Because She Said So: 13 Content Marketing Lessons From Your Mother

“You’re right, Ma.” – Dorothy

“Of course I am! You think I got this old by being stupid?” – Sophia

Maybe you grew up watching The Golden Girls (or reruns) and can hear those voices in your head. Maybe you’ve never heard of Sophia and Dorothy, the sitcom mother-daughter duo who traded retorts like nerds trade Magic: The Gathering cards — that is, with unholy glee.

Either way, if you know anything at all about mothers, it’s that they’re always right. Always.

So many of the lessons our mothers teach us are universal and applicable to nearly every situation, including marketing. Here are 13 things your mom likely said, with practical ways to apply her sage advice to your content marketing:

1. “You’re Wearing That?”

What she meant: “Do you really think that’s appropriate?”

The lesson for content marketers: What visual impression are you leaving on your readers? Is it the impression you want them to have — that you’re sloppy or inappropriate? Appearances matter. Design matters. Consistency matters. If you can’t afford a graphic designer, use website templates to make sure that your work looks professional. Consider SquarespaceWeebly orStudioPress. Use stock photography that’s stylistically consistent, or commission work from a single individual.

2. “If You Keep Making That Face, It’ll Freeze That Way.”

What she meant: “Stop doing that before you get used to it.”

The lesson for content marketers: Bad habits are easy to form and hard to break — especially the habit of negativity. Do you shoot down new ideas from younger, less experienced writers? When you write, do you find original angles to contribute to the conversation, or do you tend write only when you’re criticizing the work of others? Unless you have the wit of Mark Twain, crankiness is not an asset. Solicit the honest feedback of honest colleagues. Ask them to tell you if your writing has an approachable tone or an ugly one.

3. “I Didn’t Raise You Like That.”

What she meant: “What you’re doing is not a reflection of your training or my values.”

The lesson for content marketers: Your content marketing should match your brand’s core values 100% of the time. While there can be a range of specific tactics and executions, they should work in harmony. No jarring notes. All it takes is one rogue article — one social media blunder — that doesn’t match your brand’s values to get the kind of attention you don’t want.

4. “Sit Still!”

What she meant: “Your squirming around makes my job harder.”

The lesson for content marketers: When your brand’s content has an inconsistent tone, you’re making things harder for your readers. In fact, regular readers should be able to recognize your brand’s content based on its unique, consistent tone. For example, a New Yorker article does not read like a Southern Living article — not because one type of content is inherently better than the other, but because a consistent tone has been developed for each audience.

If you’re writing copy for a brand without a consistent tone, make it a priority to remedy this. (Distilled has a great Brand Tone of Voice guide to get you started.) And if you’re writing copy for a brand whose tone isn’t your natural style, don’t get squirmy and stray too far from it!

5. “I Brought You Into This World, And I Can Take You Out Of It.”

What she meant: “I am the reason you exist.”

The lesson for content marketers: Your content marketing should focus on the needs of your customer — not the features of your product or service. Your customers are the entire reason that you’re in business, and you must respect that. The most successful content marketing campaigns — the ones that lead to initial sales and long-term customer loyalty — are the ones that help customers understand how you’re solving their problems.

6. “Find Something To Do Or I Will Find You Something To Do.”

What she meant: “Don’t complain about being bored. There is always something that needs to be done.”

The lesson for content marketers: Is it possible to write everything you could possibly write about a particular brand, industry or topic? Some days, it may feel like it. You may be beyond bored by your own content. If you are, don’t you think your readers will be, too? Don’t whine about writer’s block or boredom. Instead, figure out your writing triggers – the things that always spark an idea. Then, go trigger them!

7. “What Do You Mean Your Project Is Due Tomorrow?”

What she meant: “You should be more responsible.”

The lesson for content marketers: Deadlines are a boon and a bane to writers. They’re a boon because they force action. When a deadline approaches, you have no choice but to work. It can be invigorating.

But, if you procrastinate unnecessarily, a deadline can cause you nothing but anxiety. No matter how glamorous the pell-mell rush of a newsroom can seem, the truth is, we do our best work when we’re rested, recharged and — most of all — prepared. Take responsibility for your deadlines. Meet them. There’s no mother there to finish your science fair project for you.

8. “Just Wait Until Your Father Gets Home.”

What she meant: “There are more consequences for what you’ve done.”

The lesson for content marketers: How many times did you hear this from your mother and hope that she would forget? Or pray that your father wouldn’t care as much as she did? When we make mistakes, our instinct is to hide whatever we can and minimize what we can’t. And yet, as consumers ourselves, it makes us feel good to be benevolent and forgive. Perhaps that’s why we find full confessions from younger brands refreshing.

Consider Groove, whose CEO admitted that his team was inexcusably unaware about a server outage for 12 hours — and that the absent-minded oversight will cost his company in ways he can’t even calculate yet. If a confession will do you more good than a coverup, then by all mean, confess. When it’s not in your power to control that, can you at least take steps to prevent a social media crisis?

9. “If All Your Friends Jumped Off A Bridge, Would You?”

What she meant: “Use your brain.”

The lesson for content marketers: Trends in marketing come and go. But just because “everyone else says” your business needs to, say, churn out infographics doesn’t mean it’s true. Do your research. Be selective. Most of all, think about what kinds of content will help you achieve your goals.

10. “I’m Not Asking, I’m Telling.”

What she meant: “This is conversation is not a negotiation.”

The lesson for content marketers: Sometimes your content will reach an implacable audience — or worse, an audience determined to think and speak the very worst of you. They’re not reasonable. They’re not logical. They’re — quite frankly — not your audience. Do not negotiate. Do not engage. Do not feed the trolls.

11. “Talking To You Is Like Talking To A Brick Wall.”

What she meant: “I have no idea what you’re thinking.”

The lesson for content marketers: The rise of the Internet made it easier for companies to connect with customers all the time, in places they could never reach them like home or work. Simultaneously, brands that customers once engaged with in person — perhaps at a brick-and-mortar store — no longer had a “face.” Many more brands are 100% online-only.

Keep customers from feeling like they’re talking to a brick wall with humanized content. If you’re writing for a company blog, are you offering behind-the-scenes photos or stories that reveal the people who make up your business? Do your social media marketers understand how topersonalize their posts? Help customers understand what you’re thinking by being as personable as possible whenever possible.

12. “Don’t Make Me Tell You Again.”

What she meant: “I should not have to repeat myself.”

The lesson for content marketers: You have two to three seconds to attract a customer if your medium is a billboard. Imagine if all of your content marketing received that scant amount of attention. The truth is, it probably already does. If your headline doesn’t draw in your readers, the next 1,700 words never will. Your content should be clear and easy to remember. Your audience likely won’t re-read it. You won’t get a chance to repeat yourself.

13. “One Day, You’ll Thank Me.”

What she meant: “This will do you good. Also, please thank me one day when you realize that.”

The lesson for content marketers: Gratitude is something that we all like to receive, but so often forget to give. How many times in the past 90 days have you thanked your customers? Have you ever communicated with your customers for no reason other than to express gratitude? Holiday cards don’t count. If the answer is zero, then you know exact which piece of your mother’s advice to take next.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.