The bedtime test of content marketing and PR

If you’ve ever had the opportunity, try to recall the last time you tucked in a child at bedtime.

You were probably asked to have the lights put a certain way.

Perhaps you were asked for a drink of water.

You were almost certainly not asked to read them a press release.

What do they want you to read?

Designed by Sarah Muscarella, click for big version

If you need an acid test for compelling content, show it to a literate child at bedtime. Offer to read them a white paper or press release, listen to a webinar, show them an infographic. If they manage to stay engaged for more than a minute, then you’ve clearly got the hang of good storytelling. If they’re immediately bored, then your storytelling isn’t compelling.

Think you can’t apply compelling storytelling to “boring industries”? You can. In 1999, my graduate thesis was on the deployment of a Microsoft Exchange server at a non-profit in order to improve collaboration. The story was presented as a Lord of the Rings-style adventure, in which a plucky band of adventurers fought dragons like technophobia on the way to the promised land of integrated communications.

Other great examples of this? Marketo Corporation released a B2B marketing coloring book:


B2B tag management vendor Tealium took it a step further and released an actual children’s Little Golden Book titled “Taming the Digital Marketing Beast”:


If you want a simple test for any content marketing or public relations communication, try reading it to a child at bedtime. The feedback you receive about your storytelling abilities will be instant and brutally honest. Then go back, sharpen your pencil, and try again until you create something that even a kid would like.

Oh, and the storytelling graphic above is available in poster-size, if you’d like to print it out and hang it in your office as a reminder.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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Posted on October 20, 2014 in Advertising, Content Marketing, Marketing, Press Release, Public Relations

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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