What Kevin Spacey Can Teach Us About Content Marketing

October 30, 2014 Katy De Leon

“What the hell am I doing here?” asked Kevin Spacey, the keynote speaker during the last hour of the last day at Content Marketing World.

We were all asking ourselves the same question while sitting in the large, dimly-lit, airport-hangar-sized presentation room. Why is Kevin Spacey here to talk about content marketing? And, more importantly, how the hell did someone convince him to come to Cleveland? (Touche’ Joe Pulizi!)

But after hearing Spacey’s story, it all began to make sense. Who else would have better insight on storytelling than a guy who’s been doing it his entire life?

The main takeaway from his talk? There is no longer a distinct line between the world of entertainment and the world of content – it has completely blurred. Anyone, anywhere, can create and publish content at anytime.

We are in control.


Today, there are films produced because they are funded through crowdsourcing. There are over 52 million hours of YouTube videos uploaded per year. And now there’s Netflix, a network that is not ratings-focused, and they do not demand to see pilots before they commit to a project – a network that solely relies on analytics, branding and targeted marketing.

There is no better example of this transformational shift in control than House of Cards. According to Spacey, the role of Frank Underwood was so appealing and so well written that it was the first leading television role he had accepted in years. And, he agreed that having to pull together the typical components of a pilot – establishing all characters and story lines within an hour – would have ruined the intent of the story. So, they said no.

And therein lies our opportunity. Creatives now have the power.

The next challenge is creating great content.

As a marketing professional, the daily mantra is “Content is King.” I’m always searching for clear, simple, and impactful ways to tell our brand story.

In that same vein, telling the stories hidden in data is our mission at Narrative Science. We want to provide everyone with the ability to access meaningful narratives – about their business, about their investments, about their lives.

So whether it’s a movie, a news story or a business report, what constitutes a great story?

Here’s my take on Spacey’s 3 critical ingredients for great content.

  1. Conflict – Your content must address a challenge or answer an important question. It has to be relevant and ‘hit home’ in order to gain the emotional buy-in from the reader. Providing value (“reading this will help you solve a problem”) will entice people to read more.
  2. Authenticity – Your audiences will turn off when something doesn’t feel authentic. Stay true to your voice, keep out the noise and the audience will respond.
  3. Audience – Give people what they want and need, when they want and need it. The democratization of data and Internet of Things is making this evermore possible. Use these data-driven opportunities to deliver the right information at the right time.

If we can create stories that are relevant, meaningful and easy to digest – whether purely for our own entertainment value or for making important decisions – people will become more knowledgeable, more satisfied, and have the ability to improve upon various facets of their personal and professional lives.

Katy De Leon is the Senior Director, Marketing at Narrative Science. Connect with Katy on Google+ and Twitter.

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