Content Marketing Lessons You Can Learn from My Exchange Student

This August, our neighbor knocked on our door and offered what I can only describe as the chance to deliver a dream to a young person. She told us about all the kids around the world whose dream is to spend a year in America. Host families are the key to making this happen. Leonie has given us joy, insights, fun, and even content marketing lessons. Here are some ways she’s shown her natural flair for marketing.

Content Marketing Lesson #1 Tell your story. Be you.
We started to review the profiles of students waiting for a host family. There was a German student who was thinking about being a music teacher. Since my husband is a music teacher, we felt an instant connection. After some work with American Field Service (AFS) we got to read the letter she’d written to potential host families. Her letter showed us an upbeat, intelligent kid who adored her little brother and had a sense of joy and optimism. We were sold before we reached the end.

When I think about how much was riding on this letter, I realize how hard it must have been to write. As a copywriter, I have a hard time imagining this particular assignment. Leonie has shared with us how she toiled over it, trying to figure out what might make her an appealing prospect for a host family. She found it immensely challenging to write. In the end, she enlisted the help of a friend to complete it. But we felt like we knew her when we read it. We couldn’t wait to meet her.

Use content marketing to show your audience who you really are. Include little details and make people curious. You can’t be generic and write good content. You’ve got to have something to say. And every organization has something to say. If, like Leonie, you need an outside perspective to figure it out, that’s okay.   

Content Marketing Lesson #2 Give your audience meaningful content.

Evidence of content marketing lessons from my exchange student: my Snapchat usage.
Content marketing lessons from my exchange student included a primer on Snapchat. I’m addicted.

One of the benefits of having a teenager in the house has been Snapchat 101. I’d installed it on my phone awhile ago, but I couldn’t figure out how to use it. Let the record show that many of the teenagers I know couldn’t figure Snapchat out in the beginning either. It’s not just old people like me.

When creating Snapchat stories, Leonie really considers what people will find interesting about her day. She refuses to sink to snapping something irrelevant like a blank wall, just to keep her streaks going. She considers variety between subjects, angles, and alternates between videos and stories. If there’s a piece of conversation that will explain her video better, she asks us to repeat it for her snap story. And if it doesn’t come out quite right, she reshoots it.

People want meaningful experiences. To engage your audience, your content must speak to them and keep them interested. It’s not enough to simply push out the exact same content on each channel and expect people to stay tuned in. It’s got to be interesting–to them.


Content Marketing Lesson #3 Make ambitious plans to grow your audience.
Every exchange student at her high school gives a presentation about his or her experience and home country. Since the start of the school, each student met in the same classroom and brought pictures and food to share.

Around October or November, Leonie told the principal she wanted to do her presentation in the theater. She promoted it to her friends, teachers, coaches, and even the German classes. Her swim coach even sent out an email to the entire swim team encouraging them to come. In marketing, I believe we would call the coach a “brand advocate.” She more than doubled the attendance at her presentation.

In content marketing, it’s important to have goals and metrics. Make them ambitious and worthwhile, so you can maximize your ROI. Odds are, you do what you do because you can make someone’s life or business better. Share it with as many people as possible.

Content Marketing Lesson #4 Repurpose and refine your content.
Leonie made several presentations to her classes throughout the year, before her big one in the spring. She learned what people liked best and what parts were confusing. She perfected and improved all year. And after her last presentation, she had a list of things that went well and a list of things she would change if giving it again. She worked hard to offer everyone the best possible experience.

Once you invest in a piece of content, share it and share it as long as it’s relevant. Continue to incorporate feedback and responses from your audience. Over time, you’ll have a story that resonates with people and builds trust with its consistency.

In case you can’t tell, hosting Leonie has been an incredible experience. And I believe anything that puts a light in my eye can teach me about life, and offer some content marketing lessons along the way. Because content marketing means delighting people in big and small ways. If you’d like to see how these lessons and other insights can help you grow your audience, call or email me today. (314) 807-6366 or

And if you enjoy meeting the brightest young stars from around the world, hosting an exchange student might be for you. Think it over.

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