It's morning in the forest. A man and his dog are on the hunt. The lean, brown hound playfully bounds down the path while the white haired man follows along with a long handle swinging at his side. The river valleys of Marche, Italy are a perfect location for pursuing their desired prey. The dog stops, lowers its nose to the ground, and signals that the quarry is near. The man drops to his knees and turns over the soil with his tool. His fingers deftly sift the dirt and in a flash the hunt is over. A small rough sided sphere about the size of a golf ball rests in his open palm. "Tartufo", exclaims the man, as he holds his prize up to the light. The quest for the rare truffle has ended in success.
The truffle is one of the most prized and expensive items in the culinary world. Genuine black and white truffles can fetch over $3,000 a pound. Famed for their savory, pungent flavor, these elusive fungi are hard to grow and even harder to find. And just like great content, they seem to be accessible to only a few. So is your content the real McCoy? Is it really worth that much more to share genuine stories? Let's take a few lessons from an old man and his dog and see what we can learn about our content from the obscure truffle.
Customers Can Smell A Fake
We live in the age of the smart, skeptical customer. Lie to them at your own peril. Even bending the truth a little bit with actor portrayals or "real customers were compensated to provide feedback" disclaimers are met with distrust. You can buy infused "truffle" oil at your local gourmet grocery store for $20. But unfortunately that bottle of oil actually contains lab synthesized flavors which pale in comparison to the real thing. That's why every single marketing piece, communication, advertisement, press release, website, corporate memo, or tweet that leaves your door should always be the truth. In the age of instant communication customers can instantly find out whether or not your product or service is delivering what it promises. And when customers find companies that are honest, they will pay more and remain more loyal.
Being Real Costs More
So if honesty is the best policy for content, then why isn't everyone doing it? The problem with being real is that it costs a lot more to produce. The reason truffles are so expensive is simple: Exclusivity. A fungus that takes six years to grow on very specific tree roots, in highly specific climates, is not easy to produce. Asking a CEO to record an apology video for YouTube like JetBlue has done in the past, is harder than cranking out another feel good advertisement. Listening to your customer complaints and answering them individually like @DeltaAssist does on Twitter is more expensive than pushing customers through the traditional 800 number automated attendant. But in almost all these instances being real may cost more but is ultimately paying off in the long run.
The Hunt Takes Time
Finding the truth can take time. Cultivating genuine stories and hunting down your unique components is worth the effort but don't expect it to happen overnight. Truffles take time to grow and just the right soil, water, and temperature to flourish. Patience is required for those who embark on finding real content.
So is your content worth $200 an ounce? The next time you are faced with creating anything that communicates with your customers remember these three things.
Always tell the truth, your customers can spot even a shred of dishonesty and will call you out on it in public.
It will cost you more to share genuine stories but it will always pay off in the long run.
It will take time to seek out the things that are worthwhile to share with your audience.
If you follow the example of the truffle hunter and his dog, you will be rewarded in the end. And the real thing is so much more satisfying and tasty.
If you want to experience the fresh Italian black truffle for yourself, you can have one shipped in from Black Star Gourmet or for something a little more local you can order from one of the first homegrown truffle companies in the US.