Guns, Drugs & Content Marketing Domination: Lessons from The TSA Blog

Guns, Drugs & Content Marketing Domination: Lessons from The TSA Blog
Last weekend, I was preparing to travel to Nashville with my husband and some friends. (Sidenote: Nashville. Is. Awesome. Go there now.)
We were doing our last-minute-packing routine when my husband asked me, “Can I bring my electric razor in my carry-on?”
I had no idea. So I Googled it. And the first result was an article from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Blog, titled Safety Razors & Disposable Razors. I clicked through.

And I’m so glad I did.

My initial reaction (after, “The TSA has a blog?!”) was, “The TSA has an awesome blog?!”
The article not only gave me my answer (yes to electric razors in carry-ons – who knew?), but also made me laugh. Out loud.
After showing pictures demonstrating a man shaving with a disposable razor (TSA: “Good to go!”) and a safety razor (TSA: “No go!”), they give one last example. The caption:

This gentleman is shaving with a Samurai sword. No-go! (Swords must be checked with luggage)

In the midst of my frantic packing, I found myself sitting down to peruse the rest of the TSA’s blog content. Both informative and entertaining were articles like:

It’s clear that the TSA not only knows what information its audience needs, but also understands how to present that information in a compelling way.
It’s also amazing and insanely interesting to see what the TSA confiscates on a weekly basis. And they report it all in their TSA Week in Review posts.
For example, in the week of April 6, the TSA collected 36 loaded firearms, a Samurai sword (no connection to the shaving man above, unfortunately), a knife disguised as a comb, and 4.3 Kilos of cocaine. Plus more.
(If you’re now as intrigued as I was, Condé Nast Traveler curated some of the most bizarre finds from past Week in Review posts here.)
In addition to its addictive blog, you can follow @TSABlogTeam on Twitter and Instagram. The TSA also provides another great content tool, the “Can I bring my…through the security checkpoint?” feature. This tool allows you to type in a key word to easily find if you can bring an item on board.

So what can brands learn from the TSA’s approach to blogging?

1. Don’t be afraid to show some personality!
The TSA blog writers are knowledgeable yet conversational. Blogger Bob, one of the main writers and moderators, has a friendly, lighthearted style (“Some passengers come through TSA checkpoints wearing a simple piece of jewelry, and others are all blinged out like the A Team’s Mr. T.”) yet always provides simple, easy-to-understand answers. It’s this style that turns what could easily be a boring topic into an interesting read.
2. Don’t shy away from the ugly.
As mentioned above with the Week in Review, the TSA is open about its policies and how they are enforced. For example, they write: “We’re not looking for illegal narcotics, but we have to report them to law enforcement when discovered.” The tone comes off as open, honest and unapologetic, and it works.
3. Don’t hide from negative comments.
The TSA Blog team responds to comments and questions on each post – and, as you can imagine, not all are positive. They even have a separate area where readers can submit comments that are off topic. By giving all commenters the ability to share their thoughts, they reinforce the honest tone of the overall blog and invite readers into the conversation.
While the TSA’s blog is far from perfect, its content demonstrates a genuine effort to understand, help and entertain its audience — and it succeeds. Now if only their security check-in process could be the same …
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