6 things the Oscars taught us about content

Every year, billions of people around the world cozy up in front of their TVs to watch rich people receive a gold award shaped like a man for their achievements in acting like other people. At its core, that’s what the Academy Awards is. So, what makes it so compelling?

The famous people are part of it, as is the glitz and glamour that has surrounded the night for nearly 90 years. But my personal view is that the night gathers so much attention because of the story being told. From the red carpet and the behind-the-scenes shots, to the speeches and the post-awards interviews, the media (with the help of social media) loves crafting stories around what is essentially a gathering of otherwise boring, rich people.

From a marketing point of view, there are dozens of lessons to be learned – but more specifically, there are a few strong points to be made about how we use, create and share content.

So without further ado, those lessons are… (drum roll please)…

  1. The right message spreads a long way

True content marketers understand the importance of unique content, but sometimes it’s less about an exclusive message and more about it being timed just right.

This year, the two speeches with the most buzz were by Patricia Arquette and Graham Moore, who called for wage equality and raised awareness about depression respectively, garnering hollers from the crowd (mainly Meryl Streep, let’s be honest.)


Why were the speeches so good? Because they were authentic. You can tell Arquette truly cares about the issue of wage equality, while Moore drew on his own experience with depression and nearly taking his own life to get his message across about being true to yourself.

People everywhere can see right through the “I wish for world peace!” message, but will stand up and take note when your content and its message is genuine and heartfelt.

  1. Content isn’t just about words, it’s visual

What gets the most attention at the Oscars? Is it the movies? The speeches? The musical performances? Nope. Rightly or wrongly, it’s the pre-show red carpet, where people ogle and judge celebrities in their designer garb, snapping photos and posting images to social media and blogs all over the world.

Incorporating visual elements into your content marketing strategy is crucial. Humans are visual beings, so think about where you can include pictures and infographics into your articles and overall strategy.

  1. When content is unexpected, it works even better

Constantly pumping out content (correction: good content) is necessary to gain traction in any campaign, but sometimes it’s good to shock people. Lady Gaga used to shock the masses by wearing dresses made of meat, but at the Oscars she shocked by, well, just singing.

After dropping off the radar for months, Gaga appeared as if from nowhere to sing an incredible tribute to The Sound of Music and its star, Julie Andrews, and floored everyone. Her performance was a far cry from the Gaga we know, and she got a standing ovation for her stellar efforts.

The lesson here? Surprise people! Create content your audience won’t expect – you have a platform to create anything you want, so go Gaga with it.

  1. Storytelling matters

Okay, so I know I’m supposed to be talking about this year’s Oscars, but the 2012 awards presented such a fantastic example of storytelling that it can’t be ignored. It was the year The Artist, a completely silent movie, took home Best Picture. It was the first time in 83 years that a silent motion picture scooped the big award. It was (and still is) a big deal and an incredible example of the importance of storytelling.

The movie stood out not just because of the acting, but because of the love story. With content, we are lucky we can use words to tell a story – but it’s all about how you craft the narrative, report, press release, blog or information you’re trying to use to engage your audience. Tell a story people can identify with!

  1. Know what your audience wants

The hashtag that is still trending since the Oscars is #AskHerMore – a call to action for red carpet correspondents to ask female celebrities more compelling questions than “who are you wearing?” The trend was started by the Representation Project and is supported by Smart Girls (an organisation headed by Amy Poehler), and it gained massive traction on Twitter in the lead up to the show to ask about the work, not the dresses.

When your audience is asking for something, it’s your job to give them the information they need. Know what they want and cater to it in a creative way.

(P.s. E!’s ‘Mani Cam’ – a camera that focuses on what the stars’ manicured nails look like – was axed for this year’s awards after the #AskHerMore campaign highlighted its absurdity.)

  1. In the end, good content always wins

JULIANNE MOORE FINALLY WON AN OSCAR. Yep, after four previous Academy Award disappointments, Moore finally took home a golden statue for her portrayal of a linguistics professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice.

Although Moore has won countless Golden Globes and other awards in her late-blooming career, she’s held out for the Oscar and finally got it (YAY!) proving that sometimes an entire body of works speaks louder than a one-hit wonder.

With content, your results aren’t going to show overnight – and that’s okay. What’s important is that the entire campaign and strategy is strong, consistent and carefully managed to ensure you get what you need out of it.

Get in touch with us at [email protected] if you’re interested in creating compelling, meaningful and targeted content for your business. 

138624_0188 image by Disney | ABC Television Group is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Why your startup needs public relations

Plunging into the fast-paced, high-risk world of startups and entrepreneurship is exhilarating and nerve-racking — and it takes more than guts and grit to make it and be the next big thing. If you’re equipped with a groundbreaking idea and your product’s ready to hit the market, odds are you’re doing everything to spread the word: telling everyone you see about your startup, and making your rounds in networking circles to meet fellow entrepreneurs, potential clients, and scooping up an investor or two along the way.

What many startups fail to recognise at this stage is how much of a game changer public relations (PR) can be. PR is particularly crucial and most effective when a startup has just launched, and smart PR can directly impact your brand perception, company revenue and investor opportunities.

Some entrepreneurs we meet don’t see the need for PR. They believe a good idea will sell itself through word-of-mouth and personal networks. That’s definitely important, but it’s hardly enough. Public relations — and media coverage in particular — will provide you with a far wider reach than you can imagine and act as a launch pad for your big idea. Here’s why PR should be taken seriously, whether you take a stab at it on your own or get some help from industry experts.

1. Introduce your brand to the public
Media coverage in key news outlets will introduce your brand to the public. In Singapore, think The Straits TimesTODAYThe Business TimesChannel NewsAsia and other tech sites like e27, ZDNet Asia and more that are the perfect gateways to public recognition. How often have you read about a new company while flipping the newspapers or browsing news sites? Your startup could be recognised in the same way.

Public relations is essentially brand outreach to the public and your stakeholders through various media channels. Yes, you’ll still want to rely on word-of-mouth, and yes, social media should be an important element of your PR campaign, but what happens when these are combined with media coverage? Brand recognition increases by leaps and bounds.

2. Be searchable
Have you ever Googled a company, brand or product, only to find it’s not a top hit, and then give up digging for more information? With news features, potential clients searching for you will find your brand across a slew of media coverage, rather than a lonely link low on Google search.

For your startup to do well, you’ll want to build on your search ranking through search engine optimisation (SEO) to help people easily find your brand online. SEO isn’t a quick fix and takes concerted effort. Media coverage is a great way to boost your SEO, particularly online news articles that link back to your website, weaving strong backlinks. You should also ensure you have SEO best practices in place early on – here are some tips from Mutant.

3. Gain credibility
Consumers today are smart and informed. Before your potential clients buy your products or use your services, they’re researching your brand — they’ll read reviews and look into your online presence before making a purchasing decision. News coverage in reputable news sites and publications will give much-needed credibility to your services and products, particularly when you’re relatively unknown.

If journalists buy into what you’re offering, their favourable reviews will be the best endorsements. Many of them are influential, with loyal readers who treat their words as gospel truth. And news articles that quote your product users who speak to its awesomeness will add even more credibility.

4. Investors see you
Every startup needs funding — and PR will increase your chances at striking the VC lottery. Venture capitalists, government entities and rich folks are on the lookout for investment opportunities in the news. Positive coverage highlighting your business proposition and growth potential is bound to turn a few heads.

A startup we recently helped to launch in Singapore is an entrepreneur’s dream come true. Combining an excellent product with dedicated PR pushes, we secured news coverage in national newspapers The Straits Times and TODAY, popular news sites such as e27 and Yahoo! Singapore News and more, which led to calls from a major government research agency keen to invest in the app and a major client who wanted to roll out the service at scale. When you hit the media that matter, you’re going to get noticed.

5. Become a thought leader
The establishment of trusted brands goes beyond good products and services — the best ones establish themselves as a thought leader and knowledge expert in the field. As a first step, you should craft opinion pieces for targeted media and land your commentary in industry news articles. When your brand starts to get recognised, you could speak at industry events to share your insights with stakeholders.

Building thought leadership is a gradual process, and you’ll want to start working on it soon as possible. If I’m an investor or consumer looking to invest my hard-earned money in a startup and its services, I’m far more likely to trust a startup with a business leader who’s knowledgeable, rather than any other brand who’s merely jumping on the startup bandwagon for the ride.

6. Receive valuable feedback from journalists

Many journalists, particularly those focussing on technology and startups, are knowledgeable about the industry and they’ve seen many startups make it and break it. Some might think of journalists as writers who’re only out to catch them off-guard for a sensational story, while others see journalists purely as mouthpieces for their brand. Don’t treat a media interaction purely as transaction, especially in Singapore where journalists are open to conversations.

Along with your interview, make an effort to sit with them over coffee and find out what they think about your products and services. Have an honest conversation and pay attention to what they have to say. You might be surprised at their suggestions, which could help you re-consider loopholes you’ve missed.

PR complements your startup’s initial launch and can be really impactful in driving growth. Not every news article is going to land you a million dollar investment, but every PR step you take in the right direction will persuade your potential clients, add credibility to your brand, and boost your online presence to eventually establish you as the startup to look out for.

This article was first published 14 July 2014 on e27.
If you’d like to discuss your public relations approach, get in touch with us at [email protected].
Startup Live Vienna image by Heisenberg Media is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


The Golden Circle – Focusing on the ‘Why’ in your communications

Google dethroned tech darling Apple on the 2014 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand ranking released days ago. The departure of their charismatic leader, business choke-ups and perceived lack of innovation in recent times likely played a part in Apple’s gradual decline – but few will disagree that Apple is still one of the most important and trend-setting companies in the world.

This news reminded me of a spellbinding TED talk by business guru Simon Sinek and his concept of “The Golden Circle”. While no brand remains at the top forever, Apple is the perfect example of a business that has exceled by functioning differently. Sinek related a simple truth – the most successful brands in the world live by “The Golden Circle”. It’s a simple shift in thinking towards your business approach, but will completely change how your business communicates.


The Golden Circle is divided into three parts – what, how and why. Every business knows ‘what’ they’re selling, some know ‘how’ they do it and their USP, while few think about and communicate the ‘why’, essentially the purpose of their business.

Most businesses communicate outside in. They tell people what they’re selling, how the product works and what’s special about it, but few touch on the core purpose of their business with each product. Here’s Sinek’s revelation – truly visionary brands, like Apple, communicate from the inside out. Every communication opportunity highlights why they’re doing what they do. Apple is about innovation – creating user-friendly products that make people’s lives better. The iPhone, iMac, iPad and all their products are a result of their core purpose. This is what makes people coming back for more. They believe in the company’s vision and transform into loyal brand evangelists.

Just think about the behemoth brands – Nike hasn’t found success merely selling running shoes. ‘Just do it’ is what we can relate to. The sense that it’s time we got started, time we pushed ourselves to our limits, and the innate ability we all have to succeed if we just try. Tech giant Google is so much more than the world’s number one search engine. They want to impact how the world collects and perceives information at every level.

But this isn’t all marketing hogwash, and Sinek delves into the science behind his theory. When brands communicate leading with the ‘why’, they speak directly to the limbic system, the part of the brain that affects behaviour and accounts for our gut feeling. This influences purchasing decisions more than appealing to the rational of our brain, achieved when brands communicate the ‘what’ of products and services to consumers.

Not too long ago, I had a chat with our fearless Mutant chief, Joe Barratt, about why he started Mutant Communications. While I’m sure our team wouldn’t mind a little fame and fortune, Joe spoke about his passion for helping businesses grow, be it startups trying to find their footing or established businesses hoping to grow their presence, and that’s really what forms the basis of Mutant’s work and why we do what we do. How do we do it? We tell great stories that build winning brands. What do we do exactly? We create content and help brands communicate across different outlets and media platforms to get the word out.

So is your company telling a story framed around the ‘why’? Do your customers understand and subscribe to the same beliefs that drive your business? Have you been affecting purchasing decisions with communications that spell the purpose of your business, or have you been repeating the ‘what’, like most other businesses?

There are likely a number of companies out there that sell similar products and provide similar services, a few that define themselves with a USP akin to yours, but not many with visionary business beliefs, and who communicate that well.

Now is a great time to review how you’ve been narrating your brand story and your approach to every communications decision, starting with the ‘why’.

For ideas on how you can communicate the ‘why’ in your business, get in touch with us at [email protected].

Why? image by BuzzFarmers is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Screen capture of Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, How great leaders inspire great action

Who are you? Finding your brand voice

You might have your elevator pitch down, and you might have a new strapline to display alongside your logo, but do you and your team really know the personality behind your branding?

Do you know how your brand speaks, who it speaks to and how it reacts in stressful situations?

I’m not talking about the introduction to the brand document you pass to new staff members on their first day of the job and I’m not talking about the logo guidelines drawn up by your communications team. I’m talking about defining the way your brand acts, speaks and reacts every day, be it walking down the street to lunch or through its daily interactions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Linkedin. The “brand voice” I am talking about extends to phone manner and emails written to customers or clients.

You probably already have a brand voice without labeling it as such, but it’s still a useful exercise to sit down with your team every couple of months and tweak or reinforce who you are, what you are trying to say, and how to get this acrosss on social media.

Set aside an hour and allow space for everyone to go wild, scribbling words and ideas all over whiteboards, rolls of paper, or even walls.

The aim of the exercise is to ensure each member of your team is representing your brand in the best possible light and also to develop much greater efficiencies in your social engagement.

Too many small businesses and organisations waste hours on Facebook or Twitter posts that either don’t reach or don’t resonate with their target audiences. Usually it’s because they’re either on the wrong platform, or they’re sharing the wrong sort of content.

Defining who you are and who you are not will help your team determine which networks you should be on, or perhaps more important which you should not bother with, and what you can be doing to make best use of your time on social media.

The second part of the session encourages your team to develop realistic steps towards achieve the brand’s social media goals. It also asks you to come up with specific, realistic targets, such as an increasing your number of followers or shares per post. Reviewing these targets every few weeks or months will help you determine whether or not you are on track, and allow you to make adjustments to your social media calendar.

Need to find your voice? Drop a message to [email protected]