13 Content Marketing Secrets I Learned From My Dad

Father’s Day Content Marketing Lessons

Content Marketing Lessons I Learned From My Dad Content marketing runs in my family. My dad was a big New York City publisher by virtue of the fact that he was 6’5” and ran a local weekly newspaper in Queens.

He didn’t compete with either the New York Times or the Daily News.

Rather, my dad’s focus was hyperlocal. Anything that happened in his newspaper territory was important. This included politicians, schools, kids sports teams, weddings and births.

One of my father’s favorite business sayings was: “If the man wants a green suit, turn on the green light.” (If he had known Joe Pulizzi, both the suit and the light would have been orange!)

He truly understood the necessity of knowing his core audience and providing them with the information they both craved and needed.

13 Content marketing secrets I learned from my dad

To celebrate dads everywhere, here are 13 of my favorite content marketing secrets I learned from my father. Content Marketing Lessons I Learned From My Dad

1. Know your audience.

My father knew his target market. It wasn’t some abstraction.

He moved the newspaper to a storefront location so readers and advertisers felt that it had a real physical presence. They’d come in with a wide range of requests and my dad took the time to talk to each visitor to find out what their needs were.

My dad’s personal touch also extended to his advertisers. Even though he had salesmen, he took the time to visit a great many of his clients.

2. Establish a regular publishing calendar.

As an on-going newspaper with a second class mailing permit, my father made sure that it was religiously printed weekly, regardless of the number of articles or advertisers. His readers expected to receive it every Friday without fail. This is core to building an on-going audience.

All of the content had to be completed in time for the printer to meet this schedule. There were times when getting all of the materials together was hard and my dad edited the copy after dinner.

3. Establish a standard set of features about which your readers care.

When he took over the newspaper, my dad eliminated some of the editor’s pet columns because they weren’t relevant to his readers! 

Many content marketers find this difficult. If you do, then ask your audience what information they need. Alternatively, ask your sales team and customer service, they’re your front line.

4. Monitor your competition.

While many businesses give this competitive analysis lip service, my dad found that it was a business necessity. He spoke to the other publishers and their advertisers in neighboring communities.

My father believed that if you didn’t pay attention to what others were doing, you might miss an opportunity or, even worse, competitors might expand into your service area.

5. Leverage the power of other people’s audiences.

My dad understood the power of other people’s audiences. He added regular columns by local stars that were members of the community. This was a win-win.

The columnist got to broaden and reinforce their standing in the community and my father got free content and their audiences’ loyalty.

In terms of content marketing, you can’t just expect people to contribute free content to your business. You need to provide some form of reciprocity as my father did. Offer compensation or extended reach.

6. Create special offerings.

If there wasn’t a holiday or local event to drive advertising, my father would work with the local merchants to develop something. He understood the need to help his advertisers to drive sales. For example, he’d get everyone to participate in a Sidewalk Sale.

As a content marketer, you need to do the same thing. If you don’t have a special event around which to create new content, then establish something new that’s relevant. Your successes will become part of your on-going marketing.

7. Leverage the power of photographs.

As a long-time amateur photographer (complete with a full darkroom in our basement), my dad knew the power of imagery, especially that of his readers and advertisers.

He believed that the cost of film was cheap compared to the ability to capture a special moment in time. (Of course this was before digital cameras and smartphones.) His advice was to take lots of photographs and select the best few. (It’s what the professionals do!!!)

8. Use ego bait strategically

My dad knew that he had something that everyone wanted, namely to see their name in print. He made sure that where appropriate he included people’s names, especially where community events were involved.

He took care that people’s names were spelled correctly.

9. Be active in your community.

My dad was a newspaper publisher in the pre-Internet days. For him being active in the community meant attending Rotary and Lions Club meetings. He was on the board of the local Boys and Girls Club.

If you don’t have your own community, then participate in other people’s networks that are related to yours.

10. Play well with influencers.

Running the local newspaper before there was social media gave my father access to all the local politicians, religious leaders and business executives. He provided a neutral third party forum.

Regardless of what he thought of their political views, he treated them all equally. In the process, he taught me the importance of mutual respect.

11. Manage your content creation processes.

My father improved the quality of his newspaper and associated offerings by bringing related services in-house. This enabled him to oversee and manage the people versus outsourcing the functions. This reduced the time involved and cost of the newspaper’s creation.

Many content marketers overlook the power of this secret. Your content marketing strategy must be developed and managed internally since it’s an integral part of your business.

12. Maximize your content distribution.

From the outside, it might appear that a local newspaper with its established mailing list should have no problem with distribution.

Yet, the reality was that my father’s newspaper (and other publications) used a network of different channels, including students (who can be less than reliable!)

When there were big events such as a graduation or political campaigns, he made special deals and extended the print runs.

Similarly, you must utilize every channel you have across owned and social media to expand your reach.

13. Watch your content marketing metrics.

An accountant by training my father tracked the newspaper’s metrics like a hawk. He went beyond just the number of newspapers delivered.

My dad taught me the importance of bringing in more sales than you spent to deliver your product to keep the business going.


Most important of all my father’s content marketing secrets was that each week’s newspaper wasn’t an end in itself. Rather it was a part of an on-going relationship with his readers that enriched their lives.

The newspaper had this higher goal that involved its readers beyond just making money. (BTW—Gawker’s Nick Denton made this point at the Business Insider Conference.) The advertising and other revenues the newspaper yielded were a by-product of that higher level goal.

What content marketing secrets did you learn from your father? Your dad didn’t have to be a publisher to teach you about content marketing.

Happy Father’s Day and Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

P.S. This article is dedicated to my dad. I love you!!!

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3 Responses to 13 Content Marketing Secrets I Learned From My Dad

  1. patmcgraw says:

    Heidi, what a fantastic post and tribute to your Dad. They’re all important points but #4 jumped out at me – so many are trying to better understand their audience (#1) but they’re forgetting to understand their competitors.

    And it needs to be a deeper dive than products and price and promotion – it needs to be a 360-degree deep dive so you understand their finances (can they survive a price war?), HR (who do they hire, how do they hire, how do the compensate, evaluate, promote?), supply chain (who do they buy materials from, what do they use to make their products, etc.) and more.

    Anyway, great post – thanks!

  2. Great example of an old school approach. Every single point is important even these days.
    Plus – this article is a great example of engaging content with quality reserch in it.
    Thanks for the post!

    I will be glad to see you on: http://jessicaelmore.com/

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