Content marketing is awesome. It helps us attract potential customers, nurture leads, and get the word out about our projects and businesses. There’s just one tiny little problem:
Or at least, it feels hard when you’re getting started.
Getting your content marketing strategy nailed starts with really understanding who you are and how you help.
A great place to start is what I call VEP: a framework to help stay on track with what your site is actually about.
VEP stands for Values, Expertise, and Personality.
You might think that Expertise would come first. That’s the classic content marketing model, after all: Provide value and your audience will flock to you.
But merit-first isn’t how the world actually works. (Wouldn’t it be nice if it did?)
Values have brought humans together ever since we’ve been humans. But if you find the word values annoying, you could also call this Beliefs, Ethics, or even Religion. They all activate the same part of our complicated brains.
We talk a lot about this topic around here, so don’t feel like you have to have this pinned down today. Just know that what you believe and value correlates strongly with who’s going to be attracted to your work.
Expertise does matter, mainly because it’s the vehicle for how you help other people.
It’s not what you know, it’s what you know that helps someone else
To quote the corny (but true) old phrase,
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”– Zig Ziglar
There are many, many ways to share what you’re good at with other humans, who will keep coming back to learn more.
If you’re good at something other people are interested in learning, you’ve got this. And it’s not a problem, at all, if you aren’t the world’s foremost expert at it. You just need to be a little further down the path than your audience is.
The final element is Personality. There are a few content creators out there who rely mostly on this, but it’s really tricky to translate attention into customers without expertise and values.
Personality alone doesn’t make for effective content, but no one on the web is looking for more bland, either.
Please note that not every personality is loud or over the top. There is one Gary Vee, and we don’t need extras. (Gary is all the extra we can handle.)
It doesn’t matter whether you’re funny or serious, quiet or shouty, intuitive or empirical, mouthy, confident, shy, aloof, affectionate, cranky, or calm. You can be any combination of those. But bring the person you are to your content.
In other words, mom was right — be yourself, and let the right people find you and love you for who you actually are.
Stay connected with this site for lots more advice and insights on how to keep weaving personality into your content.
And if you aren’t already on the list to get my weekly newsletter, I think you’ll find it genuinely useful. Drop your information into the form at the bottom of this post!
VEP should inform all the content you publish
Values set a healthy boundary that determines who gets to be in your circle.
Expertise drives your topic list, opening up ideas for content that will help your audience reach their goals.
And Personality keeps your content from being generic and boring. It also helps people get to know who you are as a human, so they feel comfortable spending more time (and maybe money) with you.
Staying on topic
Lots of content strategists will tell you not to stray off topic. (Often because they’re obsessed with search engines, which we’ll talk about another day.)
And mainly, I agree with that.
Everything that falls within your VEP is on topic
Writing about your topic without any values or personality makes you Wikipedia — and you may have noticed that Wikipedia always seems starved for cash.
That means sometimes you write a post that has nothing to do with your expertise, but everything to do with your values. (An uncompromising Black Lives Matter post might fall into this category for you.)
And once in a while, it can be strategically smart to post some content that’s primarily about your personality — who you are, how you came to your topic, and how your topic fits into your actual life.
At Copyblogger, we occasionally ran origin stories. Brian has one, I have one, and James Chartrand and Jon Morrow do as well. These were stories outside our usual topic list, that helped our audience get to know us better as individuals.
There are a lot of subtle but profound benefits to that. If nothing else, humans like to do business with humans. And search engines don’t have credit cards.
It’s not 33-33-33
Virtually no successful site blends all three of these in equal parts. The precise mix will be up to you.
For some creators, values are the first thing you notice. Others lead with expertise. And for some, personality drives the bus.
And sure, once in a while, you’ll find a successful site that drops one of these completely.
But most of us will see massive benefits from using VEP to clarify what our site is about and how it connects to our audience’s values, goals, and desires.
Here are a few examples from clients and friends of mine:
- The dog agility world champion whose values are kindness with a strong social justice component, expertise is positive reinforcement dog training, and personality is competitive but friendly.
- The digital founder whose values are faith and family, expertise is design-driven entrepreneurship, and personality is self-deprecating and reflective.
- The registered dietician whose values are compassion and commitment to the best empirical evidence, expertise is helping binge eating disorder patients repair their relationship with food, and personality is inquisitive and introverted.
Can you see how every VEP combination gives your work a unique fingerprint? Change any element and the entire balance will shift — and the content will attract a different audience.
Today’s action items
Think about where you want to keep your notes for your own VEP. It might be a Google doc, a physical paper notebook, an Evernote folder, or something else.
Without feeling like you have to get it 100% right, what do you think your own VEP elements might be? We’ll have more specifics on each throughout the week.
And I hope you’ll stick around for more fierce advice about creativity, business, and thriving in a world that gets tougher every day.
Stay connected by dropping your info in the form below, if you haven’t already!
Jen Baxter has just introduced you to me, you come very highly recommended! She knows I struggle with my monthly-ish newsletters.
I’ve been focusing on how to brand myself, so that when some sees my content they know what I’m about in the first few seconds. These days I living in the question of creating a logo that represents me rather than my face!
I’m looking forward to learning from you. I just created a Google doc called VEP, thanks for that tip.
Great to meet you, Saci!
Great post, I am so thankful for this knowledge and wisdom. I can’t wait to apply this towards my own brand. And looking forward to more content on VEP