5 lessons content marketers can learn from AMC’s The Walking Dead

Fall is finally here, and while some people are excited about getting out their sweaters and buying pumpkin-spice everything, others are more interested in seeing new episodes of their favorite fall TV shows. And of course, that means AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” This year, the zombie-slaying heroes are faced with a whole new batch of drama, survival challenges and bad guys, but The Walking Dead is more than a zombie apocalypse narrative, it is also a potential source of inspiration for content marketers. How?  Here are five lessons content marketers can learn from “The Walking Dead:”

wd41. Stay focused
In “The Walking Dead,” the second you lose your focus is when you are most likely to get eaten. How many times has one of the characters been distracted during a zombie melee, only to be swarmed seconds later by a horde of ravenous undead? Of course, you’re not at any risk of this happening in the content marketing realm, but the lesson is still relevant.

As a content marketer, it is incredibly important to stay on message. Focused advertising is much more effective than just throwing out random messages. If a specific topic is gathering a lot of attention, then you should probably generate more content in a similar vein. Of course, it’s important to avoid repetition, but there’s no problem with staying focused on a particular subject while it’s hot if it leads to better business blogging. Just like Michonne in the heat of battle, you have to stay focused until the task at hand is complete, whether that’s slaying walkers or rounding out your coverage of a specific topic.

2. Don’t be afraid to try something new
Staying focused is important, but you should always try to avoid tunnel vision. If a particular approach is no longer working, you shouldn’t be afraid of trying something new. In the second  episode of The Walking Dead, Rick very quickly realizes that it’s nearly impossible to fight his way through the horde, so instead of trying to battle the walkers, he instead drenches himself from head to toe in gore in order to masquerade as a zombie. The ploy works, and he is able to pass unhindered – that is until it starts to rain, and he has to figure out a new plan.

You probably won’t be draping zombie innards over your shoulder any time soon as a content marketer, but it’s always a good idea to follow Rick’s example and jump feet-first into new approaches to your craft, especially if established methods are no longer effective. For instance, sometimes you can try a new voice or tone in your company blog if your usual voice/tone is no longer resonating with your audience. Based on your resources, you might bring on additional writers to add a different perspective or style.amc

Similarly, if a particular style of article is no longer getting the same attention that it used to, don’t feel bad about retiring it. So if those list articles aren’t getting the same hits they used to, don’t be afraid to test out some infographics or even a video blog. Experimentation with new content can be scary, but it can also be rewarding, just so long as you don’t show up to your next shareholders’ meeting drenched in zombie blood – it worked for Rick, but it probably won’t go over so well with your co-workers.

3. Learn from experience
The difference between a green survivor and seasoned heroes like Daryl and Carol is experience. Daryl knows that if he wants to stay alive, he has to keep a low profile and live off the land by hunting and gathering – spending too much time in cities is just going to get him killed. Carol understands that it’s important to show kindness to others, but she also knows how essential it is to squelch your sentimentality when it comes down to a matter of survival. That’s why she’s always the first to wield the knife when other survivors have been bitten and need to be put out of their misery before they can turn and become a threat.

As a content marketer, you will also learn from experience. Whether it’s knowing what kind of content best resonates with your customer base or brainstorming new ideas for your company blog, a wealth of experience is sure to improve your content. Additionally, as you spend more time learning your trade and writing, you will discover that many tasks that were previously time-consuming and challenging become easy and intuitive. With practice, you’ll be able to pop out awesome, share-worthy content with the same expertise that Daryl has using a crossbow.

4. Take your time with risk/benefit analysis
wd5In The Walking Dead, the characters are often faced with conundrums that require them to weigh the potential risks of a certain course of action against the benefits. So when Rick first butted heads with The Governor, the former sheriff recognized that there was no real benefit in trying to battle Woodbury. However, that changed when The Governor started to kidnap Rick’s friends and family. At that point, the benefit of saving his people outweighed the risk of getting killed, at least from Rick’s perspective.

You’re not going to be gambling with your life in content marketing, but it is important to take your time evaluating the risks and benefits of certain business decisions. For example, if you want to try to change your marketing to more directly target millennials with lead generation marketing, then you have to consider things liket he chances of millennials taking interest in your company and the risk of alienating established demographics with a shift in your marketing. If you conclude that the risks outweigh the potential benefits or if there is simply too high of a chance of failure, then you might want to reconsider. Of course, if you conclude that risks are low and benefits are high, then you should proceed by all means.

5. Don’t overlook the obvious solution
Finally, you should always be careful to never overlook the obvious. When the characters in the Walking Dead allow themselves to be blind to what is staring them in the face, they often take much longer to solve problems. The worst example of this was Herschel’s infamous barn in which the missing characters were stored. Countless hours of searching could have been avoided, as well as several casualties, if they had just looked in the barn from day one.

wd2As a content marketer, it is equally important not to overthink things. You don’t always need to be exceedingly clever. Sometimes the most obvious solution is the best one. So don’t shell out for a video blog when you can get equally good results with a few list articles. Likewise, if you can write an engaging, topical article using little more than your own knowledge, don’t bother spending hours researching new topics.

There are surely dozens of other lessons that content marketers can learn from “The Walking Dead.” What lessons do you think you and your colleagues can take away from Rick Grimes and his friends and family members?

Adam Naide

Adam Naide is Executive Director of Marketing for Social Media at Cox Communications, where he leads overall strategy and execution for all of the company’s social media activities including audience engagement, campaigns, demand creation and retention. Every week, over six million consumers and small businesses engage with Cox Communications on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Pinterest, Google Plus, and Linked In. Cox Business connects online with small & mid-size businesses from its small business blog, Cox Blue.

In 2012, Adam was named a “Top Ten Social Media Maven” by Multichannel News and to Cable Fax’s Digital Hot List.

You can follow Adam on Twitter at @adamnaide where he tweets about social media, and his other passion, cereal.

Adam holds a bachelor’s degree from Emory University and an MBA from the University of Georgia.Naide lives in Alpharetta, Ga., with his wife, Karen, and two teenage children.