The Content Strategy Behind Orange Is the New Black: What Is It and How You Can Copy It?

Most people look forward to summer because of the opportunity it brings to get outside. Want to mix up a pitcher of sangria and enjoy the view from my rooftop? Sure! Take a nap in a hammock or have a picnic in the park? Yup. What about chilling out on a porch swing or walking barefoot through the grass (what? some people really do find that thrilling!). Yes.

Orange Is the New Black

Me? I like summer because of all the TV that’s on.

I won’t go through a complete list of what I’m watching or will watch, but let’s just say it takes a lot of creative scheduling to keep up. And this Friday, June 12, when season 3 of Orange Is the New Black hits Netflix, things will get even crazier.

Whether you love Piper Chapman or love to hate her (I guess I fall somewhere in between), you can’t argue with the facts: there’s a pretty sweet content marketing strategy behind OITNB – and I’m going to teach you how you can copy it to make your content strategy even stronger.

Let’s take a look:

Tell a Great Story

If you’re groaning about watching several seasons of the show to get caught up, then I need to just tell you to stop that right now. In the words of Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, treat yo self (different show, but also one worthy of watching).

In all honesty, you don’t really have to watch the previous two seasons of OITNB to understand the content strategy behind the show because I’m going to just tell you:

Tell a great story.

That’s it – it’s really that simple.

The story of OITNB revolves around Piper, the self-proclaimed WASP, who’s imprisoned at a New York federal penitentiary. But it’s more than just her story to tell.  While Piper remains at the center of the action, OITNB details the trials and tribulations of all of the inmates, including what landed them in prison as well as each of their lives on the inside.

For content marketers, the key to good storytelling is finding that same kind of “hook.” Piper may have been the vehicle for entry into the prison setting, but the real story is much bigger than just her individual contribution to it.

Here are some tips content marketers can use to hook and subsequently engage readers:

  • Create strong blog post titles
  • Find out what questions readers have – and answer them
  • Take advantage of images and photography
  • Offer counter-points to main arguments (to show depth of understanding)
  • Supplement author-based opinions with relevant data and analysis

In a nutshell, it’s not just the actual content that matters – it’s the way you write the content that either hits (or misses) with your readers. Whether the story involves the intersecting lives of prison inmates or digital marketing best practices, the idea is to tell the story in a way that strikes a chord with the target audience.

Read more about good content marketing storytelling:

Diversify Content

As noted in an Interbrand article on the marketing lessons from OITNB, the show “broke ground” by “[moving] characters of diverse identities and cultural backgrounds from the periphery of television drama to center stage.”

From the tragically lovesick Lorna to the equally tragic “Crazy Eyes” and the gruff Red to the quick-witted and resourceful Taystee (my personal fave), each character has an intriguing backstory to bring to the table. Without these secondary plotlines that exist apart from Piper’s, the show wouldn’t be half as interesting, entertaining, or unpredictable as it is.

In today’s digital world, there’s a lot of talk around diversifying content via multiple social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+) and other digital media (blogs, video, ebooks, etc.).

While it’s always a good idea to get creative with the different ways to attract readers, it’s important to keep the end goal in mind. In other words, make sure the ways you’re choosing to diversify your content appeal to your target audience (not just you)!

A client of ours in the call center industry, for example, recently had us create a blog post focused around a video one of their customers had put together (that featured their product). The post gave us an opportunity to showcase a customer endorsement/testimonial of their product while getting some exposure for that customer, which helped to strengthen the relationship.

Wherever and however you choose to diversify your content is up to you, but other content tactics we’ve executed recently (on behalf of clients) include tradeshow interviews, curated content (i.e., best practices from industry experts), customer testimonials, resource guides, product spotlights, image/video galleries, and more.

Read more about diversifying content:

Consider Binge Consumption

Want to know one of the things I love best about OITNB? Okay, I’ll tell you:

I can watch an entire season all in one sitting (or, rather, over the course of a weekend – I do have to build in time for sleeping!).

With 61% of TV streamers binge-watching regularly, Netflix understands there’s a sizeable market for those who prefer to watch shows in one fell swoop (as opposed to over the course of a season).

The lesson for content marketers is something we’ve known all along: People want the information they’re looking for fast. Whether it’s another episode of OITNB or another article on your website, it’s your job to provide content in the way your users prefer to consume it.

Think about it this way: If one of your readers were to be offline for a time (i.e., air travel, commuting home by train, etc.), how would you ensure that person could still consume all of the content they were looking for on your site?

The answer is for you to make it easy for readers to download information from a single landing page.

Here are a few examples of this idea from recent client work we’ve done:

  • Resource guides (with links to relevant industry news and blogs on-site)
  • Call to action language (i.e., “Read more about XYZ by downloading our whitepaper”)
  • Related articles section (at the end of news or blog posts)

As stated in a Medium article on the cultural significance of binge watching, “Your audience is no longer a stationary target. They are moving to new channels, consuming information in new ways. Your content department needs to be as tuned in and ready to pivot as Netflix to thrive in this brave new binge-watching world of digital consumption.”

Read more about binge content consumption:

Final Thoughts

Maybe you’re one of those people who enjoys being outside in the sunshine and feeling overheated during the summer. But, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to hunker down in the air conditioning and get thinking about all of the ways your favorite TV shows can help you get creative with your content efforts.

The new season of Orange Is the New Black premieres this Friday: Who’s with me?

Image credit: HuffingtonPost

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