Journalist-turned-creative strategist Melanie Deziel of Mdeziel Media is an expert creator of branded content that’s so good it rivals the likes of the New York Times in terms of reporting quality and audience engagement.

A storyteller at heart, Melanie believes in “the importance of truth and the power of authentic stories” to connect with an audience and give them a reason to consume your content.

In her talk “Being Needed, Not Needy: How to Create Truly Valuable Content,” Melanie broke down the needs of every audience using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

In case you’re not familiar, this is a way of looking at basic human needs by breaking them down into a pyramid. The needs on the bottom of the pyramid need to be met before a person can advance to focus on the next level of needs.


In order, beginning with the most essential, the hierarchy of needs is as follows:

  1. Physiological: food, oxygen, water
  2. Safety: shelter, protection
  3. Social:  love, friendship, relationships
  4. Esteem: approval, recognition
  5. Self-Actualization: creativity, problem-solving, morality, justice

After explaining Maslow’s ideas, Melanie pointed out that smart content marketers can draw in their audience by telling stories that address their most pressing needs.

She provided several examples of excellent campaigns and branded content queued up, but she also came up with on-the-fly ideas with three attendee’s companies to show this thinking in action.

The three companies were Sephora, a well-known cosmetics retailer, an MLS service for real estate agents and a life coaching company focusing on young men and their struggles to balance work and family.


Here’s how Melanie suggested approaching each of the basic human needs in content marketing for each of these three businesses:


Physiological Needs

Melanie said that the easiest need to address in content is food: recipes, cooking techniques and health articles get at this need immediately, which explains why this content is always popular.

She suggested that for the men’s coaching business, content around healthy living and eating is a natural connection to their work.

This might be a bigger reach for a company like Sephora, Melanie made a leap to connect stay-proof lipstick that lasts through a meal.


Safety Needs

Addressing fears about safety and comfort are a classic advertising bid, as evidenced by lots of insurance company content about safety and investment company articles about protecting that next egg.

For Sephora, Melanie suggested content around the safety of their products, while the MLS service has an easy connection to shelter, the fundamental safety need.


Social Needs

Lots of companies address relationship and family in their content. Examples include a Dixie campaign about family fun.

Melanie noted that not every piece of branded content has to be a hard sell; just connecting your brand with these needs is often powerful enough.

For the MLS company, content about helping Realtors connect to clients or helping families to find the right neighborhood hits this need directly.

For the men’s coaching company, Melanie suggested content about improving relationships at home — this need aligns perfectly with their mission.


Esteem Needs

Approval and respect from others is a major motivator that gets your audience to act, and marketers have always been adept at harnessing this particular human need.

Melanie said that content about building confidence in social situations is particularly effective. For Sephora, posts about getting the right look for the occasion will target this need.

For the MLS company, content that helps Realtors gain skills and confidence to sell houses would also work.


Self-Actualization Needs

The highest need on the scale often tends to lean toward social justice and aspirational living.

There’s more content than ever in the area, Melanie pointed out, noting an uptick in ads focusing on a lack of prejudice since the 2016 election season.

Self-actualization content focuses around the “big ideas” in the world, and if you can naturally connect with your audience on this level, you should go for it.

Shifting your content marketing focus to addressing your audience’s needs — instead of your own — is a solid first step in creating content that really works.

When you focus on these stories, thinking about your subject like a journalist instead of an advertiser, you can reach your audience and provide something that keeps them coming back for more.

We hope you had a wonderful experience at Content Marketing Conference 2017 (we certainly did, it was wonderful to meet all of you!) If you weren’t able to make it this year, we have two pieces of good news.

  1. Video content will be available for purchase for those that did not purchase a ticket.
  2. We have already confirmed our conference date for 2018 so keep your eyes peeled for the official announcement!