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Former Member

Crying IndianOn Earth Day, 1971, Keep America Beautiful ran the now-famous PSA - "The Crying Indian"- for the first time.  It had a stunning effect on the populace, and shined a much-needed light on the behaviors that cause pollution.  We are faced with a similar watershed moment.  But instead of trash littering our rivers and streams, we are entering an era of "digital and content pollution."

Our consumptive behavior has led to a tidal wave of bad content and wreckage in the digital landscape. Every minute of every day, 30 hours of new videos are loaded on YouTube, there are 100,000 new tweets, and over 204 million new emails sent. By 2015, it will take you 5 years to view all the videos that cross our networks each second.

It is only getting worse. So, it is time for a little cleanup and behavior modification.  We can make sure we aren't polluting by thinking about our content, our channels, and our context.


Rule #1: Listen

First, we need to stop thinking that everything we have to say is worth being listened to by our audience.  Do we really know what our audience wants or needs?  Before you start creating great content, make sure there is someone out there that wants to hear it.  Just like we saw pollution as "someone else's problems," we need to see this as our responsibility.  Think about what this means for our audience who is desperate for some insight on some topic.  As they go to search for answers, they are bombarded by content - in all formats - so much so that they need to wade through the junk to find the gem.

We all believe that "Content is King," so we all started producing.  The trouble is that we are producing too much garbage that is just not consumable.  We need to focus on our audience and their needs.


Rule #2: Think "The Right Tool For the Job"

My father had this great saying growing up, "Use the right tool for the job."  This was probably by seeing me use a hammer to loosen the bolts in my first car, or a screwdriver to open soda bottles.  The same rules apply for connecting with an audience - think about using the right tool, or channel to connect with your peeps. There are times when a great video does the trick and YouTube is your best "tool," just like there are times where the written word is best on your popular blog. Pictures on Pinterest may do the trick nicely, or you may want to dole out wisdom in pieces with 25 tweets a day. Inherently, none of these channels are better than the other, but they meet a certain need in our audience.

If you listen to your audience and know what they need, you can best determine the best channel to deliver that content.  Are you trying to help them master a series of complex tasks?  A video of you showing them how may be the best format.  Do they consume their content on the run?  Make sure you can digest your content on a mobile device on a small screen.   But, don't fall into the thinking that because one channel works for someone else that it will work for you.  What works for your audience?


Rule #3: Know When Your Audience Is Receptive

Would you engage in any of the following bad strategies?

  • Selling rodeo tickets by walking up to patrons during the intermission at the Philharmonic orchestra
  • Promoting your new line of swimsuits at a hockey game in January
  • Promoting the new 6-figure Italian sports car in the doughnut section of your local convenience store

Ridiculous, right?  None of those match the audience need to your solution. Moreover, they don't meet their need when they are receptive. Too often, we flood the channels with content, but don't care that our audience is not interested in us at that time.  Chances are, if you are surfing through Facebook on a Sunday morning, it is to catch up on friends and their activities from the weekend.  However, if you are scanning news sites, it is probably to catch up on world events and editorial commentary from the week.

The audience has a time and place to be receptive to your ideas.  Listening to their needs will tell you what they want to hear; a little empathy will help you understand when they want to hear it.  When to say it is often just as important as what you say or where you say it.


I fully realize that I created a piece of content to discuss content pollution.  The irony is not lost. Just know that this content was created from recycled shampoo bottles and organic composting.  Interested in more great non-polluting content from me.  Please follow on Twitter @toddmwilms or LinkedIn.