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Striking a Content Chord with Color Commentary

Authors: Barry Feldman Barry Feldman
Posted Under: Content Marketing
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In music, melody is a sequence of notes that leads your ear through the song. The hooks that stick in your head tend to be the tune’s melody.

Many of the most popular artists of all time—The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Queen, and The Eagles quickly come to mind—vastly increased the appeal of their music by adding the element of harmony.

Harmony is the sound of two or more notes heard simultaneously. The harmonic notes blend with the melody to create chords. Your ear likes the sound of chords.

Introducing a Harmonic Approach to Content Marketing

Recently, I’ve enjoyed a great reception to my content with a tactic that proves the creation of harmony has great hit-making potential in content marketing. I’m calling it “color commentary.” I’ll explain what it is, how to do it, offer a recent example, reel off some ideas you can use, and share why I believe you should seriously consider making color commentary a staple in your content marketing set list.

What’s Color Commentary?

Color commentary is the product of taking a strong piece of content and adding another voice to create something new. Again, in the music analogy, adding chordal notes to the melody makes the song richer and more interesting, a.k.a. “colorful.”

But you sports fan have already picked up this: my idea for naming this content tactic actually comes from sportscasting.

Every sportscast features an announcer whose role is to deliver “play by play.” While this person has the lead, for the purpose of making the program richer and more interesting, a color commentator (sometimes several) joins the broadcast adding a voice. Just as harmonic notes add color to a song, expert insights from the additional commentator gives the broadcast more depth and substance.

This model lends itself to online content. I’ve experimented with it quite a bit and it’s proven to be an easy, fun, productive, and effective way to create hit material.


Here’s How to Create Color Commentary

This is simple. Find content, by someone else, but worthy of your audience. Create a piece based on it. From the get-go, cite and thank the source. Provide a link to the original content. Then explain what’s coming, that is, who will join the party, which at the very least, will include you.

Is this content curation? Technically speaking, yes.

However, your modus operandi won’t strictly be republishing another author’s work. You’ll contribute your commentary. Perhaps you’ll play devil’s advocate. You may endorse the original author’s ideas and embellish them with some of your own. You may dial-in the ideas to a more vertical audience or put them in the context of a specific example or story. You might do all of the above.

I’ve done this a number of times, including a recent article at my blog site, The Point, with “Maybe You’re Not Wasting Enough Time with Social Media.” The original story came from, an article by Vertical Measures CEO Janine Popick, “Where CEOs Spend Their Time (& Money) on Social Media.” Janine’s article featured insightful research presented as an infographic, which contained all kinds of findings I suspected my followers would find valuable.

The article I created extended beyond a dialogue because I also introduced the point of view of Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable Media and author of the NY Times bestseller “Likeable Social Media.” I presented a number of Kerpen’s passages from another great interview article, “Social Media Marketing: Why It’s Not Paying Off.” The addition of Dave’s thoughts helped my readers, the skeptical ones especially, better understand a common mistake newcomers to social media often make.

The Commentary Made For a Bigger Story

The article that resulted, featuring a robust infographic and three credible points of view, was greater than the sum of its parts. Following are the reasons I say this. Nod your head or clap along if you agree these are elements of magnetic content:

  • Relevant research findings
  • Conversation
  • Observations and opinions of thought leaders
  • Links to useful resources

Let’s keep going with another checklist. These are potential benefits of crafting a color commentary piece such as this:

  • As the author, I enjoy credibility and authority by association
  • By sharing my story and calling out my sources, my story is highly likely to be shared on social media and additional sites by the sources quoted
  • The social media shares increase the size of my audience, potentially by leaps and bounds
  • The other authors could very well discover—and even share—more of my work
  • A series of comments and links may result in even more interaction and commentary

Successful Content Marketers Capitalize on Multiple Touch Points

Clearly, I’ve been using blog posts as the example of what I’m calling color commentary. It makes good sense because blogs are the cornerstone of your content marketing campaigns and the most popular content marketing tactic.

I base this assertion on CMI’s “Content Marketing Playbook,” which details “42 ways to connect with customers” by Joe Pulizzi and Jonathan Kranz. The playbook is a resource every content marketer should file somewhere conveniently clickable at all times.

Before we wrap it up, I want to suggest how color commentary can lend itself to a plethora of content marketing tactics, starting with the playbook’s top ten.

  • Blog—Easy. Just do what I’ve described or some variation that feels right for you. You get quality content faster—with less effort.
  • eNewsletter—How simple would it be to abbreviate a version for email or maybe a series of emails? Maybe even a special auto-responder series for a segment of your audience willing to opt-in.
  • White paper—Perfecto. Consolidate a white paper along with your commentary. You could break up a white paper into multiple color commentary pieces.
  • Article—Borrow the authority of your chosen source and pitch an article to a news outlet where you’ll find new readers.
  • eBook—Talk about color! The eBook is as fertile as the white paper, maybe more so. With proper attribution and due respect for copyrights, you may be able to leverage charts, diagrams, illustrations, photographs and more.
  • Case study—Imagine a great study on the application of a solution, say CRM for instance, that worked for a company outside of your realm. Your comments could explain how the lessons learned apply to your prospects and customers.
  • Testimonial—You’re quoting satisfied customers in your content. Everyone is, right? This is comment-based commentary before you even add your comments.
  • Microblog—A retweet (RT) that includes commentary is often called an “MT,” short for a modified tweet. It makes for a sweet tweet: micro commentary for the microblog.
  • Webinar/webcast—As guest, host or moderator, an interview or panel format webcast sets you up to voice your color commentary. Absolutely ideal.
  • Video—Color commentary might come in the form a video’s comment string, the original video, or a new cut you edit to insert additional segments. I haven’t got to this tactic yet, but it won’t be long.

*Bonus #11: Slide presentation—How easy would it be to download one, colorize it and upload it to SlideShare and your site?

Your Turn

Familiar with Michael Stelzner’s “Elevation Principle”?

Great content plus other people, minus marketing messages, equals growth.

Stelzner, author of “Launch” and founder of Social Media Examiner teaches the principle is a formula you use to propel your company.

Color commentary is Michael’s principle applied.

So you see, I don’t claim to have invented something new here. You might even say the color commentary tactic resembles (or is) content curation, an interview, panel discussion and the like. In many cases, you’d be right. I’ve simply given the tactic a fitting name, a moniker yet to be seen in other playbooks. It’s a simple and powerful strategy for expanding your content portfolio and elevating your authority. If you’ve made it this far, I gather you agree. Try it. Make a point of testing color commentary with your next content creation.

Share these ideas and your ideas. Perhaps you’ve already created a color commentary piece. Go ahead and color this page with some commentary of your own.

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