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Kerry Jones on Creating Content Around Hot Button Topics #MarketingNerds [PODCAST]

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In this Marketing Nerds episode, SEJ Features Editor Danielle Antosz was joined by Kerry Jones, Associate Marketing Director at Fractl, to talk about how to responsibly create content around news and hot-button topics.

Can you share an example of how to create content around hot-button topics?

Button fire iconSo, I have an example to share of a client campaign that we did at Fractl for a client of ours named Abodo, which helps you find the right neighborhood to live in when you’re moving to a new city. They collect a lot of data about different neighborhoods. So if I’m moving to New York, I can find a neighborhood that fits my demographics and the type of neighborhood I want to be in.

We did a campaign for Abodo which was based on a very sensitive yet currently huge part of what’s going on in the media, which is the topic of bigotry, so like racism and sexism. We scraped tweets with derogatory language in them; then we looked at where those tweets were coming from and we were able to look at which states, cities, and regions were using the most derogatory language. From there, we created all these different visual graphics about the data we collected and this thing blew up on the internet.

There are a couple of reasons that it was so popular. First of all, it’s a controversial topic. Any time you’re discussing racism or sexism, people are going to listen because it’s controversial. The campaign ended up getting picked up by 620 online publishers, including sites like Business Insider and Yahoo, and it got more than 67,000 social shares. This was a really good example of taking a bit of a risk, our client allowing us to take a little bit of a risk, but it really paid off.

How did you get your client to sign off?

Typically clients are not going to come to us and say, “Hey, let’s do something super controversial.” Maybe now they will, now that they’ve seen that we had it work for other clients. But for this client, we had been doing some pretty conservative content marketing campaigns for them and we didn’t see great success with it. That right there, we were able to push them a little bit to let us try something a little riskier because we knew that to get attention, we’re going to have to do something that’s going to push the envelope a little bit.

After having some mediocre successes, they were more willing to let us try something new. We were able to back it up also and say, “Here’s some examples of things we’ve done for other clients that the world didn’t end when we published these.” And it was successful.

That’s one way. Once you have done a couple campaigns and you see we’re not really making waves with this, no one’s responding to it, that’s when you can kind of turn up the volume a little bit on what you’re trying to do in terms of controversy.

Another thing is, your content needs to be relevant to the brand. You don’t want to be doing something just for the sake of being controversial, because in the end, it’s not going to bring any value to you or to your client. You need to have an idea that ties back somehow to your client.

What do you do to protect your client and minimize any backlash?

We put some safeguards in place to minimize the risks of the brand. Obviously, we can’t guarantee once we put something out there that nothing bad is going to happen. There are internet trolls lurking in every corner, you can’t control them, you never know what they’re going to do. But we could guarantee to the client that we’re going to do whatever we can to minimize any backlash. We were pretty confident that we’d be able to protect the client because we’d done it so many other times with other client campaigns.

The way to do that is, first of all, you need to make sure that you’re not feeding the trolls at all once you publish something. By that I mean, you want to implement a strict process for fact checking and quality assurance. You don’t want to have any mistakes in the information you’re putting out there because that’s just easy fodder for trolls.

Even the smallest typo can be something that sets people off. You want to make sure that all the information you’re putting out there is factually correct. This is true for anything that you publish, but even more so when you’re dealing with a sensitive topic.

You also want to be transparent about where your information came from, and this is critical for any data-heavy content. You want to openly describe how and where the data was collected, and then clearly list your sources. On top of that, you want all of these sources you’re using as part of your content to be authoritative, too.

You don’t want someone to be able to point at a source and say, “Well this is a biased source or this isn’t, this is a sketchy site that you’re citing right here.” It’s kind of good journalism practices you want to have baked into your content production.

It’s also helpful not to have an opinion on the content, which I know might sound weird, but you want to present the information and then let people decide for themselves. In this example, we published a summary of our findings of all this Twitter data that we collected on the client’s site.

You could let your data and your content tell the story itself. You don’t need to be saying on top of presenting controversial data; you don’t need to be having an opinion about it as well. Those are just a couple of ways that you can minimize the risks around a controversial idea.

What advice would you give a brand that’s considering mimicking a similar process?

Like I said, you don’t just want to be controversial for the sake of it. It needs to be relevant to you; there needs to be some end goal. Whether that’s brand awareness or just associating your brand with a certain topic, you need to make sure that you’re doing a piece of content that has something to do with your brand.

On that note, something that we tell our clients all the time is, “If we are doing content that is directly about your brand, it’s not going to do that well.” We see that time and time again, that when a client gives us a bit of a longer leash to explore some topics that are related to their brand, but not completely tied back to it, that’s when we see a lot of success.

That’s across the board, not even just for controversial content. That’s advice that I would give to anybody. Step outside of your vertical a little bit and maybe do some content that’s related but not exactly what you do.

To listen to this Marketing Nerds Podcast with Kerry Jones:

Think you have what it takes to be a Marketing Nerd? If so, message Danielle Antosz on Twitter, or email her at danielle [at]

Visit our Marketing Nerds archive to listen to other Marketing Nerds podcasts!

Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
In-post Image: maxsim/DepositPhotos

Category Content SEJ Show
Rina Caballar Editorial Assistant at Search Engine Journal

Rina is the Editorial Assistant for Search Engine Journal. She assists the SEJ team with the editorial process and also ...

Kerry Jones on Creating Content Around Hot Button Topics #MarketingNerds [PODCAST]

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