I have recently discovered HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Yes, I know I’m late to the game. I just assumed he was another comedian that commented on and parodied current events.
However, I was wrong. I was very very wrong. He’s much more than that. John Oliver has a knack for taking complex and what some might call dry subjects (the healthcare system, bail, coal, FIFA, vaccines, etc.) and making them relevant and engaging for his audience.
And, what’s really incredible is that he has even been able to create dramatic change with the topics he covers by stirring the audience into action. It’s not every day that a comic’s ask to the audience causes a government website to crash or beats the Vice-President’s book sales on Marlon Bundo to become a bestseller on Amazon.
His influence over U.S. culture, legislation, and policymaking has been dubbed by Victor Luckerson, of TIME magazine, as “The John Oliver Effect”.
His techniques and the way he is able to relate and provide a genuine conversation with his audience is similar to what we do in content marketing and how we should try and connect with our target audiences.
Any brand can increase awareness, but the ones that stand out over time have a plan in place to guide smarter decision-making. Content strategy boils down to figuring out what content will help your target audience and inspire them to take actions that boost your business.
So how does John Oliver engage so well with his audience and make people care?
*Please be advised. There are some videos that contain graphic language*
1. He simplifies complicated topics.
Part of John Oliver’s brilliance is that he takes complicated topics and breaks them down into simple ideas people can easily understand. He purposely doesn’t use acronyms or industry lingo, he speaks to the audience like how you would talk to your friend on the phone. He also uses stories and analogies to illustrate his ideas.
Content is important for any brand, agency or company looking to get found and create connections. Content marketing is only a powerful tool when you do it right. Quality is just as important as quantity. So, when it comes to creating stellar content, keeping it simple, relatable and easy to understand is key.
If you feel the message you’re trying to say is too complicated, try to phrase it as if you’re helping a 10-year-old understand. It will help you simplify the language and make it more relatable.
2. He makes his segments relevant and relatable.
Most people’s eyes would glaze over if they heard the words “net neutrality laws”. But, thanks to Oliver, his audience not only learned about the implications of this law but also took to the FCC website to protest the idea.
Why? He made the issue relevant to people’s everyday lives.
He talked about how the proposed law would create a two-tiered system for service. Essentially, a fast lane and a slow lane of service.
“It would be like Usain Bolt and Usain bolted to an anchor,” Oliver said.
In today’s world, there are few things more important than access to the Internet. And yet, there are few things more hated than Internet service providers. Oliver was able to show how this change in law would affect the audience personally and impact people’s lives.
In content marketing, it’s important to illustrate why should someone care and answer the question: “Why does this matter to me?” To really create that spark of interest and set your brand apart from all of the other marketing messages that consumers are bombarded with daily, you need to address a true need that your customer is faced with.
3. He makes it shareable.
Even though the show airs on the subscription-based HBO, most featured segments from the show are available for free on YouTube. This has been one of the contributing factors to John Oliver’s massive reach.
Instead of keeping the show locked down and only available for HBO subscribers, they have flung open the doors for his content to be shared far and wide. The net neutrality video, for example, has more than 9 million views. And his segment on vaccines has more than 16 million views.
To get as many eyes as possible on your content, it needs to be shareable. Shareable content quickly spreads around the Internet as audiences connect with a topic, idea, or story and click to share it with their friends and followers. It’s important to make your content easy to share and make sure to share it on the right platform that makes the most sense for your target audience.
4. He includes a call-to-action.
What makes Last Week Tonight so incredible is the fact that Oliver has been able to inspire measurable action and change. But, this doesn’t just happen by accident. Almost all of his feature stories end with a call-to-action.
For example, in his takedown of the Miss America pageant, he concludes the beauty pageant group spends far less on cash scholarships to women than its claim of $45 million. Instead, he encouraged viewers to donate to other organizations that offer scholarships to women, such as the Society of Women Engineers and flashed the organization’s website for about four seconds.
The result? The organization received $25,000 in donations within two days of the segment airing.
According to Copyblogger, a call to action is “the most effective tactic to convert random traffic into loyal readers and paying customers.” Driving traffic, generating leads and increasing revenue are the very real benefits of a well-executed content marketing strategy and calls to action are the springboards that launch your buyers toward purchase. It’s important to give your audience a specific action you want them to take (comment, share, subscribe, purchase, etc.). It’s also important to let people know how they can get involved and which hashtags to use.