09 Feb 2015
Why Reactive Should Be Part Of Your Content Strategy

Why Reactive Should Be Part Of Your Content Strategy

It’s drilled into all of us that we shouldn’t be reactive. In the daily battle to be viewed as a strategic asset we’re constantly focused on being proactive – trying to get ahead of the curve and making sure we’re in a position to gain advantage from emerging trends. We stay across the latest news in our industry and scour social media for fresh insight from our peers. We focus our content strategy primarily on the future.

Yet there’s a great deal of power in here and now – this is where emotional connections are made from shared experience; it’s where context lives. That’s why I’m focusing this post on reactive content.

As marketers we constantly operate under the influence of two very powerful but conflicting forces, which are driven by mobile technology and social media. The first is that, theoretically at least, it’s never been easier to take our messages directly to customers and others who we’d like to influence. Most of us have smartphones in our bags or pockets and reach for them whenever we have a few moments to fill – waiting for a coffee or an elevator, travelling on a train, eating lunch at our desks. A growing number of us are happy to admit these bright little screens are the first thing we reach for in the morning and the last thing we look at before going to sleep. We are always on the lookout for something worth sharing.

Unfortunately, the sheer volume of content being created means getting (and holding) the attention of our target audience has, if anything, become more difficult than ever. I’ve written recently on this blog about the need to focus on quality rather than quantity but this week I want to highlight reactive content as an effective way of grabbing attention. Despite the negative connotations of this ‘reactive’ label, doing it well requires planning and commitment – attributes more readily associated with being proactive. See, you’re still a strategic asset!

Reactive In Action

As I’m writing this from the Spectrum office in Sydney, I’m going to use a local political story that’s received global attention during the past few days as an example. The Liberal Party this morning held a vote on a spill motion, which was an opportunity for its elected members of parliament to decide whether there should be a challenge to the leadership of Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. For those of you familiar with Australian politics, you’ll know this not uncommon. You might even say these leadership spills have become embarrassingly frequent – the last Labor government elected by the people of Australia threw out its Prime Minister in 2010 and then reinstated him three years later. There have been plenty more dating back to the early 1970s.

Putting politics aside, which isn’t difficult when our elected leaders make it so difficult to take them seriously, high-profile news stories like this are an opportunity as a marketer to have a bit of fun and engage your audience. So how should you go about it?


The best examples of reactive content connect with a moment in time, like Oreo’s fabled Dunk in the Dark tweet two years ago when there was a blackout during the Super Bowl. This was retweeted 10,000 in an hour, earned more than 20,000 social shares on Facebook and Twitter, and racked up more than 525 million impressions. Put another way, it attracted five times as many eyeballs as the game did. It would be easy to dismiss this as luck but Oreo’s marketing team had been flexing their creative muscles on social media for months with real-time content relating to other events like the Mars Rover landing and Talk Like a Pirate Day. They were ready for whatever the Super Bowl could throw at them and, when an opportunity came out of leftfield, they nailed it.


Coming back to Australian politics, we’ve known for a few days that this leadership vote was going to take place. As a marketer planning reactive content, it would be a good idea to have concepts ready for either result. As it happened, Tony Abbott managed to fight off the challenge to his leadership and #ImStickingWithTony was trending on Twitter this morning. What content could you create that plays on loyalty? What is your brand sticking with? Had it gone the other way, and the Liberal Party had voted in favour of a leadership spill, you’d want to have content focused on the importance of making big decisions. If you’re a challenger brand you could produce content that asks your target audience to consider whether it’s time for change.

Opportunities for reactive content are everywhere – Madonna turning up at the Grammys on Sunday night dressed as a matador, last week’s #worstcallever at the Super Bowl – so why not give it a shot? All you need to do is think outside the square, act quickly to capture the moment, stay true to your brand and have some fun with it.

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