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I’m sure I’m not the only one who was surprised to see Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey walk on stage at Content Marketing World 2014 in Cleveland this fall, one of the largest content marketing conferences out there today. Spacey plays the character of Frank Underwood, ruthless politician on “House of Cards” and is famous for his quotes like, “For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted.” Is this good advice for a digital marketer? Sometimes it can feel this way.

You might be wondering, but what was Kevin Spacey doing at a content marketing conference? While he may not be at top of your B2B marketing influencers list, just two minutes into his speech he already had the audience hanging on his every word.

Speaking like a true storyteller, Spacey says in the video above, that content marketing boils down to telling a really good story, and there are 3 components to telling that story: Conflict, authenticity, and audience.

  • Conflict: If it’s the marketer’s job to tell better stories, then the most important component of good storytelling is conflict. Conflict creates tension, and tension keeps people engaged with your story. “Our stories become richer and far more interesting when they go against the settled order of things,” he tells us. Go against the standard. Do the unexpected. It’s okay to take risks with your content. Give the people something exciting to read! Give them a reason to respond.
  • Authenticity: Not only is this a great word, but it’s something that an actor like Spacey can really teach marketers. As marketers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of over-reliance on keywords and SEO tricks to boost our ranking. While these practices are helpful, it’s even more important to always stay true to your brand and your voice. Speak directly to your audience and they’ll respond with enthusiasm and passion.
  • Audience: Speaking of audience, they’re now in the driver’s seat. It no longer matters who you know (well, only sometimes) and what you can afford. It’s about what value you can provide to your audience. They’re rooting for us to give them good stories, and if you give them the right thing, watch them become your biggest advertisers. They will talk about it, binge on it, force it on their friends, tweet about it, post it on their Facebook, and they’ll make silly GIFs or fan pages about it.

One last point Spacey leaves us with is that it all starts with what story you want to tell, not the results you’re seeking. You’re only as good as the material you have and if you tell a good story, everything else will follow. Express yourselves with confidence, he says, and always remember, it’s the risk-takers who are rewarded.