Op Ed: The VENT Method as a Content Strategy for Compelling Messaging

As marketers, we fancy ourselves creative thinkers who inherently know what resonates with our audience because of our experience (and egos, of course). But when we’re so busy brainstorming in meetings, digging through data, executing new campaigns, and putting out fires when something inevitably breaks, how do we make sure we don’t fall in love with our own ideas of what works? How do we maintain focus on improving what we have versus just getting it out the door? 

Op Ed: The VENT Method as a Content Strategy for Compelling Messaging
In a talk I did at Litmus’s Email Design Conference, I discussed my own strategy to combat this and consistently find room for improvement: I call it the VENT Method. While I focused primarily on email marketing, this system of checks and balances fits all aspects of branding and messaging, from content marketing to graphic design to your social media strategy.

Why It Matters: Competing for Customers

Op Ed: The VENT Method as a Content Strategy for Compelling Messaging
The above image (which is real, though I won’t name names) illustrates exactly why I decided I needed something like this. As the digital age grows, there’s a login for everything, and inboxes and feeds are filling faster and faster. We can’t just assume our content is working as is, because we need to fight for every eyeball.

In the 53 emails I received on an average day, I found 58 instances of major errors, be they disconnects between the subject and email content, copywriting mistakes, image issues, or broken links. How often are we letting the little things slip by? How often are we objectively questioning what we put in front of our audience?

How to Get Results by VENTing

This is where my VENT Method comes into play. Think of it as a checklist for everything you deliver to your target audience. By asking yourself a few simple questions around these four key principles, you can ensure that everything makes sense and hits that sweet spot. Lose any one of these and you risk losing, alienating, or irritating your audience.

Op Ed: The VENT Method as a Content Strategy for Compelling Messaging


  • Is it valuable at this stage of the customer lifecycle?
  • Does it resonate with everyone in this specific group or segment?
  • Does it make sense for this particular use case?

Op Ed: The VENT Method as a Content Strategy for Compelling MessagingWhich is more valuable?

This pillar can do the most damage to reception of your futures messages. If you don’t also identify new, valuable messaging opportunities, you don’t give people the full experience and likelihood of converting.


  • How can you keep it conversational and not static?
  • Is it eye-catching?
  • Does it inspire action with a clear call-to-action?

Op Ed: The VENT Method as a Content Strategy for Compelling MessagingDo something to command attention. OR Consider showing instead of telling.

If there are grammar rules you’re okay with breaking to sound human, break them! If you can’t honestly say your content is concisely inspiring, you’re setting yourself up for people to just keep scrolling, or worse, to delete, unfollow, or unsubscribe.


  • Have you trimmed all the fat?
  • Does every element add to the goal and promote the desired action?

Op Ed: The VENT Method as a Content Strategy for Compelling MessagingYes. A thousand times, yes.

Since every medium is so different, make sure you know how much you actually need to communicate in each one. Set limits to improve performance. If you get long-winded (like this article), you bury your call-to-action and bore everyone. This is where a second set of eyes really helps, but not everyone has that. Hence, the VENT method.


  • Are you sticking to the facts or adding marketing fluff?
  • Does it establish your brand as a trusted resource?
  • Are you staying true to your audience and brand identity?

Op Ed: The VENT Method as a Content Strategy for Compelling MessagingSure, you could wait to tell them, but will that do more harm than good?

 Be as brutally honest as possible, and tell only those who need to know everything they need to know. The last thing you want is to tell someone about a feature they don’t have access to or miss out on telling someone about something they might love.

The gist is, whether you have copywriters and designers or whether you do it all yourself, it’s beneficial to run everything against these types of questions early on. People who don’t work in a particular channel don’t always realize how different it is to communicate there. And if you just have a hunch, consider testing if you should trust it.

Finding Larger Opportunities

We’ve looked at each of the categories individually, but you can take a step back from the smaller stuff and start using these guidelines to think about general strategy. What’s necessary? What’s something different we need to be doing? Who do we need to be talking to about certain things? Thus, who aren’t we talking to about those things? Who are we not talking to at all, and how can we provide value to them? What aspects of our product could keep different users engaged?

It all might sound simple and easy, and (full disclosure) it absolutely is. But at the same time, it can be difficult to get into routines and really question ourselves. And that’s crucial, not only for keeping things on-message, but for making impactful changes. The hardest thing is to be truly critical of our own ideas and work. It’s been said that we’re our own toughest critics, but that’s only some of the time. Because we’re also our own biggest fans, and that’s the dangerous thing. If we know the right questions to ask to keep ourselves on track, we can learn to be that second set of eyes that we need and always find room for improvement.