“Warning! The NSA is spying on you! Buy our product to protect you from these Orwellian intrusions!”

A bit over-dramatic? Perhaps. But this semi-fictional statement is exactly what I thought when I saw the scare tactic used by my current anti-virus provider; they want me to upgrade to their pro version of the anti-virus software and buy their VPN that will protect me from the evil-doers (who I happen to be thankful for).


Their buy-now-or-be-sorry-later pop-up appears with increasingly annoying frequency and it triggered the question: Do business and non-profit organizations successfully use their websites to deliver their message via scare tactics or, rather, do they strive to market content that is helpful — with no scary upsell?

One way to answer this can be found in two-parts:

1. Your organization’s values

Identifying what your organization’s values are and how they are manifested in the service or products that you provide is a solid place to start. For example, a technology-based organization might decide to communicate a core value that says technology is a helpful and necessary tool to make people’s lives better. And they will develop content that matches this value and deliver that content to their target audience.

Likewise, another tech company might decide to communicate a core value that says technology needs to be kept in check and that you need to protect yourself from those that would misuse it. And they will put their content marketing folks to work and develop fresh content (often trend or current events-based) that matches this value. The screenshot shown above is a good example of this approach.

There are as many examples and hypothetical scenarios for content marketing as their are people who utilize it.

Here is one more.

A car company who has a brand – let’s say it’s the Chevrolet Tahoe – will choose to communicate its core value that it produces safe and roomy vehicle that helps families live their lives happily; to get from Point A to Point B in comfort, style and safety. Wouldn’t it be easy enough for them to incorporate a scare tactic to encourage people to spend the extra money for their OnStar Roadside Assistance feature? You may have seen their TV commercial where the driver has gotten into a crash and the OnStar service automatically dispatches fire and police.

Likewise, that same car company who has the Chevrolet Corvette brand will choose to communicate its core value about that product in dramatically different way. There would be no scary upsell, here, right? Just simple and powerful emotions connected to speed, style and affluence. The content marketing would evoke those emotions and connect the consumer to the value the car company is promoting.

2. Your target audience

First, know who and where your target audience is, where they hang out. Is it Facebook or Twitter, something more professionally oriented like LinkedIn, somewhere off the social media grid like niche forums, or maybe it’s traditional marketing paths like TV, radio or print.

Once you know who and where they are, identifying your tone of voice is a next part of your content marketing strategy. Decide whether your tone will be corporate or casual, humorous or just-the-facts-ma’am, use references to pop culture or use historical references and so on. This tone of voice inherently ties in with how you communicate your organization’s values.

“Attraction rather than promotion” is a key concept to successful content marketing and SEO strategy.

The approach we have taken with content marketing for our own company is one of helpful, positive information. We want to educate and inform people who have taken the time to come to our site and learn more about us or about a particular topic. Rather than pushy sales, self-promotion or upsells, we opt for using a down-to-earth tone in our content that is intended to set us apart from the scare tactics.

How would you want website content to speak to you and your needs or problems?