My mother the content marketer

In thinking about our constant search for the best content to stimulate customer interest and engagement, I’m realizing that a lot of what I know came from my mother.

When I left for college, Mom was determined to keep in touch across the miles. We were among the first customers of the technological wonder known as MCI, which cut the cost of a long-distance phone call in half. (Huge big deal in those pre-cell days.) 

MCI was good for brief personal check-ins.  But when Mom wanted to issue deeper guidance or share bigger ideas, she harnessed the power of the press and the U.S. Mail.

Every couple of weeks I’d receive a fat envelope filled with newspaper and magazine clippings, each annotated in Mom’s lovely script. Looking back at what she wrote, I’d say she was an early master of the irresistible subject line.


·      Did you see this, Bets?

·      Good career for you? Nice salary, huge impact!

·      Hand in this tax form and you’ll have $20 in your jeans

Not bad, right? 

Even more powerful was the way Mom followed my interests and delivered exactly the stories she knew would resonate with me. Her content plan might have looked something like this:

·      Careers in journalism

·      Famous writers making a difference in the world

·      Surviving the college experience

·      Feminist issues: equal pay, workplace barriers, motherhood and career (yep, the same stuff we’re still feverishly working on a full generation later)

Mom’s terse, wise messages at the top of each clipping read like great tweets. Many of her thoughts were posed as questions – ideal for engaging her busy, distracted daughter in conversation, or at least making her stop and think for half a second.

Did I respond to all of Mom’s missives? No. (Being a twentysomething, I thought I knew it all, so some of her great advice was lost on me.) But the stream of provocative news she shared with me did have tremendous impact. She offered me a wider view of the world and I'm better for it.

Today I appreciate Mom even more for her thoughtful curation, her witty riffs on the news and the crucial lesson that to build a bridge between ourselves and others, we must work from the heart.

In marketing terms, this means caring for and respecting the people we hope to attract as customers. Viewing the world through their eyes. Understanding their anxieties, challenges and needs and allowing these factors to drive the content and, ultimately, the products and services we offer them.

Yep, we’re here to sell things to people. But, following Mom’s lead, I’ve come to believe that serving is more important than selling. When we do the first job well, the second one becomes a whole lot easier.

Thanks, Mom, for the powerful example you set for me. I wish you were here so we could have a great chat about all this. I know our conversation would begin the way it always did, with the leading question you taught me to ask:

Did you see this?