The 6 Secrets That Could Change Content Marketing Forever

Create Contagious Content with Cognitive Science

Elizabeth Edwards
3 min readFeb 15, 2014

What marketer doesn’t know the joy of creating content… Its a never-ending pile of fun! Right?!

In truth, developing quality content is rather tough. It is time consuming. It requires research, links, more research, images, infographics, smart social media connection points, and of course writing, , editing, editing and then some more editing.

QUALITY content takes a commitment to create, so shouldn’t it return the favor and work it’s tail off for you in return?

No matter how hard you work at it, some content is doomed to fail, just as some content is destined to flourish. The difference between the two isn’t a nationally guarded secret, yet from the look of most corporate communication today, it remains widely unknown, and is therefore a point of opportunity for your content to capture more attention and leads.

Creating Contagious Content Follows a Formula

Wharton Marketing Professor Jonah Berger recently released, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, which boils down “The 6 Insider Secrets of Contagious Content” quite eloquently.

Fact is, there is a secret sauce for creating content that runs from your desk and proliferates across the web. There is a science to creating content that moves markets, and Professor Berger has done a great job of arming you with many of those secrets in “Contagious.”

Berger, who earned a Ph.D. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has had his work appear in places like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek, Wired, The Harvard Business Review and Fast Company, condenses his research in “Contagious” down to 6 Secrets of Contagious Content. VolumePR is celebrating Berger’s research as it pays respect to the psychology behind what drives us to share content, or “Viral Psychology” and how to increase contents “Social Transmission” rate.

The 6 Secrets to Contagious Content

1. Social Currency – Will sharing the content make you look good, more “in the know” than the next guy?

2. Triggers – Does the content connect back to common occurrences in your daily life that will trigger you to remember it more often?

3. Emotion – If you can get your audience to FEEL an emotion, you’re more likely to motivate them to do something about it.

4. Public – Are you consistent with clean, clear branding?

5. Practical Value – Information you find useful always gets shared more often. People like being helped. So be helpful.

6. Storytelling – Increase your stickiness with a good narrative. Does it feel an actual person wrote your content, or like it was another trite snippet of content churned out by a robot in some distant, clinical, content factory farm?

Three of these 6 rules especially speak to the team here at Volume PR as they align so directly with our belief that the principles of cognitive science should influence every sales and marketing, communication and public relations decision:

1. Emotional Communication Wins

  • The more emotion your reader feels, and certain emotions specifically, the more valuable and viral your content will become.

2. Stop Talking, and Start Storytelling

  • You’re about to start writing… picture it. Are you begrudgingly sitting there, chained to your desk, slaving away on what feels like the modern day equivalent of writing a term paper? If so, then you’re going about it all wrong. Yes, quality content sometimes takes more research than your senior thesis, but when you transition from reporting on facts and figures, and use your voice to tell a story and weave a narrative, the process becomes more enjoyable for your audience (and for you as a writer, as well).

3. Make it about ME

  • Ego wins. All day, every day, people are intrinsically driven by ego. As a marketer, its not your responsibility to get into a theological debate about whether this is right or wrong. A marketers responsibility is to respect the facts and benefit from the science of of human cognition and core human motivators, and incorporate that learning into their work product. Volume PR believes anything less is an irresponsible application of a marketing investment (stepping down and backing away from our soapbox now…)

Remember, our dear, fellow content development soldiers, the inspiring words of Hunter S. Thompson, and may remembering bring us steel and stamina to keep refining, keep improving and keep integrating more and more proven scientific principles guide our marketing decisions: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”




Elizabeth Edwards

Frequency of Understanding Creator, Engagement Science Lab & @VolumePR Founder