A lesson in content marketing, inspired by salad

Those who know me best know I love to cook. If you were a fly on the wall in my kitchen, you’d likely hear me narrating my dinner preparation like I was a Food Network Star. In fact, when I was little, I drafted up a pitch for Food Network because I was disappointed in its lack of children’s programming. Never followed through though. You’re welcome, Hodges.

My YouTube homepage is filled with cooking videos. My Pinterest with recipes. At 26, I own a KitchenAid mixer. And the pasta attachment. And I am pretty sure my pulse increases when I am menu planning for a dinner party.

So, when I was en route to my hometown of Roanoke, intently listening to a 61-minute podcast entitled, “Salad is So Much More Than You Think” (true), it was a pretty standard day in the life. What I didn’t expect that day was a lesson in content marketing. But there I was, cruising down 29, and my PR wheels started spinning.

The podcast I was listening to was from the geniuses over at Bon Appétit, a brand that began as a foodie magazine but over time has warped into quite the empire.

Bon Appetit does a lot of things well – it makes its subject matter experts true celebrities. Tell me you haven’t seen Claire Saffitz’s “Gourmet Makes” YouTube series. Or Brad Leone’s “It’s Alive” segment. How is Chris Morocco such a stickler but so dang lovable at the same time? And why do I feel like Molly Baz is my long-lost best friend? Bon Appetit leans into its staff’s talents and diverse personalities, and readers/listeners/viewers feel like they really know these people. It’s authentic.

I could talk about how the brand’s food photography and styling is top notch. Or about how its voice on social media is playful, intelligent, fun and relatable. And while I could write an entirely separate blog post about any of these things, that’s not what resonated with me in the car that day.

It was the content. And the magazine’s approach to content.

While it was intriguing to hear Molly Baz gush about iceberg lettuce (doesn’t iceberg seem pretty restaurant-chain-buffet-esque?), it wasn’t the content about salad that spun my PR wheels, but the realization that some of what I was listening to during those 61 minutes was information I had heard before. Molly’s vinaigrette recipe was online. The April print issue of Bon Appetit had a 12-page salad spread and preached a lot of the same tips, techniques and tricks. Head to Instagram, and you’ll see a post about BA’s 20 opinions on salad, which directs followers to its Instagram stories where it shares some of those opinions, and then encourages viewers to “Swipe Up” to read the online version of said story.

So, to recap, for just one storyline, Bon Appetit used the content:

  • In individual recipes online
  • In a comprehensive story online
  • In a 12-page print spread
  • Over Instagram stories
  • In Instagram posts
  • On its podcast
  • …And Molly Baz posted it to her own Instagram. Snaps for internal cross promotion.

But get this. In that same April 2019 print edition, Adam Rapport, editor of Bon Appetit, alluded to this entire concept in his editor’s letter – how the audience for a print magazine is different than that of a podcast, Instagram account, YouTube channel, Reddit thread, etc. I’ll share a snippet of Rapport’s letter, but I strongly recommend reading the whole thing:

A few months back I somehow ended up on Reddit, reading a comments board composed entirely of fans of Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel. One user wondered where we shot all of our cooking videos. Another quickly chimed in: “I’ve heard them refer to the space as ‘the Bon Appetit test kitchen.’”

Oh. My. God.

It hit me that half the people on this thread—which, I imagine, fairly represent our 3.4 million YouTube subscribers—had no idea what Bon Appetit is. That we are a magazine. Or, at least, we used to be just a magazine. Or, still are—but that we now do all sorts of other things.

And he concludes the letter by writing, “So, what’s Bon Appetit in 2019? It’s whatever you want it to be. Even a magazine.”

Mic. Drop.

But he is so right, and this approach to content is something we preach to our clients and strive to do for ourselves and the Hodges brand. Owned content has legs, and there are so many places to share it, mediums of sharing it, and ways to talk about how you shared it. And it differs from platform to platform and audience to audience.

So, find your salad story, and tell it 10 ways.

Feature image photo credit: ALEX LAU/BON APPETIT.

Aidan Newbold

In both her professional and personal life, Aidan is a storyteller and makes it known in her writing, strategic thinking and creativity. Aidan’s experience at Hodges ranges from engaging NASCAR fans through a social media campaign to writing regular content for Swedish Match’s Umgås Magazine, to pitching media for Richmond Region Tourism and planning press and influencer events.

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