Image Credit: Eloqua Experience

What wisdom does the creator of “Breaking Bad” have to share with content marketers?

Oh, plenty.

Vince Gilligan, the “Breaking Bad” showrunner, took the stage at Eloqua Experience to chat about the start of his career, his hit show, and the implications for marketers. We’ve already covered some of the top content marketing takeaways from the show’s success, but wanted to share some of the best lessons Gilligan imparted last night.

1. Embrace Deadlines

Gilligan didn’t start out writing for TV. Initially, he wrote films. But when a career dry spell led to a shift to television, he faced the real pressure of deadlines. But that just made his writing sharper and prolific. “Writing for TV is a lot different than writing for movies,” Gilligan said. “You have a really strict set of deadlines. That was wonderful.”

Similarly, content marketers shouldn’t fear deadlines, but embrace them as a catalyst for creativity.

2. Work with People Who Can Spot Your BS

Gilligan’s first big break in TV was a gig writing for the X-Files. Working for that show’s talented creator, Chris Carter, meant there was no hiding a lack of effort or quality. “I knew this guy is going to know every time I try to pull a shortcut,” Gilligan said. “I learned everything I knew about writing and producing for TV from him.”

Similarly, if you want to progress in your content marketing career and deliver real value to buyers, you need to work with people who will speak up if you’re not offering the best.

3. Create for a Smart Audience

There’s a sort of unwritten rule in TV to write for a less-than-sophisticated audience. But Gilligan always produced a show designed for smart people. “Assume the audience is smarter than you are and they will hold you in good stead,” he said.

Content marketers shouldn’t talk down to prospects and leads, but treat them as highly intelligent. Doing so will not only improve the quality of your content, but place you in a good position with customers.

4. Think Character First

“Breaking Bad” was never about illicit drug trade, but the profound changes of an ill man. “It wasn’t the crystal meth that interested me,” Gilligan said. “It was more about the guy waking up deep in the middle of midlife crisis and trying to do something about it.”

Remember: characters are what drive a good story, not necessarily the particular plot points.

5. Tease Your Audience, But Don’t Try to Trick Them

Every “Breaking Bad” episode had what Gilligan called a teaser – a highly visual scene that grabbed the audience and kept them wanting more. But he also noted that the writers never tried to fool viewers. “It was never about tricking the audience, but it is about giving the audience a ride that is satisfying.”

Smart content marketers follow the same guideline. You want to surprise the audience. But don’t toy with them.

6. Make Content You’d Want

Gilligan said the guiding principle of each writer was to make a show they’d want to watch. “We saw ourselves as the seven primary viewers of ‘Breaking Bad’ and we tried to please ourselves,” he said.

If you create the kind of content you’d eagerly digest, chances are your buyers will do the same.