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CONTENT MARKETING: A great step in the right direction… but much more is needed!

Sunday morning, relaxing at the breakfast table, I put down my coffee cup and pick up the Province newspaper.

Out drops a flyer.

Just one.

My usual habit is to grab the whole pile of flyers stuffed into the section of the paper and immediately drop them in the recycling bin outside the kitchen door, but this was all by itself, and something about it caught my eye. I’m not sure if it was the picture of the sweet-looking older couple on the front panel (“When I get to be her age I hope I look half as good,” I remember commenting to Jeff), or the huge number in big orange font (“14,786”) which then raised my curiosity (remember, I’m jaded when it comes to flyers, so this is quite a feat), and I read the smaller, grey font beneath the number that informed me what the number was all about, “Number of working days it took them to save for their retirement.”

Here is what I saw:

Wow. OK… That’s a lot of days!

What’s this about?

I open it up and see this picture of a polished-looking older gentlemen with a warm smile, and, moving more quickly now (caffeine hitting my bloodstream? mind slowly awakening?) I read the number “3” and the explanation, “Number of days it took him to scam them out of all their savings.”

Ouch.

Exhibit No. 2:

Panel with picture and stating it took 3 days to scam them of everything they had...

(Note: I suspect this is an actor/model, not a real CrimeStoppers-type of mugshot…)

This really had my attention now, so I read through the whole thing. (FraudAware-PDF — just click the link to download it.)

What I’d like to talk about isn’t investment fraud, however. Leave that to the experts.

Rather, I’d like to point out how this is the very first time I’ve been aware of any kind of public education campaign by the BC Securities Commission, aimed at teaching people what the warning signs are, where they can get more information, and telling the reader why they, personally should care.

The one statistic that really made me stop and think, though, wasn’t the eye-catching one on the front panel, and not even the shocking one just inside. It was the little one in the information box right under the banner, “Don’t confuse a fraud for a friend.” (Very catchy, by the way.) It reads, “Scam artists use connections and common interest to exploit trust. Without a clear plan to portect yourself, it’s next to impossible to resist the approach of a charming “friend” who wants your money. It’s already happened to an estimated one in five British Columbians. It doesn’t have to happen to you.”

Did you catch that? “It’s already happened to… one in five…”

I’m delighted the BCSC is finally taking steps to go beyond its mandate at the back end to regulate financial industry procedures and oversee professionals and to begin educating the public. However, I’m also shocked and dismayed that it took them this long, that that many people have already been defrauded in our province before they finally took on a public education effort to approach the issue from the front end, so to speak. The problem with regulations, and I do believe they are necessary and serve a valuable role in mitigating the effect and spread of fraud, is that criminals simply circumnavigate the regulatory bodies altogether, and by the time the unsuspecting victims find out they weren’t dealing with licensed, bona fide professionals, it’s too late. Educating us, the public, puts a great deal more power and self-preservation into our own hands, and will, hopefully, help increase wariness on the part of the investor, and reduce the success of scams.

This is an excellent, beautifully-designed, informative piece! But fraud awareness education simply can’t stop here, with this one flyer, or with the radio ad I heard later in the day with the same message.

We (the vulnerable public) need to be told over and over again what we need to watch out for to avoid being scammed, how to spot the warning signs, how to research the person we are thinking about dealing with, how to make “informed investment decisions,” as they say in their brochure. We need a regular drip of awareness pieces from a wide variety of directions and via many media channels. Life is busy, and it’s all to easy to forget good advice when we are faced with an expert criminal.

How does this impact me as a communications strategist?

Well, instead of a one-off ad campaign, as wonderful and as well-done as it is, the BCSC could think about developing a full “content marketing” strategy (see Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business – affiliate link – for more info) if they want their message to develop momentum and spread far and deep enough to make a difference.

There is a lot of power in content marketing. Unlike traditional marketing, where the focus is all about the provider and the aim is to get people to buy through sales techniques, the idea with content marketing is that “content should be created AROUND your products & services, not necessarily ABOUT your products & services.” (Lisa Horn ‏ @thepublicitygal, quoting from a webinar, Winning Content Marketing — New Research by the Altimeter Group.) Because the BCSC isn’t directly selling to the public, they are in an interesting position here. In fact, because they have deep pockets and many resources, they are in an excellent position to promote securities as a viable retirement planning option as long as people are wise and follow their advice for choosing an advisor carefully. In fact, in my public’s-eye view, I think that adding an educational arm to what they do somehow increases their value and I begin to appreciate the merits of their office as as taxpayer expense.

Again studying the brochure, I see that they are running a new program called InvestRight, complete with it’s own website (investright.org/).

Interesting.

The presenters of the webinar that I mentioned above, Charlene Li and Rebecca Lieb, describe content marketing as having three styles: entertaining (make sure you wait until the very end to see who produced this video — and the name 360comedy isn’t much of a clue), informative, and useful. (In this instance, I will follow the informative thread, although there certainly could be plenty of opportunity for entertaining and useful content marketing approaches to the subject, too.)

As I read through the brochure, I see lots of fodder for expanded content that I, for one, would like to know about:

  • what makes Canadians 50+ particularly vulnerable to fraud?
  • what are unrealistic expectations?
  • what expectations are realistic, in contrast?
  • what IS the relationship between risk and reward?
  • what does a risky sales situation even look like?
  • do I have a solid-enough foundation of basic financial knowledge?
  • have I inadvertently shifted into the danger zone through some changing circumstances in my life?

With examples like the AMEX one noted above, or one of my favourites, Copyblogger, with which to compare the BCSC effort at content marketing, this example itself is a little light, in my view. Worse, it uses fun but not-very-helpful features (like the magnifying glass) that don’t work on my mobile devices. At first blush, it’s very simple, and doesn’t expand my fundamental knowledge. Here’s an example: “Internet Promotions: The internet is a quick and easy way for scam artists to find potential victims. Be alert. Don’t make it easy for them.”

I’m afraid this doesn’t help me very much, nor can I think that it would help anyone I know. As a strategist, I see a massive, missed opportunity here. After all the work they went to to get my attention with a superb flyer and companion radio spot, they could have done so much more to keep me and to educate me more. For instance, they could have invited me to sign up for a “Fraud-Aware Friday” newsletter, or linked me to some unforgettable videos about real-life stories, or shown me some graphs and charts I could study with details about the types of scams or the types of victims, or something. (If you have not yet seen this visual representation of demographic history, take four minutes right now and watch it. It’s amazing. Brilliant.)

Wondering if I was missing something, I looked closer, and finally realized there is a link at the bottom of the page, and that link took me to a page called “Avoid investment fraud.”  Then I clicked on “Learn more” under “Spotting investment scams” which took me to this page, where I finally found a link to this page on avoiding Internet scams. I was particularly interested in following this thread because of this recent experience in which I, in spite of extensive internet experience, nearly fell for one!

That took a lot of work to get to, and it doesn’t contain very much that is helpful to me, speaking personally, but it’s a start. As I think back on my own close-call, I wonder if a more news-story style of information sharing, something more timely, something that tells me what’s going on and what others are experiencing so I know to avoid it for myself, might be more effective.

But which works better for you? Over the dinner table tonight, will you remember the checklist from the page about avoiding internet scams in the InvestRight website, or will you remember my own story better? Which is easier to talk about later? Would a regular, story-based, article, video, or maybe a webinar, help you become more fraud aware? If you had a series of such stories, would that deepen your awareness of what to look for? Or maybe a blend of both technical-style lists and real-life storytelling is best? Or do you prefer simple “checklists” of a few of the warning signs? And would it help improve your image of the BC Securities Commission and their worth as prevention agents rather than just as a form of justice providers once it’s too late? Everyone is different, remember…

Bouncing off this example, what can we do with the idea of content marketing that will better serve our clients and attract new prospects? Say your client is a construction supplies company: can they share information about what to look for when choosing a contractor so renovation customers don’t wind up being sued if a worker is injured in their back yard? Or maybe your client is a driving school for bus drivers: what are some of the most best tips they can give about “crowd control” on a school bus? Or your client is a backyard pool services provider: could you help them inform and advise both potential and existing clients on some of the best ways to keep children safe when they are playing at their customers’ homes?

As a bonus, can that kind of content marketing help them spread the word about the services or products they sell, just by affiliation to the great material they share? Some would say, “Definitely yes!”

At the end of it all, I’m really glad to see the BCSC is running this fraud awareness campaign; I just hope they do more than send out a few brochures and run a few radio spots or have a lightweight website that requires many clicks — based on guesses that it might take me where I want to go — to get, finally, a little bit more information about a particular form of fraud. This is a huge step in the right direction, but there is so much more that they can be doing to help people like me learn how to keep my hard-earned dollars safely tucked away in my own pocket.

Meanwhile, by studying what others are doing, I think I can learn a number of useful “content marketing” applications and ideas for my own clients.

What ideas does this discussion generate for you? Do you have any great examples of effective, easy-to-access content marketing?

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About Erin Anne Beirne

I use storytelling and "content marketing" to promote my clients' work. I develop and implement communications strategies using all the on- and offline tools and media at our disposal, publish books and ebooks and market them internationally, or even just simply create a new website and teach the client how to run it. If you have something interesting to say, a valuable service to offer, or an important cause to promote, I'd love to work with you, too!

Comments

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    I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my audience would value your work. If you are even
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