U.S. Senate

Your content needs personality - here's why

I was browsing on Facebook one day when I saw someone post a video of Seth Rogen testifying in the U.S. Senate hearing to advocate for more funding for Alzheimer’s research. You should watch it - it’s 6:37, but worth spending the time:


Two things struck me about this:

  1. Seth Rogen is an actor in movies that have…ahem…interesting subject matter. He gets laughs from audiences with sophomoric humour. He’s not someone you’d expect to show up in front of a Senate Committee Hearing.
  2. Someone’s testimony before the U.S. Senate advocating for Alzheimer’s research is going viral on social media channels. It’s a C-SPAN video! Has this ever happened before?


The second is happening because of the first. Seth Rogen is a funny guy. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and he doesn’t take U.S. Senators too seriously either. (He was very respectful - that’s not the same as bowing down to them and treating them as superiors.) They were certainly amused by Seth’s pleas for funding, but I think they must have also been touched by the obvious care and concern Seth has for his mother-in-law. I know I was.

We can all learn a few things from this video and apply it to our own content. Here are a few lessons that occurred to me.

Serious topics aren’t overshadowed by humour

Adding humour to a serious topic can get information across in a more palatable way, inviting more people to be exposed to important news or views. It’s not always appropriate, but if it can be used tastefully, it’s worth trying.

No matter how big your audience, bring your “A” game

Did you catch when the camera turned on the committee? There were just two senators in attendance. Sure, the audience behind Rogen was there and listening, but they sure aren’t the target audience for this content. The Senators are the decision-makers. My guess is many of those people behind Rogen were there for the same reason - to advocate for funding.

Personal anecdotes and experiences are powerful

Many people don’t want to talk about their personal life on social media. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, being personable and bringing some personal insights or experiences into your content can create a more compelling connection with your audience. 

Gimmicks aren’t necessary to make a big impact

This video was from C-SPAN. It was posted to their YouTube account, but it’s not a “produced” video. It’s one of almost 4,000 videos C-SPAN uploads of hearings, testimony and other content relevant to the running of the government of the United States - most of which get hundreds, or maybe thousands of views. It wasn’t scripted and blocked and directed. In one single day, the video has had almost as many views as Matt Damon’s Water.org video from just over a year ago. Given that over 1 million people have heard Seth’s testimony in one day, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them learned quite a bit they didn’t know about Alzheimer’s before. 

Don’t discount the network effect

It can be frustrating if your target audience doesn’t show up to listen to your message. However, when others are listening, it can sometimes lead to a different platform to get your message out. The more people who watch the video, the more people who gain awareness of the need, the more likely that they’ll take some form of action. Some may petition their representative to approve more funding. Others may give to support the work of non-profits that help patients and their families living with Alzheimer’s. 

Viral should never be the goal

The goal of what Seth Rogen was doing was to get more funding for research. If one person watched the video of his testimony, I believe Rogen still would have gone to testify before those two Senators. What came through on the video is that he believes in his cause and wants to make a difference. It’s not about him. It’s about the end result.

Word of mouth is the oldest and most valuable marketing method. I like to say that social media has a really big mouth. Maybe social media will prove to be instrumental in accomplishing the objectives that took Seth Rogen to Washington, D.C. - by amplifying his voice.

Can you replicate this scenario for your business? No one can know or guarantee that kind of result. But I can tell you that I’ll be more interested in what you have to say if your content has personality and draws me in.

What are some other examples of serious topics that have been delivered more effectively by incorporating a healthy dose of personality?