Writing Content for Hippos

Donna Hippo Content

Photo by ERIN McCRACKEN / Courier & Press

If I were to say the word “hippo” to you – what images come to your mind?

The dancing hippos in the 1940 Disney film Fantasia? Donna the Hippo from Mesker Park Zoo? The baby hippo pictures that periodically circulate in social media and threaten to break the Internet?

Over the years hippos have gotten a lot of good press, mainly because they’ve been cartooned and otherwise tamed by artists and zookeepers all over the world. But the hippo is actually a very dangerous animal, responsible for more human fatalities in Africa than any other animal.

What’s a hippo got to do with your content, you ask?


Here in the relative “wild” of content creation, a hippo is pretty dangerous at times, too. You see, in business, a hippo is the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion – and the highest paid person is often the one who gets the final say in how you use content to market a business. Many times, that opinion is spot-on and realistic, and when that’s the case everything runs smoothly. But sometimes, that opinion can make it hard for your content to succeed.

“Write something viral!”

In online marketing, a piece of content, a photo, or a video that goes viral can reap huge rewards – or cause a lot of headaches. We’ve all seen the results, good and bad, of things online that have gone viral, and maybe we’ve even helped some of these things along.

Maybe somewhere along the line your hippo has asked for something on your website to go viral. While every business would love to have the positive outcome of a viral post, the sad truth of the matter is, there really isn’t any way to “make” something go viral. If that were possible, writers like me would all be sipping champagne on the decks of our yachts.

Good Content is… Good Content

So if you can’t just “write something viral,” what else can you do to give your content a boost?

You’ll need to examine what it is you want your content to accomplish, and how it’s presented with that goal in mind. In particular, you’ll want to consider:

  • The goal(s) of your content
  • Your content’s audience (aka, your customers)
  • Your customers’ concerns, problems, and questions
  • Your customers’ intelligence (hint: they’re pretty smart)
  • Your customers’ time (another hint: it’s at a premium)

Dale Carnegie once said,

“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.”

There is a great deal of truth in this statement, so keep that in mind when you’re creating content. By turning your focus outward toward your customer, you’ll be able to provide content that’s useful and relevant. But it’s more than just answering questions or solving problems – your content needs to be clear, concise, and consistent with your business’ message. Information that changes from time to time (dates, product specifications, improvements) will need to be maintained, too.

It might seem like quite a lot of work to constantly and consistently create content, but in all honesty, your customers are expecting it. Just think of all the times you needed to know something, quickly, and turned to Google to supply the answers. And even though the highest paid person’s opinion may have some bearing on what you publish, the ultimate opinion actually belongs to your customer.