The Astronaut, the Rock Star, and Your Content Strategy

Chris Hadfield juggling tomatoes

20 million views … and counting.

I remember the first time I saw it. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, then commander of the International Space station, had taken his guitar into space. He posted a simple but powerful video of himself performing David Bowie’s classic “Space Oddity” — in space. (Note: Sadly, the license for the video has expired, so for now it’s not publicly available.)

As far as I’m concerned, this pretty well cemented his position as coolest dude there has ever been. I mean, Canadian plus astronaut plus Bowie? That’s the trifecta of cool right there.

(Plus he juggles. In space.)

Like a lot of people, I assumed that Hadfield had an amazing innate understanding of what worked and didn’t work as content. He had been posting neat and interesting content to the web for months —- great tweets and YouTube videos on funny, everyday aspects of life in space.

They were memorable, they were highly shareable, and they paved the way for that 20-million view bombshell.

So imagine how surprised I was when I read Hadfield’s biography — and found out that when he was getting started, he was actually sort of an idiot about content.

But he knew where to go for help … the kind of help that you might benefit from as well.

Enter the entreproducer

Hadfield was on Twitter fairly early on … but (by his own admission) his content was pretty bad.

It was boring. It was dry. It wasn’t well suited to the medium.

Fortunately for us, Hadfield’s son Evan is really smart about content. He helped his dad understand what kind of content was worth posting — and would get people talking.

It isn’t so much teaching him how to use it, as teaching him how to use it properly. And the lessons continue even today. There is a difference between tweeting and tweeting in a way that people can respond to and enjoy properly. ~Evan Hadfield

Evan continued to work with his dad on how to make his content more remarkable — up to and including suggesting the Space Oddities cover, and working on securing the rights and getting the video edited.

Chris Hadfield is arguably the most effective promoter for space travel since human beings first landed on the moon. But he couldn’t have done it without his behind-the-scenes help — the “entreproducer” who understood how to make it rain.

In other words, Evan was the one in charge of guiding his dad’s presence and keeping the Seriously Cool factor cranked up to 11.

This is the role a professional content strategist or new breed copywriter can play for you.

You might have amazing abilities. Maybe you’re the equivalent of a space station commander in their field.

But that doesn’t mean you understand anything about what makes content memorable.

It’s possible you’ll still be the one who writes at least some of the words. (It was Chris Hadfield who actually wrote all of the tweets; Evan just provided the guidance and took care of a lot of housekeeping tasks.)

The words matter, but the strategy matters even more.

  • Understanding what the audience wants.
  • Understanding how different formats work together.
  • Understanding what makes content shareable.
  • Understanding how content creates the overarching message you want.
  • Understanding how to drive the behavior you need, whether it’s a sale, an email opt-in, or international support for the planet’s patchwork of space programs.

When you hire a copywriter or content strategist, you may be paying for their wonderful words (or video and audio skills, as the case may be). But remember — you’re also paying for their rainmaker hat.

Keep the world’s coolest person in mind when you’re looking for a writer for your website. What you need is someone who knows how to make you remarkable and memorable.

Image by NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Sonia Simone


Sonia Simone is co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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Comments

  1. I have some clients who do all their own writing. My job is to tell them what to write about, and optimize it for search afterwards. I’m a human version of Scribe. :)

  2. I’ve always created my own sales copy and I’m definitely not an expert at it.

    Understanding the needs and desires of your target audience definitely helps create copy that sells because you can craft a marketing message that resonates with your audience.

    Personally, I can’t see myself ever hiring a pro copywriter. Why? Because if they’re not as passionate about your product or service, surely it will shine through their words!

    What’s your opinion about this?

    **Cheers
    Kerry

    • Because if they’re not as passionate about your product or service, surely it will shine through their words!

      It’s the professional copywriter’s job to convey that passion. Generally, they do a better job than the business owner because they take nothing for granted. They find amazing gems about the business that the owner overlooks.

      • But how to covey passion artificially when we are really not connected with the product?
        In my openion professional copywriters are “smarter” rather than “passionate”.

        [BTW: I’m thrilled, I’m directly replying to one of my blogging hero, “I’ll jump from my chair if Brian replied to this comment” ]

        • As Brian mentioned, that’s why they are “professional” copywriters and content writers. They have this innate ability to get under the skin of the passionate writer and then create copy that makes the right impact. I totally agree with you that unless you can really relate to the product and are really crazy about it it might be difficult to write about it as passionately as needed, but this is a talent copywriters and content writers either have by default or they develop it, and they charge a premium for it :-).

          Besides, no matter how much passion one has, if he or she cannot translate that passion into right words, it can all go to waste. I’m not saying that you hire a copywriter even if you don’t want to, but if you ever hire one, maybe you can work with her – your passion and her words can weave the required magic.

          • Got it Amrit
            Professional copy writers are like movie stars they can generate emotions from nowhere yet it feels real & editors are like directors they know how to polish the piece of work and when you “Hire a Star you get a Block buster”
            So that makes Brian Clark the Quentin Tarantino of bloggywood.

            It make sense now, great !

        • It helps if you be in a niche and write for companies and products that you can get passionate about.

  3. I love to write, but am not a copywriter – yet. Maybe some day. Everything I read here at Copyblogger points me in the right direction, this article included.

    Thanks Sonia for the strategy information behind becoming a good writer and communicator. It’s a little like becoming a Pied Piper – attract the audience and make it overwhelmingly impossible for them NOT to follow you wherever you might lead them!

  4. Finding a writer that knows how to make you remarkable and memorable is a challenge. Those who have this gift are often booked up months in advance.

    I would looooove if someone could refer me a few really good writers, preferably writers with marketing skills.

    • You can start by checking out the websites of our guest writers, 90% of them take freelance work.

      But we will also have something for you very soon along those lines. :)

    • Hi Caroline,
      Clicked through to your landing page (mobile)…and here is what I would add.

      I would highlight the “result” (more money, better: health, relationships) that can come from the process that you teach.
      I would highlight “real” success stories that have come out of this coaching. An increase in business, money or a higher position; better relationship and health.
      Whatever your market wants in results, give it to them in the copy in the form of stories about you and or your clients successes.
      Communicate (sell) the amazing, life changing outcome; teach them the process.
      Cheers,
      Anthony

  5. Another great post, Ms Simone.

    “Pay great attention to the man behind the curtain” is quite a concept. I had no idea that Hadfield had such a person, let alone his son. Doesn’t that make him about the ‘pick 4′ of coolness? Working with his son?

    It is always a tribute to the man behind the curtain when the rubes have no idea he is there…

    Thank you

  6. Hi Simone,

    Wonderful write ups!!

    Being a good writer, then advancing to being a copywriter is my set target to achieve this year 2014. I appreciate the advise and insight always being shared on copyblogger.

    Thanks

  7. Love this – because his work is SO popular, and worth digging into and emulating. Thanks for the backstory!

  8. You had me at Chris Hadfield!

  9. Very inspiring post — as ever !

    But just a little thing : making an event (and a viral content) playing with oranges in space is totally sur-natural today. In 100 years, it would possibly be ‘inconsistent’.

    What a good copywriter has to bring to his client is exactly a kind of touch of sur-natural thing… And brands like RedBull totally gets it !

    Thanks for having sharing that :)

  10. That entreproducer should be me. :)

    Nothing beats a content strategy that is tailored to the wants of the audience.

    That astronaut took the boring of being up there in space to the awesome experience of doing things that still wow us on this planet.

    Now the question(s) is where do you find ideas to take your content production to the next level?

    He had the ideas, but it takes structure to blow the content out of the water, at the beginning. Made me think…

    Thanks for the post Sonia.

    – Sam

  11. “The words matter, but the strategy matters even more.”

    How true! That’s the difference between writing tweets and writing EFFECTIVE tweets (or any kind of content for that matter). Thanks for sharing this story!

  12. No one knows the business like the owners and employees. A great business understands their usefulness in addressing their customers’ urgent problems.

    What an outsider brings to the equation is the ability to see the business’ uniqueness.

    If those outside eyes belong to a talented copywriter and content strategist, then they can construct a story-arc peppered with ultra-specific vignettes from the business that illustrate the passion and purpose of the owners.

    And Sonia, you had me at Bowie. :)

  13. Agree with the whole thing, but I’d like to point out that it’s a learning curve for everyone. You not only learn more about social media and your audience, you learn more about yourself. I was teaching a class on blogging last month. Someone asked me how they could blog without already being an “expert”. My answer was that they would grow into themselves as they dealt with their content on a daily basis.

  14. This is my first post on this site. I am so happy to find this community, as I have so much to learn, so that I can become more effective at sharing the many gifts I have already been blessed to receive. I see the quality here and it feels like home already! So thank you all…

    What comes to mind for me with this discussion is the ancient oriental map of the development of consciousness. When we communicate our passions, it is not merely as C.S. Lewis said in the wonderful biographical movie Shadowlands that “we write so that we know we are not alone.” Rather, we brave the role of leadership, one consciousness inviting the other on a hero’s journey mapped by our words. There are five essential elements for that journey to be successful, a sequence elucidated long ago in the Middle Kingdom…

    The Metal Element

    First our story must somehow enter the field of awareness of the reader. This speaks to me of the need to understand the art of strategic placement: knowing the market and cultivating one’s niche… Readership is contingent on views, but not on views alone…

    The Fire Element

    Second is magnetizing the reader’s undivided central attention on our message. This is the unavoidable judgement we must pass on the cover of our book, or the headline and associated image that announce the destination of our journey. Even the most epic journey begins with a single step, but that step is not in the foot, but in the heart, with the desire to bring oneself to the journey’s end.

    The Earth Element

    Engaging the mind in the linguistic syntax of our copy, we carry our reader’s mind through the essential steps for a successful sojourn. We lead them around the hidden pitfalls, over obstacles and slash through the thickets of the formerly unknown territories until they have gained enough knowledge of this new terrain to have gained a reasonable mental map of what the real world journey may entail, as well as a glimpse of the jewels and vistas that lie at the end of the rainbow arc of their new found quest. This journey of the mind, the writer’s consciousness leading the reader’s, is the bulk of our words, the body of our story. But if it ends there, it is a vicarious journey only, and fails to impact our consensual world.

    The Water Element

    An impactful story is one that somehow engages not only the mind but also the will. A call to action is how the writer will move mountains with very little motion of the pen.

    The Wood Element

    Finally, even though we have engaged the reader in taking a real world action, they may not reach their desired destination without one final step. That is the wisdom incorporated into a well planned and mapped out visionary purpose for the journey. Assure your reader that this first bold step on their personal quest truly moves them a step closer to their desired direction. Nothing does this like understanding, the inner vision that comes when our words draw a clear map of the terrain ahead…

  15. Love the post. And David Bowie : )

    As a writer, I find it easier to “make it rain” when I’m working with companies and businesses whose mission I can get passionate about.

    When there’s passion, the creative fire burns. And the specified knowledge of the entrepreneur feeds the flames.

    That type of symbiosis can make for some huge-impact content.

    Cheers!
    Melissa

  16. Hi Sonia,

    This is a helpful article for me, I really appreciate you efforts :)