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How Johnson & Johnson Surfaces Great Content for Marketing

by Jaime Netzer | Jul 12, 2017

“We’re in post-clickbait territory,” Carrie Sloan, VP and Director of the Global Content Lab at Johnson & Johnson, told the gathered audience last month as Smart Social NYC kicked off. “Audiences on social channels crave authenticity," Sloan continued. She argued that we’re in a world where facts are, unfortunately, no longer facts: if audiences are unsure what’s the truth and what’s merely “truthy,” and if they’re bombarded with sensational stories, digital marketers must adapt in order to compete.

But the answer to this complicated problem is actually fairly simple, Sloan argued: true stories. Brands that are able to surface true stories from within their walls and tell them compellingly will earn eyeballs on their content: “It comes down to neuroscience: if you care about a character, you bond.” In the case of compelling brand stories, audiences will bond with the story and, consequently, the brand, Sloan argued.

But the how-to of surfacing great content within your brand and telling your story in a unique way requires intention. We took away three key lessons from Johnson & Johnson’s own content-surfacing experiences:

Tell the bounce story

Sloan, a former journalist, brought tricks of her original trade to the table (or stage, as it were), and explained that a bounce story is one no one can stop talking about — whispered conversations on the train, overheard snippets from neighboring tables at brunch. Brands would do well to tell a story that adds to the conversations people are already having. Sloan explained that the story of the year now is Syria and joining the effort to help refugees would not only mean mean goodwill for a brand (and good for the world) but it would also mean connecting with audiences about a topic they cared about — something we know fosters lasting brand loyalty.

Sloan said Johnson & Johnson realized that one of their scientists also happened to be a Syrian refugee. “Johnson & Johnson had donated $3 million to children,” Sloan explained, “but this story underscored our mission of caring for one person in the world at a time.” Surfacing this internal content unique to their brand made the story really take off: after Johnson & Johnson promoted the story on social media, STAT news (“reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine”) picked up the story. The angle Johnson & Johnson took, Sloan explained, was important: rather than being political, the story was, first and foremost, personal.

To spot a story in the wild, open your eyes (and keep them peeled)

When she joined the Johnson & Johnson team, Sloan explained that she scoured the company for diamonds in the rough: stories that arose naturally, and that therefore could become compelling content.

Sloan detailed one of her favorite examples of surfacing excellent content that already exists within a company: Johnson & Johnson’s celebration of Administrative Assistant’s Day. Since 1992, Sloan told us, the Johnson & Johnson executives have served breakfast to the administrative assistants to celebrate the holiday, but, until this year, no one had ever shared the details on social — that meant 25 years of stellar organic content just waiting to be shared. “It killed on Twitter,” Sloan said, “because it literally turned the tables and made you tear up and believe, for a millisecond, there was something right in the world.” Which, by the way, is one of the litmus tests Sloan uses for determining which content is exceptional and which is just okay.

Tell one story, not every story

“At Johnson & Johnson, we do a lot of good in the world and touch 30 billion lives a day,” Sloan said, “but eyes glaze over with numbers like that.” Instead, she explained, one of the secrets to making people care is putting a face on the story. And most often, the best face to tell the story is that of, for example, one 10-year-old girl: get her story in her words, have her mom go on camera, too, and you’ll create a thumb-stopping moment, Sloan said.

Sloan shared an example from Johnson & Johnson: to put a face to the problems experienced by children who need complicated surgeries in less developed countries, and to illuminate how Johnson & Johnson seeks to help, they told the story of Fabiana Lopez Valenzuela of Mexico, a 10-year-old girl born with Spina Bifida. The most important thing to do when telling a story such as this, Sloan said, is to create a connection between the subject of the story and the concerns that plague us: “Do you worry about how long you sit in a chair each day? Imagine if you couldn’t sit down. That’s Fabiola’s story.”

Brands that can find personal stories within their ranks, capitalize on compelling events taking place within their walls, and illustrate a cause by putting a face on the story can surface content that leads to engagement and, in turn, sales and lasting brand loyalty. Learn more about this topic in our Social Media Pocket Guide.

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