#SMWChicago: ‘If Content Is King, Then Context Is Emperor’

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“If content is king, then context is emperor.” — Marc Landsberg

Marc Landsberg, founder and CEO of Chicago-based social media agency SocialDeviant, thinks that ideas are no longer rare, hard-to-find gems. Everyone has ideas and ways to share them.

But unless those ideas are turned into addressable metrics, they’re pretty useless.

In what could have easily been a sold-out event on StubHub, Landsberg’s standing-room-only presentation at Social Media Week in Chicago focused on using consumer actions to drive content.

According to Landsberg, “great content is grounded by human truth, [it] fills a specific consumer need and creates reciprocal value.”

We’re in the midst of a content revolution. To create great content, we must, Landsberg said,  “be specific in our goals, our audiences and our execution.” But how?

Here are Landsberg’s tips for establishing goals, engaging with your audiences and executing to drive success:

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“Start by starting.”


Sounds easy, right? Landsberg went on: first ask yourself, ‘why does our brand exist?’ Then, set a clear distinction between a business goal and a marketing goal.

For example, the business goal may be to drive sales, whereas the marketing goal is to drive qualified leads to demo X product, enter X store, etc. The two are completely different; therefore they require different strategies.

It takes two: functional and emotional

Creating an intersection between functional and emotional content is key to creating a strong message, which can make for powerful engagement.

Let your audience/fans know that you see and hear them, and that you, as a brand, are listening. Anchoring around the human need is a must.

Landsberg used a great example from REI, a brand that is currently anchoring around its audience’s human needs exceptionally well. The Opt Outside campaign, in which REI announced it would close its stores on Black Friday and encouraged shoppers to take the day to spend time outside instead of shop, reached viral levels.

With this campaign, REI is simply listening to its customers and following its brand message: “an outdoor life is a life well lived.” In choosing to eschew the usual Black Friday doorbusters and mega sales, REI created differentiation. And guess what? It’s working.

REI simply listened to its audience. They took its fans’ needs, added its brand messaging and ended up with a content marketing strategy that earned tons of media coverage.

More than that, the consumer response has been primarily positive with more than 500 million supporters. Hello, reciprocal value!

“You cannot fry all the fish.”


When it comes to executing, you must hyper-segment. Get specific, stay focused and let that drive the narrative. Be big by being small.

Listen to your brand and let them tell your story. Instead of storytelling… execute by STORYDOING. Great content isn’t just about telling your story; it’s about letting your audience create the story for you.

Always remember that you do not own the brand; you own the brand experience.


Landsberg left the audience with three key takeaways. When it comes to creating best-in-class content:

  1. Redefine content as anything produced by your marketing department.
  2. Be specific in your goals, your audiences and your execution.
  3. Start by starting. Test, learn and optimize over time.


Images: Todd DaileyFood Group (Creative Commons)

About Michelle Dziuban

Michelle Dziuban is the Social Media Manager for Cision, where she has worked since 2012. With a background in marketing and advertising, she loves keeping tabs on emerging industry trends. Most recently, she appeared on one of the most popular marketing podcasts in the world, Jay Baer’s Social Pros Podcast (How B2B’s Can Rock Facebook Live Video) and authored a byline on CMO.Com (What CMO’s Need to Know About Live-Streaming). In her free time, Michelle enjoys yoga, running and being outdoors. Find her on Twitter @dziubs.

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