URR: A Metric to Save Content Marketing from Making More Crap

Jay AcunzoBlog8 Comments

Here’s an actual moment in my career that made me want to start flipping tables. It’s an exchange between me and a colleague from several years ago:

Me: Let’s update that truly terrible project sitting behind that lead-gen form. The design sucks. The copy is awful. We’re probably pissing off a ton of people who expect something great when they fill out that big form gating it.

Colleague: Why? The landing page is getting a ton of traffic and it’s generating a ton of form-fills for us.

Me: (wraps fingers slowly around table leg)

Being a content marketer is tough business. Being a content marketer who cares about the content part is even harder.

When defending an idea or desire to do better work, create-first content marketers so often hear the same comeback: “But how do you know? Can you prove that?”

Nope. I just know. I can feel it. I have good taste.

The metrics we use to “know things” in content marketing are often misused to justify bad behavior — just like my old colleague. And the obsession with cold, hard, often non-existent absolutes, instead of embracing the messiness that is making stuff, leads to some pretty disgusting decisions and grotesque content. I mean, there’s just no way any human being wants to keep hearing from your company when you promised them goodness but served them a loaf of crap, roasted for hours in the dumpster behind your office. With a sprinkle of parsley. For character.


Introducing URR: Unsolicited Response Rate

I was recently interviewed in Boston at Daniel Glickman’s event, CMO Confessions. He asked how I measured the growth of my show. I knew the standard response here was some kind of strategic-sounding list of metrics and maybe a funnel graphic sketched excitedly onto a whiteboard. But, being a card-carrying member of Emotional Makers United (or “EMU”), I went right for the kill with a swift kick of the claw:

“Unsolicited responses to my work.”

If people are going out of their way to write me an email or leave a thoughtful comment or share the thing but with their own emotional response added? Clearly, the thing I made is good. And I can do some serious damage by marketing a thing that is good.

And thus “URR” was born.

I may never fully understand the content marketing industry’s need to explain in a dashboard what most humans intuitively know, but hey, us EMUs tend to fly — err, walk — in a different direction than most.

We look for resonance, not reach. We crave the creation part. We want to make stuff that matters — to us, to others. And guess what? That makes us huge weapons for any business. For an EMU, the feathers in your cap (or, you know, covering your body) come from making a thing that others really friggin’ enjoy. That’s the harder part today — making a thing people love, not putting a thing in front of people.

Once you do the hard part, lean in harder.

So, how do we measure what we make? People seemed to like it. A small number of people reacted in a big way. The rest of the stuff just tends to follow.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some tables to pick up.

# # #

Thoughts on this? jay@unthinkable.fm | Twitter | Snapchat

New episodes of Unthinkable every Monday. Subscribe at unthinkable.fm


Jay is an award-winning podcaster and dynamic keynote speaker. Before creating Unthinkable, he was a digital media strategist at Google and head of content at HubSpot. He’s built content marketing strategies from scratch for startups and produced attention-grabbing documentaries for brands. His work has been cited in places ranging from Harvard Business School to the Washington Post.

Today, Jay hosts shows and works with teams who aspire to be the exceptions to all the noise in their niche.

Subscribe to receive every episode of Unthinkable
in your inbox each Monday!

8 Comments on “URR: A Metric to Save Content Marketing from Making More Crap”

  1. YEAH—URR, that is the most impressive word for me from that event. So, I am a little bit confused with EMU, are they unsolicited or solicited responses?
    Do you think it is hard to set a trigger for the audience to response?

    1. Hey Mengying, glad this resonated. “EMU” was just me joking about being a member of a fake organization: Emotional Makers United. English is my language but sarcasm is my tongue.

      Also, yes, it’s hard to set a trigger for the audience response because, in this case, the trigger is putting out freaking great work. There’s no pop-up button, no “growth hack.” It’s not about generating this metric. It’s about the craft of creating better content.

  2. Hey Jay

    First of thanks for pointing this out. I think some Marketers are perhaps more empathetic to their audience and so this to us feels like an obvious metric that’s often missed

    Back in the day I used to work for a particular mcBurger restaurant and one of the key metrics they would point out is positive feedback is HUGE

    Apparently positive feedback was far less vocal than negative…almost anyone would moan

    But if you got a single good comment that meant there were probably 8 more people thinking the same thing but not saying it. Maybe its our culture who knows

    So even a few positive comments on a piece is still not showing the actual scale and value of your content

    As a direct response marketer also I have to highly agree that creating content that actually resonates is incredibly important, and is actually measurable by those taking your cta

    Improving the quality of the emotional context often improves the amount of people taking your cta and buying a product cold from a sales letter, so why this isn’t seen as important in content marketing I have no idea

    As for gating content?
    Jeeeeebus it frustrates me

    Whats the point?
    A competitor can easily take your whitepaper and create content around it

    But if you have it on your site for FREE?
    It can rank, it can attract traffic, shares, comments, likes
    It can become a resource thats referenced for years to come, driving you far more traffic than anything else

    And guess what, offering them that very same whitepaper as a download (With perhaps an additional bonus not in the post) works FAR better than gating the original content

    (We get optins of almost 58% with this method)

    Again I think it comes down to empathy of the audience
    Would you rather build that relationship first and move them towards the goal?
    Or ask for the sale immediately?

    Yeah you might get higher quality leads with the form first approach (And I would still test it anyway) but think of all the other opportunities you are losing out on
    Relationship and value in advance
    Higher optin lead generation
    Organic and referred traffic…

    It blows my mind

    Anyways, great post!


  3. The message I’m getting is that you are mostly (or only) going to do stuff you like. I can feel the sincerity (that isn’t conventionally measurable). That’s why I subscribed and why I’m going through all your content.

    So did you kick off the Unthinkable project purely from intuition or did you have any kind of conventional measurement that told you there would be enough of an audience to make it worth your time? Or some of both? I’m asking because I’m taking a similar leap of faith with a new project. I’m not abandoning the measuring stick — just not letting it beat the life out of my vision.

    My guess is your following is going to be very loyal — haven’t come across anyone addressing content marketing so freshly.

    1. Hey James, first of all, thanks a ton for this. Second, I did take steps to mitigate risk and gauge the direction. For starters, I talked to a ton of people I wanted to serve. Coming from the startup world as I have, you get accustomed to doing customer development before launching anything.

      Next, I really thought through the brand blueprint: What am I doing for others? How am I going to do that? Why do I care? Why should they?

      After that, I shared lots of stuff to look for a small number of people reacting in big ways (as signal that I should proceed with creating a larger content asset, my podcast). These tests included tweets and articles mostly. Some stuff on Snapchat.

      Lastly, I worked for ~12 months from 6-9AM and 6-10PM, probably about 2-3x per week, to build the early versions of my show, my keynote speech, etc., and so I could grow initial audience, get feedback, and generally ease into things without leaving the day job.

      In short: It was a freakin’ slog, mostly focused on qualitative feedback from the audience. But a slog (and feedback) that I really, truly loved and continue to love 🙂

      PS: I don’t think this is at all how anyone “has to” do it. This is what felt right for me. I did a lot of reflecting and value my self-awareness to make decisions. So if you’re more the kinda person to just dive in, great! That can work too. So can anything in the middle. Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *