Coronation Street is a national institution, but what can content marketers learn from the long-running soap?
Coronation Street has been gracing our TV screens for the past 55 years. The world-famous soap has starred everyone from HRH Prince Charles to Status Quo, and it’s created an array of household names along the way.
When one of these, Hilda Ogden, left the show on Christmas Day 1987, 26 million viewers tuned in to say their goodbyes. Even today, with hundreds of TV channels on offer and online catch-up services, Corrie still attracts an average of eight million viewers five times a week.
When the show moved from its old set at Manchester’s Quay Street to Salford’s MediaCityUK in 2014, tours of the disused site attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. I went five times, and it was the best thing ever. Here’s one of the millions of photos I took.
Now, back to the point – we think that content marketers can learn a thing or two from Corrie. It’s been around a while, it’s had to change with the times, and it’s got a little bit of everything thanks to its wide range of loveable – and indeed detestable at times – characters.
So, settle down with a bowl of Betty’s hotpot and a pint of Newton and Ridley’s best bitter, and find out what your marketing strategy can learn from the cobbles.
The authority – Ken Barlow
If anyone is going to read, view or share the content that you put out, it needs to have authority. A trustworthy, informative voice is essential – and Ken Barlow is Corrie’s embodiment of that.
Ken is a national institution in himself. He’s the only remaining original cast member who appeared in the first ever episode back in 1960, and he’s widely regarded as the show’s most intelligent and learned character.
He’s often the one that others turn to if they’re in need of advice, and that’s the role that you want your content to have. You want it to be authoritative – whether it’s about the best beaches to visit in Thailand or the latest developments in the financial services industry – and for people to trust what it says, so they will in turn take your brand seriously.
Everybody takes Ken seriously – he knows his stuff. It was even mentioned in one recent episode that he regularly gets stuck into debates on Twitter. And that’s the shining example your content strategy needs to follow.
Ken Barlow is the original thought leader, basically.
The unbreakable team – Jack and Vera Duckworth
Collaboration between different team members is vital when it comes to devising a content marketing strategy. Data experts, graphic designers, writers, animators, strategy consultants – everyone has value they can add to the process, so a strong team who can all bring different qualities to the table is essential.
And there have been few stronger TV partnerships than Jack and Vera Duckworth. Vera was the typical Coronation Street feisty matriarch, while Jack was the classic hopeless husband, with a fondness for pigeons and a wandering eye.
Despite seeming like chalk and cheese at times, Jack and Vera were unbreakable, no matter what life threw at them. Whether it was their hapless son Terry trying to sell his own child or Jack having his head turned by another woman, they worked through their problems and didn’t let anything come between them.
That’s the example your content strategy team needs to follow. Whether it’s a difficult relationship with a client or a disagreement over who your personas should be, you need to work through the tough times to stay together and achieve the end results.
In the sad case of Jack and Vera, the end result was Vera returning to Coronation Street as a ghost to accompany her beloved husband in his final moments in an episode watched by 11 million viewers.
We’re not saying you should become a ghostly presence to help your team members out, just that you should remember it’s the end result that’s the most important, and you should do whatever you can to keep your strategy together until you get there.
The novelty aspect – Mel Hutchwright, played by Sir Ian McKellen
Now that we’ve finished weeping over the memory of that emotional scene, we’re moving onto something more light-hearted.
Producing novelty content every now and again that makes your existing audience sit up and listen while attracting new readers is essential for a successful strategy. Don’t be afraid to shake things up and be a bit out there from time to time.
One of Corrie’s most memorable cameo appearances came in the form of Gandalf himself – Sir Ian McKellen, who played writer Mel Hutchwright for just three weeks in 2005.
Mel was a fraudulent aspiring author, who conned the Street’s book club members, including Ken, Blanche, Rita and Emily, out of their hard-earned cash so he could publish his non-existent next book, much to viewers’ outrage.
Although he was a temporary novelty addition, the fact that Mel was played by such an esteemed actor and interacted with the show’s longest-running characters meant he made a huge impact in a short space of time.
That’s how your novelty pieces of content need to work. They need to pull people in, make a memorable impact and keep your audience talking for a long time to come.
Now it’s time for another photo. That’s me having the time of my life. KEN BARLOW HAS TOUCHED THAT DOOR.
The one who can always dust themselves off – Gail Potter/Tilsley/Platt/Hillman/McIntyre/Rodwell
When implementing a content marketing strategy, there will be times that it seems like an impossible task. Client feedback, development delays, resource issues – these can all present you with new challenges that need to be overcome.
But if Gail Potter/Tilsley/Platt/Hillman/McIntyre/Rodwell can pick herself up, dust herself off and keep going, so can your strategy team.
Gail first appeared on Coronation Street back in 1974, and no matter what’s happened to her, she’s carried on being a key part of the show ever since.
Her many husbands have included a serial killer and a man who drowned while trying to fake his own death, and her children Nick, Sarah and David have caused her more problems than we can count. From Sarah falling pregnant at the age of 13 to David trying to kill her by pushing her down the stairs, Gail doesn’t let anything get in the way of her (most definitely deluded) dream of achieving the perfect family life.
Taking inspiration from Gail, your content strategy team shouldn’t let anything stop them from achieving your end goals and the results you desire. If there’s a blip along the way, learn from Gail, dust yourself off and carry on where you left off.
The nosy neighbour – Norris Cole
Once you’ve created your content, you need people to want to read it, so it has to be placed on the right platform. As part of your strategy, you need to decide whether your content is most suitable for print, a blog, or social media to make sure you’re capturing the attention of your desired audience.
It’s just a shame you can’t post it in the Weatherfield Gazette, where Coronation Street’s resident nosy neighbour Norris Cole is sure to spot it – but social media is probably the next best option.
The gossip – Sean Tully
After the content has been posted, you need your audience to spread the news.
No matter how minor the gossip, chatterbox Sean Tully can always be found behind the bar of the Rovers, in the Kabin, or behind his sewing machine at the knicker factory spreading the Street’s latest news.
You need your audience to be the Sean Tully of your marketing strategy, shouting about it, sharing it across social media, and leaving everyone else wanting to find out the full details.
The juicier you can make it, the better.