Since the advent of radio, television and the internet, content marketing has taken the form of written, audio, and video. Platforms like YouTube, Netflix and other subscriber-based content allows people to pick and choose what they want to follow and consume.
Today, Episodic Content (or “branded series”) can be defined as creating sequential, engaging video or audio content that is part of a series centered around a certain theme or topic. Here are 11 facts to share with your team.
1. FDR pioneered it
One of the first original series to come about was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Fireside Chats, a radio program where he encouraged and inspired Americans during the Great Depression of the 1930s. One of the huge appeals of Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats was how down-to-earth they were, speaking to people in terms of their day-to-day interests, to build rapport and relatability.
President Roosevelt would go on to make 29 more iconic episodes in the form of evening radio addresses. It was used to build a direct link of confidence, trust, and influence with his audience - the people of the United States. Roosevelt's Fireside Chats were one of the earliest forms of purpose-built episodic content, designed to inspire, engage, influence, and drive action.
2. A new way of doing an old thing
The brands that create episodic content shows strategically remove themselves from the content race with competitors and create “original series” around their buyer personas’ core interests instead. By mentally changing our focus from content strategy to building original video series, we too can start to see things differently.
3. It's both entertainment and education
The best episodic content is entertaining as much as it is educational. In a time where many brands rush to educate before building trust and likability, creating content that is designed to be entertaining helps accustom viewers to the brand by naturally capturing their attention and interest before anything else.
By entertaining their personas first, they build attention, likability, and trust — helping them gain permission to give more education throughout the customers’ buying journey where it matters.
4. It's storytelling at the core
Episodic content is the ultimate storytelling vehicle to helps you be more creative, and therefore more effective, in your marketing strategy and in attracting the people that most need your business. There is one thing that all successful episodic series tend to have in common; a secret handshake of sorts.
5. It solves for 'culture'
Brands that “get it” create episodic content that is not about their products and services, far from it. They don’t even create content that directly answers their buyer persona’s questions. It’s too predictable. Besides, they know that such content has already been done. In order to build relatibility and likability with their community, they go a level deeper. They create content that is focused on the culture surrounding their buyer persona and the industry they’re in.
The most effective episodic content speaks for consumers in a favorable way. It may address burning questions they have, poke fun at pet peeves, address current events or external factors, and genuinely speak to the culture surrounding their dreams, fears, and curiosities. ‘Solving for culture’ is the goal of episodic content. As mentioned, it’s not the kind of content that rushes to provide a solution.
It is the kind of content though that takes the time to say “I feel you, bro, it’s tough out there.” or the kind that says “Girl, don’t even get me started”. It’s empathetic at the core. That’s where it gets its appeal and potential for word of mouth.
6. It transcends industries
Brands, regardless of industry, can create an original series for themselves. The more far-fetched, the better. From HR, to construction, to AI, to accounting, to IoT, to any other industry imaginable.
The same way that you can create a TV show about any topic. If there is an audience for the topic, there is potential to entertain them; potential to create a show.
Based on this information we have about the persona and the culture, we get an idea for a show. We decide to create an original series around senior execs who have recently undergone coaching and share what learning they’ve brought back to their brands.
We can create episodes around the areas of managing work/life balance, avoiding team burnout, motivating difficult employees, and so on. Nothing prescriptive, just engaging conversations and discourse.
7. It transcends function
Episodic content has practical, revenue-generating use cases for Sales, Product, and HR - among others.
Think about it.
For instance, an organization selling a sophisticated solution trying to increase product adoption and reduce churn may create an original series around creative use cases featuring 10 different brands for their product, end-to-end, to illustrate to existing customers the various applications of the solution they just purchased.
This can be led by the product team in conjunction with marketing. An organization looking to build rapport with a list of key accounts they hope to be in business with can create an original series around a domain that the decision-makers in those key accounts would be knowledgeable about and would enjoy riffing about - to shorten their sales cycles.
For HR, to hit their headcount targets faster, they can create an original series showcasing their fun company culture as a cheesy 70s sitcom-style show featuring some of their best employees who appear for cameos. The only limit is your imagination, and probably your Netflix account.
8. It transcends company size
Whether you’re a one-man band, a one-man department, or lead a multinational business, you can create your own original series. brands big and small have access to the same online distribution channels, the same customer dreams, fears, and curiosities that keep them up at night.
Regardless of how small or large a business is, tactical advantages can be found to create an original series.
9. It also transcends budget
Probably best of all episodic content doesn’t take much to get started, assuming you have a smartphone. In its humblest form, creating episodic content can be as simple as a one-man band whipping out their smartphones and starting to vlog at a regular cadence, as long as they brand their videos as episodes part of a series.
Going a step further, a small startup may decide to grab two smartphones (or two DSLRs), some lav mics, and two tripods from Amazon to set up a talk show set inside their office.
Larger brands can hire a video team to film a few episodes back to back in one day, and distribute them over a period of time.
10. It's a smart way to package content
How something is packaged affects our perception of it. I believe the quality of our ideas and content we create improves when we know that something is designed to be part of a select series we’re creating.
Original ideas for topics, questions to explore, and guests to invite surface. Show names begin to surface. Intro sequence, music, set design, and brand identity ideas all begin to surface.We can invite our audience and customers into that state of mind along with us through how we communicate it online. When we first introduce our original series, we create buzz around it and celebrate it as such.
By doing so, our audience will do the same. They go from “oh here’s just another video” to “oh this is different, I want to tune in to this.”
When you’re done, you can publish your original series all across YouTube and social media.