Weaving Tamsen Webster’s Red Thread Method into Your Content Planning

At DivvyHQ, our overarching mission is to help simplify the challenging complexities faced by today’s content teams.

In line with that goal, we teamed up with the excellent Jay Acunzo to produce a new landmark webinar series, The BIG Simple, where he digs in deep with renowned marketing leaders who’ve developed big ideas that make work simpler.

In the first episode, Jay connected with marketing veteran and keynote speaker Tamsen Webster to talk about her big idea: The Red Thread.

Today, we’ll break down some of the concepts discussed, with an eye on helping you incorporate them into your content strategy for a simpler, more effective approach.

What is the Red Thread?

As Tamsen describes it, the Red Thread is “the link between what you do and how you see.”

If it sounds simple, well, it is. That’s the point! But her method provides a structural foundation for our BIG Simple approach to content planning. Let’s deconstruct it.

“We constantly are in this position of having to explain how we think,” Tamsen argues, adding that this speaks to a disconnect between many businesses and those they seek to serve.

You have a solution, and you know it solves a real problem. But are you articulating that problem from your customer’s point of view, or your own? Are you truly understanding how they think, and speaking that language?

In addition to her background as a brand and messaging strategist, which is obviously relevant, Webster also has more than a decade of experience as a Weight Watchers leader, which proved revelatory for her in this regard.

“Week in, week out at Weight Watchers, I saw what did and didn’t move people to make changes,” Tamsen said in an interview with TopRank Marketing earlier this year. “I realized how often we focused on what we wanted people to do differently more than what they needed to hear to see differently.”

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, or make any significant personal change, you’ll likely agree that the decisive motivation had to come from within, and not from some external influence.

Which brings us back to the Red Thread framework.

Following the Red Thread

Tamsen’s Red Thread methodology breaks down into four pillars:

  1. The Goal: “The thing that the people you serve are trying to get … It’s not what you know they’re trying to get, it’s what they know they’re trying to get, so it’s really important to frame it from their perspective.”
  2. The Problem: “Think about how most people are looking at the problem. What do they interpret as the cause of the problem versus how we look at it?”
  3. The Truth: “Something that your audience already believes to be true, or that you can prove is true, that makes the problem now impossible to ignore.”
  4. The Change: “The mental shift in how your audience sees.”

“It’s almost like you’re reminding people of that truth,” Jay opines while discussing that crucial item No. 3. Incidentally, he himself is a good example of the model in action.

In his work, Acunzo is great at pinpointing those deeper realities that fellow marketers inherently know to be true, but might not always recognize. For instance: his criticism of overprescribed and undercooked “best practices.”

He didn’t need to convince me of this point, he just needed to present it in a way that made me say, “Oh, duh.”

And so, for us content marketers, Tamsen’s Red Thread can serve as that very same type of reminder: that above all, we need to focus on an undeniable “truth” of our audience and keep it front-and-center in our strategizing and planning.

Putting Your Audience’s “Truth” at the Center of Content Planning

Let’s tie this all back to our core focus here at DivvyHQ, which is simplifying content planning. How can you apply Tamsen’s principles when charting your course as a content team? Here are a few things to think about:

Get in Tune with Your Customers

The central point presented by Tamsen is that marketers and brands miss when their messaging is not synced with the mindset and beliefs of their target audience. The best way to avoid this is through earnest efforts to engage with them and internalize their feedback. Talk with your existing customers and ask what specifically triggered them to buy from you. Meet regularly with your salespeople to get a handle on how prospects speak — the language they use, the way they describe their challenges. Consult your content analytics to see which types of pieces resonate and convert, then load up your pipeline with similarly oriented content.

Tighten Up Buyer Personas

Chances are, not everyone in your audience will share the exact same problem or truth. Determining the different deep seated motivations and pain points that drive your various customers can be a good technique for divvying up personas and audience segments. Then, make sure the content you produce is expressly aimed at one of those segments and its purpose aligns with audience goals.

Integrate These Truths into Your Strategy

We strongly believe that every piece of content should have a clear, visible, strategic purpose. That’s why items in our editorial calendar have customizable strategy fields (as well as buyer persona fields, helping with the above). One option, under this framework, would be to identify the “truths” your audience will relate to, and ensure that at least one such provable fact is assigned to every content piece, which will then approach The Problem from that perspective with hopes of instilling The Change.

We’re only scratching the surface of all that Jay and Tamsen covered in a wide-reaching hour-long interview and audience Q&A. You can watch the full recording here, along with the other three episodes from season 1. Each installment expands on this foundation. Enjoy!