The Content Marketer’s "Mom Test"

By Amy Higgins

We all have our own way of double-checking our work. UX designers have the “mom test”, bakers have the “hey, taste this,” scientists have their methods to double check and recheck their hypothesis, but as content marketers, what’s ours?

Introducing the Red Team

I hate to admit it, but I’m a T.V. addict, especially to HBO shows. While watching last season of the Newsroom, the group had a breaking, controversial story they were working on about (#SpoilerAlert) U.S. troops using sarin gas.

The reporters researched their sources and the story. However, before the story went live, the team working on it ran the story and their findings by a fresh set of eyes, the Red Team, who rationalized if the story should be made public or not.

The Red Team for Content Marketers

As a content marketer, I loved this workflow—one team remains close to the story and research while another team is used to test its validity. When crafting a story for your audience, it’s very easy to get too close to it. You might work on it for so long that you can’t even see the simple spelling mistakes. An editor can catch the grammar and spelling mistakes, but whom do you use to help validate your story?

When to Use the Red Team

Recently, I have been working on a bunch of really robust e-books for Concur—one of which is just over 50 written pages. We edited this particular e-book for months, which by the end, it became very difficult to see if our original story was even still there.

I had read the material over and over again so many times, that all the words seemed to form one long word—making it hard to be objective. So, what did we do to make sure the story was there and the material was relevant for our audiences? I called upon our “Red Team” to help with the edits.

Choosing Your Red Team

When you need a fresh pair of eyes on your content, how do you pick your very own Red Team? I have used a wide variety of people for my Red Team. When I worked at a mobile-first, tech startup, I would use my very non-techie roommate. The goal was to make sure the content made sense to the non-techie reader, so he fit the bill.

At Concur, I use people who understand B2B, but not on the marketing side of things. Unless you are doing marketing for marketers, you want to make sure your content doesn’t take on the tone of a marketer. (Yes, we have our own language.) So, using someone who is not a marketer, works perfectly.

In other words, your Red Team should be made up of people who are closest to your target audience. Depending on the type of content, your Red Team can be one person, a team of people, or many different people over the stages of your content.

3 Goals to Set with Your Red Team

Since my Red Teams are usually not marketers, I ask them a few questions to make sure the content is where it needs to be. I keep the questions simple and ask them to be brutally honest. That way I learn what the content really needs to make it pop, not just what they think I want to hear.

  1. Does it make sense? When you read it once, did it flow right? Was it easy to read? After all, you don’t want anyone falling asleep or struggling to read your content.

  2. What did you learn from it? I ask them to tell me the main point of the content. Did they understand it? Then, I compare how that aligns with my original purpose of the piece.

  3. Is there a part of it that doesn’t seem to belong? We can all get wordy at times. Asking your Red Team if there is something that doesn’t make sense can help you edit down your content or know that you need to elaborate on it.

After your Red Team has reviewed the content, it’s time to put all of what you learned into practice. By the way, I used one of our product managers as my Red Team on this blog.

How do you pick your Red Team?

There is more where this came from…

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