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Content Marketing Lessons From The World’s Classiest Spies

In the spy game, interacting with exotic strangers to get information or execute a plan is all in a day’s work. To be effective, spies have to adapt, grow their sense of culture, and connect to the world at large. This is true of skilled writers as well. A business can’t just rely on researching a big list of search terms and doing only the basics because good writing is first and foremost engaging, and covering the bare minimum is like James Bond reading off a script. It’s stiff, bloated, and just plain boring. But writing good content doesn’t mean we have to buy smoking jackets and line our pockets with velvet. Instead, content writers can learn from the world around them and the examples already set by some of the most famous spies around.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow
Or, Creating Content that Provides the Most Value Possible

Not only was Rose O’Neal Greenhow famous for being a gentle and glamorous lady of the South, she was a renowned spy for the Confederacy. Rose’s operation was elaborate. As a celebrated Washington socialite and widow, she moved easily through important circles in the nation’s capital. She relayed sensitive information to her contacts in the Southern army until hostilities escalated in 1861, when she was put under house arrest. Her solution to confinement was to continue forwarding any intelligence she could gather by weaving ciphers into the exquisite tapestries she made and shipped to the south. Her Northern captors were none the wiser.

When we compare Rose O’Neal Greenhow to a content marketer, we can learn how important it is for there to always be obvious value in a piece. Her tapestries didn’t only contain important information for her specific audience, they were beautiful enough that anyone could appreciate them. Although in writing good content it’s crucial to get the right message in front of the right audience—just as Rose does with her secret intel—it’s also important to ensure that your readers, whether they’re potential leads or not, can still see value in your material. Whether that’s excellent storytelling, fascinating data, or a connection to the human experience, as long as it’s there, you’re creating the opportunity for leads in the future. Even if your content doesn’t hit the right person immediately, that first reader will recall your effort and may pass your writing along to another who can truly benefit from your services.

Lord Varys
Or, Using Your Network to Write Exceptional Content

Anyone who has taken the time to watch Game of Thrones knows something of the intriguing Lord Varys. Known for his network of spies, or “little birds,” he’s able to gather intelligence from right in the capital or even as far south as Dorne. He’s also a well-cultured individual who makes use of both the poverty and the wealth in his background to help him interact with anyone he might need information from. It’s this mobility that allows Lord Varys to be such a successful spy.

In the context of content marketing, Lord Varys uses his connections across the world and his culture to curate a network so vast, it’s effective every time. In the same way, a good writer considers all the resources at their fingertips. Instead of just writing what they know about a subject, they utilize subject matter experts, polls, research, and any facts they can get their hands on. When your content is backed up by other sources and voices, it’s truly more effective because you’re building trust with your reader and noting that yours is not the only opinion on the matter your company cares about.

Giacomo Casanova
Or, Writing Successful Content for Any Audience

Ah, the famous master of love—the world’s greatest flirt, and a celebrated writer himself, Giacomo Casanova is definitely an often underappreciated member of the spy canon. When Casanova wanted to return to his beloved city of Venice after being run out for philandering and gambling, he had to make a special deal with the city inquisitor, essentially the long arm of the law. Apparently, the authorities believed his versatile personality and charm made him ideal to befriend and gather intel on the city’s conmen, courtesans, and gamblers. And this is how Casanova became a spy. Similar to Varys, Casanova was able to interact with people of all backgrounds. But, unlike Varys, Casanova didn’t desire to belong to any particular class and was able to adapt to whatever circumstances came his way. Whether that meant engaging with the rogues or clinking glasses with the high court, he found a way to speak the same language his contacts and help them feel comfortable.

What we can learn from Casanova is that one of the many content marketing tools on a good writer’s shelf is versatility. A skilled content marketer can write in any voice and utilizes this skill to help target any of a business’ specific audiences by speaking as one of them, or in a way that audience can understand. Not all audiences have the same knowledge of your services or industry, but you still may want to reach them. Good writing can reflect the understanding of someone on a technical level, like engaging an engineer on software specifics, but also paint a big picture for the CEO to understand how the topic affects her bottom line. It’s a matter of observing, learning, and understanding how to make your audience comfortable. Just as Casanova was able to charm both royalty and gamblers, so too can your content.

James Bond—duh!
Or, How to Write Content from the Expert Perspective

James Bond, despite being British, is a huge figure in the American pop-culture schematic. He’s known for his handsomeness, his snazzy suits, his martinis, and his taste. But more than this, James Bond is an expert at everything. His time in the world, across continents, doing any number of classic “spy” things has given him an exceptional skill set and he’s always ready to put it to work, whether that means seducing a princess or jumping from an exploding helicopter.

Just as James Bond can be anyone and do just about anything in the moment he’s called to, a great writer can become an expert on anything. And writers don’t even have to jump out of exploding helicopters to learn how, because they know how to research. Researching effectively doesn’t always happen in the world of content marketing. When you’re writing from the perspective of the “expert” it may feel that you don’t need to back up claims with data. But, the truth is, you’ll look like more of an expert if you can prove that reputable sources share your same beliefs or that the data demonstrates a real need for your services or product.

A solid content marketing strategy isn’t just about finding the right tools, keywords, or examples. It’s about actually writing great content. With the amount of content proliferating on the internet, it’s really necessary for yours to stand out. Providing value to your readers through better storytelling, utilizing your network, speaking in a language they understand, and doing your research can help you get the edge you need.



Agent, you have been selected for one of marketing's most important secret missions: content espionage. On your assignment, you'll be expected to gather intelligence about your target audiences, employ shadow tactics to deliver content at strategic points, and conduct your work in absolute secrecy. Download the Metonymy Media Bureau of Content Marketing's field manual for procedures in reconnaissance, mind control, spy networks, and more for maximum marketing impact. This lead generation form will self-destruct upon completion.