Ready for Thievery

A theft-ready content strategy deck, Harry Potter on TikTok, and an exhaustive reading list about brands and consumer culture

Hello, friendly human. Every week, this dispatch helps you make better creative and strategic decisions. Sometimes that means essays. Sometimes that means resources. This time it means a deck you can steal for content projects. It’s good to see you. -Steve

Recently I started a new content project for a brand, so I thought I’d share an anonymized version of the deck I created for the client.

Hopefully, it provides you with a good template for your own work, or saves you some time, or helps you organize an internal project at your place of business. You’re free to steal it, copy it, remix it, feed it to the dog, etc etc.

But let me tell you about the project first.

The remit is straightforward: devise a content marketing strategy for an existing brand. The brand sells a risk management product. The brand wants to drop its current content and start fresh. To help them, we need to understand their audience, their competitors, and their brand.

The project deliverable is a marketing plan that helps the client make decisions about what content to create. That deliverable includes an audience definition, suggested topics, prioritized messaging, and calendaring across certain channels. While this project is to develop content strategy for an existing brand, the deliverable is more similar to what you’d devise for a startup.

I mention all of this because: there is no one-size-fits-all content strategy project. Startup projects are usually different than existing brand projects. Brands at different stages of growth need different scales of service.

My speciality is strategy, so I tend to focus on projects where my skill set of strategically defining how a brand should speak via content is best applied. Tools that help brands make decisions—that’s the fun stuff.

You can download the deck via Google Slides here.

This deck also includes an audience empathy map and audience persona worksheet:

These are intentionally reductive versions of those tools (common in the marketplace) because I believe in starting simply, as per Gall’s Law: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.”

If you want to chat through any of this, feel free to grab a 30-minute meeting. I’d love to meet you.

Have a great week,


Gif by Guillaume Kurkdjian

Currently working on

Creating sales enablement tools for a healthcare technology brand and developing a content strategy for an insurance brand. 

Office hours

Want to chat? I host Office Hours every weekday to talk with anyone/everyone about content marketing, editorial ops, managing writers, the joy of playing D&D via zoom, how to diet while still eating Cheez-Its—literally anything! Grab a 30-minute meeting. I’d love to meet you.

Last week’s most clicked links:

(Oh and p.s., my little essay on Chinese flat earthers was featured in WITI last week, check it out!)

Delightful and Informative Links

  • A Visual Database of Brand Guidelines
    A useful DB of guideline PDFs from a range of popular brands including Peloton, The Infatuation, Lyft, and more. Free to download. Useful if you’re comparing palettes, logos, and typography, or just want a template to steal for your own work. Compiled by Air, which looks like a fun mood board-like tool.

  • The only brands and culture reading list you’ll ever need
    Fellow WITI contributor Ana, who writes the popular Sociology of Business newsletter, compiled a reading list of books and web sites that promises to “guide you to better understand what people today find valuable and how they decide what’s worth paying for.” Some really good recs on brand strategy, cultural criticism, status signaling, behavioral econ and more, including some of my fave newsletters: WITI, Ribbonfarm, and Sentiers, plus a whole lot I haven’t heard of but look forward to checking out.

  • Leverage Curves vs. Career Paths
    Another infuriatingly good and interesting piece from Venkatesh at Ribbonfarm—I am jealous of his ideas, but more jealous of his rapid output!—in which he maps out long-term career planning for free agents via a “leverage graph”. I very much enjoy being an independent consultant, and this piece provides a great framework for how to think about my business as an ongoing entity that needs to evolve.

  • COVID Risks and Benefits Matrix
    I was recommended Emily Oster’s newsletter about parenting and data for this piece, which 2x2s the risks and benefits of certain activities during the pandemic. Love the way she thinks!

  • TikTok and the Sorting Hat
    There’s so much talk about TikTok and security that I thought it useful to share what I think are the most essential reads (ftr I don’t really care about TikTok from a marketing angle, I just think it’s a fun app and topic):

    TikTok and the Sorting Hat: Eugene Wei explains exactly how and why a Chinese app was able to leap the cultural barrier.

    Microsoft and TikTok, The Microsoft Angle, The TikTok Angle: a paid post (sorry!) from Ben Thompson in which he argues why it actually makes sense for Microsoft to buy TikTok (basically, it’s a great deal, financially speaking, to buy the one company that has the best chance at competing with Facebook—and other tech companies probably can’t buy it because of antitrust concerns).

    It Doesn’t Matter Who Owns TikTok, in which Shoshana Wodinsky explains how and why the complexity of the internet’s pipes, platforms, and data-sharing agreements make “app ownership” almost beside the point.

How can I help you?

This 100% organic, free-range, desktop-to-inbox newsletter is devoted to helping you make better creative decisions in marketing and beyond. Delivery at 6pm ET every Sunday, sharp as cheddar. Your host is Steve Bryant, who is for hire. Two big reasons to get in touch:

  1. You work for a brand and you want to develop or manage your brand’s content marketing

  2. You work for an agency and you want to develop content ideas and proposals for a pitch, or manage content programs for clients.

If you’d like to chat just grab a 30-minute meeting. I’d love to meet you.

If you found this dispatch useful, please forward it to your friends and lovers. Thanks for hanging out. Be seeing you.