So it’s Thanksgiving, and I’m in charge of the stuffing. Which is ironic because I’m not really much of a fan. Of stuffing, that is; I like Thanksgiving just fine.
It’s not that I don’t like to cook—because I do—but the wet bread thing (as in French toast, bread pudding, and Thanksgiving stuffing) turns me off. In other words, it’s a little like asking the deaf guy to bring the music.
So, I consult a few of cookbooks, a few websites, the Epicurious iPhone app. But mostly I’m distracted by stuff I’d rather make: the mashed potatoes with olive oil and parsley? Yum. Butternut squash soup with apple and bacon? Now we’re talking …
But still: the stuffing. Sigh. Then I happen upon a useful tool on Fine Cooking that instantly seems the answer to my wet-bread dream: a “create-your-own” bread stuffing interactive recipe maker that allows you to mix and match your favorite ingredients to create your own customized bread stuffing.
Choose a bread base (cornbread, crusty artisan bread, pumpernickel, etc.), drag it into a big yellow mixing bowl, and then and add in 3-5 vegetables (leeks, celery, fennel, maybe?), along with other stuff (chestnuts, dried cherries), meat (bulk sausage, bacon), herbs and liquids (broth? Wine?) and… voila! The tool spits out a custom bread stuffing recipe, with balanced measurements of your chosen ingredients, and the correct ratio of liquid to bread.
“The trick to making a good stuffing is getting the moisture right,” Fine Cooking says. “You don’t want it to be soggy or dry.” Can I get an A-men?!
There’s so much I like about this tool—not just because I was desperate for a stuffing recipe I could get excited about, but also because it aligns so well with the concepts C.C. and I lay out in Content Rules. Here are two of them:
1. Create utility. Most businesses have embraced the notion that, in addition to being in the business selling whatever they sell (be it shovels or security systems), they also need to be producing content as a cornerstone of their marketing, both to engage and educate their would-be customers, and to get noticed by search engines.
But at the same time, producing any old content isn’t enough. Businesses have to produce the right kind of content: web content that is honestly empathetic and seeded with utility for your customers. They have to be “brand butlers” to their customers. Fine Cooking’s bread stuffing tool does just that: It creates a resource for its discerning subscribers who are challenged to create something other than the same ol’, same ol’… but who need a little help with the particulars.
To paraphrase Content Rule #6: Share or solve; don’t shill. Good content doesn’t try to sell. Rather, it creates value by positioning you as a reliable and valuable source of vendor-agnostic information. Your content shares a resource, solves a problem, helps your customers do their jobs better, improves their lives, or makes them smarter, wittier, better-looking, taller, better networked, cooler, more enlightened, and with better backhands, tighter asses, and cuter kids, and moister (but not wet) stuffing.
In other words, it’s high value to your customers, in whatever way resonates best with them.
2. Have a point of view. Fine Cooking doesn’t just lay out the fundamentals of Thanksgiving stuffing without editorializing because its readers want to know its take. The people who read the magazine consider themselves competent and inspired cooks, and they want to know the why and not just the how. So, I like how Fine Cooking’s writer (Jennifer Armentrout) has a point of view and perspective:
“In my opinion, stuffing baked outside the bird (also called dressing) is the way to go: your turkey cooks faster and more evenly, your stuffing gets nice crisp edges, and you don’t have to worry about undercooking.”
Plenty of people who read Jennifer’s reasoning might disagree, but at least you know where she stands on this issue. Jennifer might have just said, “Cook it inside the bird or outside; add more liquid if you cook it outside the bird.” But the actual name of an actual person with an actual point of view does more to humanize the Fine Cooking brand than bland commentary without editorializing ever could.
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So what can you take away?
Like Adagio Tea’s Tea Timer, which helps tea aficionados brew a perfect cup, or Virgin Atlantic’s Taxi 2, which connects those who want to share a cab, the Create Your Own bread stuffing tool — one of several Create Your Own tools published by Fine Cooking — presents an incredibly useful and relevant piece of content, matched to both the needs of your customers and the business’s objectives. Oh, and it meets another official Content Rule: It’s FUN!
What else can organizations take away from Fine Cooking’s Recipe Makers? Here’s my take: A little inspiration.
Here’s the bottom line: Are you helping and supporting your customers in their goals, or just selling to them?