginning your content ideation, know the passions and pain points of your target persona.  Their lifestyles and content consumption habits should be second nature before you even begin to think about the creative process.

In the case of the 2016 Chevy Cruze, our target persona was a millennial approaching a new life stage.  This, and the knowledge that our target was very active in social media, became the foundation for creating a story our audience could relate to and a platform for them to share.

Note: There was extensive research conducted on the Cruze target persona – including extensive detail on their habits, likes, dislikes, media consumption, and hundreds of other self-reported details – but for confidentiality reasons we’ll look at the Cruze target from a very high level.

#2: Choose your production partner wisely, one with a built-in audience that aligns with your target persona

Chevrolet + BuzzFeed

With the millennial target in mind, we selected BuzzFeed Motion Pictures as our production partner.  BuzzFeed is famous for comedic content that is very on-the-nose about the toils and triumphs of being a millennial.  This unapologetic truthfulness allows BuzzFeed to connect with their audience in a relatable and authentic way.  BuzzFeed also relies on social channels to generate most of its traffic – a fact that also aligns strongly with the media habits of the Chevy Cruze target. 

#3: Create your story with “The Golden Circle” in mind

Simon Sinek’s model for differentiating a brand focuses on the WHY, then the HOW, and finally, the WHAT as a model for inspirational leadership – using emotions at the core of what entices customers to buy into a company.  To be truly successful in your content you must also apply this concept to your storytelling.

Golden Circle

  • WHY: The first step is to figure out why you are telling your story in the first place.  What is your motivation and does it align with your consumers’ motivations and give them a reason to care about what you are saying?  Chevy’s Why: Make the Chevrolet brand relatable to a millennial audience.
  • HOW: Next, how do you arrive at the why; what is the process for getting there and how does this set you apart from your competitors?  Chevy’s How: Having relationship-changing conversations is awkward! Showcase these awkward conversations about approaching adulthood that are so common among our target persona.  Have these conversations in the Chevy Cruze vehicle as a way to position the vehicle as a partner-in-crime.
  • WHAT: And lastly, what products or services does your organization offer? Chevy’s What: Each video took place within a Chevy Cruze vehicle, with logos and branding shown strategically (and subtly) throughout the video.

For more on Simon Sinek concept of The Golden Circle, take a look at his TED talk entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” or his website www.startwithwhy.com.

#4: Be authentic

Once again, using our knowledge of the Cruze target’s everyday life and struggles, we worked with BuzzFeed to create stories that were relatable, entertaining, inspiring, and most of all, authentic.  Since we knew our target persona was a millennial approaching a new life stage, we created a video series that focused on just that. The series title, as mentioned earlier, was “Having the Talk” and the three videos within it focused on the real life pivotal life conversations of moving in together, getting married, and having kids.

’Dad Bod’ and ’Mom Jeans’

The videos took into account the vernacular of the millennial target into account, using of-the-moment terms from pop culture like “Dad Bod” and “Mom Jeans.” BuzzFeed then took the humor one step further by inserting vivid visuals in flash-forward scenes.

#5: Create a tension or conflict that aligns with your target’s problems and needs

Each story contained an awkward tension or argument around moving in, getting married, or having kids – crucial conversations we all face in our 20s and 30s. Knowing our consumer target was on the cusp of a new life stage, they’ve undoubtedly experienced or will experience these tense situations in the very near future.

#6: Make your product part of the resolution (but in a way that is still authentic to the story!)

Many of life’s tough relationship conversations happen while driving in a car, and this was no exception for our target persona. A vehicle setting was therefore a natural and very relevant location for the conversations in our videos.

Each “Having the Talk” conversation took place between a couple as they rode inside the Chevy Cruze vehicle and zeroed in on the pivotal life conversations that so often take place in a car. There were awkward and emotional moments but ultimately each couple’s conversation came to a happy resolution, all while driving in the Chevy Cruze. This positioned the Cruze as a character within the story itself, as the enabler for the positive conclusion to each story.

#7: Use humor to infuse positivity and social sharing

BuzzFeed is famous for creating viral content, and the light-hearted and humorous tone is a big reason for this success.  Laughter is a social response, so we as content consumers are naturally compelled to share humorous content.

The best humor according to a 2015 study by NewsCred is relatable to everyday life, steers clear of overly controversial topics, and is simple and easy to understand. Additionally humor triggers emotional responses, which makes your content (and your brand) memorable.


All of these secrets have one very crucial element in common – they use data and consumer insights to put the audience first. Knowing your audience should be at the crux of every decision you make when creating a successful content program. Your content should tap into a core insight about your target and a problem they are trying to solve, and then provide a solution to that problem. In the case of the Chevrolet/BuzzFeed program, the “problem” was how to approach awkward conversations about the next phase of a relationship.  The solution – with a Chevy vehicle at the core – was to have an honest conversation…while riding in your all-new 2016 Chevrolet Cruze.  ;)

Topics: content marketing

Subscribe to our Blog!


See All Authors

Interested In Being A Blog Contributor?

If you are interested in being a contributor to the BizBlog, please fill out the form and I will get back to you real soon!!