Most have had the experience of trying to have a conversation in a noisy environment, like a bar or restaurant, where elaborate hand gestures seem like the only alternative to shouting. Entrepreneurs and companies often feel the same way when trying to get a message out to customers. In fact, the challenge can be even more daunting and the effective options even rarer.

Thanks to technology, there are exponentially more content streams available, and more people are producing more content on more platforms than ever before. Daily reports warn about people suffering from information overload, and companies can no longer expect to push their message on an unwilling audience. It's no longer enough to just be out there or even to be loud. You have to make people want to lean in and listen.

Filmmaker and YPO member Sean Buckley has been doing it successfully for two decades. Sean is the founder and CEO of Buck Productions, an award-winning content creation company specializing in feature films, television, documentaries, commercials and branded content. From feature films like Defendor, starring Woody Harrelson, to documentaries and branded content for big companies like MTV, Red Bull Media, Mitsubishi and L'Oreal Paris, Buckley has mastered the art of telling stories people want to hear. Here's what he says works.

1. Have something worth saying.

As the old Hollywood adage goes, "Concept is king." All really engaging content starts with a great idea, either a new perspective on a familiar topic or a novel idea people may not have thought of before. "A good idea that is poorly executed could possibly be engaging, but a good idea executed extremely well WILL be engaging," Buckley says. People respond to the insight or innovation your content expresses. Poor expression can frustrate them, but a trite or uninteresting idea has no appeal no matter how well you put it.

But an idea doesn't have to be new to be big. "Be mindful about creating content with purpose," Buckley says. Projects dedicated to creating social impact now comprise twenty-five percent of his portfolio, most recently Milton's Secret, which starred Donald Sutherland and Michelle Rodriguez. It explored Conscious Family dynamics and touched on important topics such as bullying. People care deeply about these topics, and actively look for content related to them.

2. Create with the audience in mind.

Buckley suggests you, "Staple gun your audience to the content, and keep them in mind when you are creating your content. The audience is in control so there has to be a value in their experience with the content." This is especially important for companies interested in investing in branded content. "It has to be genuine and give the content the respect it deserves," Buckley stresses. Insincere or obvious brand integration will turn audiences off, and can do more harm than the exposure is worth.

3. Iterate on prior successes.

If you've been luckily enough to have created something people enjoy, and they're asking for more, make sure what you do next is focused on giving your audience what they loved in the original. "Don't tweak too much," Buckley suggests. "Audiences are coming back to your content for a reason." But you can't just repeat yourself. "You are protecting the thing they love that brings them back, you also have to up the ante and continue to make it bigger and better." He cites Fast and the Furious as a good example. "8 movies later, and its breaking records because it sticks to the core focus but is always reinventing the wheel."

4. Edit ruthlessly.

When competition for attention is stiff, you can't afford filler. "There is no room for fluff," Buckley says. "If the information or design is not important to the core of the content then lose it." It's important to keep your content tightly focused and not dilute your message with unnecessary additions.

5. Tell good stories well.

Having something important or innovative to say isn't enough. You also have to say it well. It isn't easy, but if you can pull it off, the rewards can be astonishing. "If you hit all the requirements of quality, focus, a great idea and delivery, then you have a shot of hitting a big audience and captivating their attention," Buckley says, listing as an example the recent film phenomenon Get Out, which surpassed the industry's wildest imaginations. "Super engaging content without the right delivery methods might never hit that bigger audience." When an important or novel idea finds its audience, they're more than receptive, they're grateful, and rewards can be staggering.

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

Published on: May 5, 2017
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