"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know.”
-Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense
February 12, 2002
The use of the above quote in no way demonstrates any allegiance to Donald Rumsfeld, or his thoughts on the Iraq war. Rather, his division on how we should contemplate decisions is intriguing. These four categories shine a light on the questions all marketers try to answer:
- What do we know?
- Are there things we don't yet know?
- What can't we know?
- Can we change anything?
As a content marketer, what are the things you know and how do you know them? How can those facts inform the critical facts you don't know? And, finally, how do you prepare for the unknown unknowns-what I liken to the fortune telling of content and marketing?
What You Just Can't Know
First, in any content marketing campaign, there are knowns. These are the questions you ask before you begin a campaign. The answers are available; they may require more market research, user testing, focus groups or other market research methods of gathering data, but you can answer these questions:
- Who are your targets?
- Where are your targets?
- What do they care about?
- What do they look like?
- Why are they connecting with you?
Here Comes the Source of Much Anxiety
How do you determine the known unknowns? What are the things you know you don't know? Is there a way to find those answers for questions that tend to look like this:
- Where are my targets (mentally) in the decision making or buying process?
- What content types are most important to them for this particular campaign?
- Will my messages resonate for potential customers?
- Will our content change their minds about us?
- Are we measuring the right types of engagement to know if the campaign was successful?
When you look at this list of questions, what jumps out at you?
The answers to these questions can be defined and transferred to the column of known knowns. You might consider performing content testing to answer #2 and #3. You could A/B test content to determine if you might refine your messaging to answer #4. Or, better yet, you could refine your measurement metrics over time so that you can transfer #5 to the known knowns column.
Now what about the unknown unknowns?
Those are impossible to know. Could all the companies that used Tiger Woods as a spokesman have predicted his embarrassing affairs? Could the marketing execs at Southwest have magically peered into the future to see that Kevin Smith would get on one of their flights and be asked to buy an additional seat because he was considered obese? Could healthcare marketers who spent months planning cardiac cath campaigns have known that studies would show medicine might be just as effective as that procedure?
As a content marketer, your job is to sharpen the known knowns into needle-like points. Resolve the known unknowns you may be able to solve. And then trust that as long as there's no crystal ball for the stock market, there's no way you could be expected to have one.