Around this time back in 1944, the events depicted in Saving Private Ryan played themselves out in the cities and the countryside of France.
The Allies and the Nazis were locked in vicious battles, and the good guys were winning.
But if you think about it, the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 should have been a major disaster for the Allies.
This was no lopsided US v. Taliban situation and the Germans were sitting behind the Atlantic Wall- coastal fortifications made up of concrete and guns and radar and designed to make Hitler’s Europe impregnable to a seaborne invasion.
The Nazi supply lines were also less prone to stretching and disruption.
But all that counted for nothing. When the rubber hit the road, the Germans were rapidly pushed back and Paris was liberated in August 1944, effectively ending Hitler’s 4 year old reign over France.
How did that happen?
The Allies had a secret weapon. They had inside intel from one of history’s largest, well organized and unique espionage networks in which butchers and bureaucrats, mayors and mechanics, seamstresses and sailors, housewives and hoteliers across France moonlighted as spies and saboteurs to ferret out German military secrets.
Here’s what Gen Omar Bradley, commander of the US First Army on D-Day had to say about the French Resistance and the amateur spy network.
Securing the blueprint of the German Atlantic Wall was an incredible and a brilliant feat- so valuable that the landing operation succeeded with a minimum loss of men and material
If you wonderful non-fiction you should seriously read Ten Thousand Eyes which tells the story behind this 4 year old amateur intelligence network
But this story is not instructive only for history buffs. It has great lessons for anyone who has decided to get into content marketing.
1. Know what you want
The intelligence network delivered because Allied planners knew what they wanted out of every agent in every sector. Before the invasion not only they had both the big picture but also details like the calibre of artillery pieces on a beach overlooking the landing zone and the thickness of a wall of a bunker in a particular coastal village.
You can’t succeed with content marketing if you don’t know what you want out of it. Profits? Conversions? Traffic? Increase in SERPs? Get cracking on those things even before you commit a dollar to the effort.
2. Become a master in psychology
Because Germans were so clean, agents concealed incriminating documents like fake identity cards, maps showing military installations and regular reports inside dirty laundry baskets and broken down boilers. Regardless of how thorough the Gestapo was with their searches, not once did they look under a pile of filthy clothes.
Your content has to appeal to the lizard brain of your prospects for it to have the maximum impact. Develop a buyer persona for your target demographic so that your content can address their pain points, make their lives simpler and positively impact their bottom line.
3. Involve everyone in content marketing
The Free French Intelligence Service didn’t succeed because they had brilliant leaders or a great plan. They succeeded because they decentralized the entire op and recruited thousands of highly motivated people who were sick and tired of living under the Nazi jackboot.
In the current landscape your content marketing team cannot be isolated and sequestered in a separate department. Sure, you need to hold someone accountable and need a well thought out plan, but ideas for great content can come from the unlikeliest of places.
Increase the number of your eyes and ears, and integrate the entire effort across the organization.
4. Be resourceful, innovative and flexible
The Germans frequently strip checked people in the vicinity of military installations , and they loved surprising traffic with roadblocks. Agents whose job was to, say, measure the dimensions of a minefield kept track of the distances by chewing matchsticks. Others sneaked downed Allied pilots through roadblocks by handcuffing them like suspects in police cars or trussing them up in straitjackets at the back of mental hospital ambulances.
Your business environment is in a constant change of flux. Technologies and platforms are rapidly evolving and like the wildebeest migrations in the Serengeti, your prospects can move from one platform to another. Unless you adjust and keep up, and constantly keep experimenting with content formats that work you will become another dinosaur.
For example, video and mobile are two of the hottest things in 2012. Do you have a video content strategy, or is your website optimized for mobile?
5. Set up protocols,systems and processes
Because the Gestapo was infamous for torturing and executing Resistants, a number of protocols were established for safety. Radio transmitters were moved around after every broadcast, real names were rarely used and most agents knew only a few others in the network . Even then carelessness, treason or bad luck meant that the networks were this close to being broken up.
Content marketing needs similar routines. You need to establish an editorial calendar, automate things like sharing to multiple social networks and set up auto responders. Clear policies are also needed for policing comment sections in blogs and responding to social media crises.
Don’t build your content marketing effort around people, build it around easily replicable systems and processes.
6. Your personal likes and dislikes are irrelevant
The French Resistance was not homogenous in its composition. There were Royalists who despised the republic and wish for the return of the monarchy. Others were communists. Some were die hard de Gaulle supporters while some were violently opposed to him. Yet most of them looked past the differences and worked together because all could agree on the ultimate goal of defeating the Germans.
You might love that video of your dog on a skateboard. You may think that comic sans and a flash heavy website with a white text on a red background is the best thing since sliced bread. You might think that blogs are a fad.
But content marketing is not about you, it’s about your audience.
Ask them what they want and then give them that. Rake in the moolah and post videos of your dog skateboarding across the sidewalk on your personal YouTube channel. I will take a peek, Scout’s Honor.
The most successful and innovative companies are those which encourages employees and advocates to contribute ideas. Are you using a top down model for your content marketing, or is a more inclusive and sustainable ?