Going for content marketing gold: The Olympic athlete approach

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games wrapped up on Sunday (stay tuned for the Paralympics, starting September 7 in Rio), and I was one of the many viewers wrapped up in the news from Brazil—from the inspirational wins to the scandals. Watching the world’s most gifted athletes compete against one another is a rousing show of sport, diversity, and inclusion. Their training strategies are thoughtfully crafted, their approach meticulously planned.

In fact, a few essentials in the athletes’ training strategies are applicable to those of us who work in a very different professional realm—content marketing. We can look to our athletic heroes and heroines to help craft our approach to strategy development and content creation.

Goal setting. The goal of an Olympic athlete is straightforward—swim, spike, fence your way to the medal stand. Certainly, though, a series of setting, meeting, and exceeding goals has cleared their path to the Games. Successful content marketers do the same. Companies of all sizes recognize the need to create and distribute content as part of their marketing strategy. But without defining your goals beforehand, you run the risk of your content turning into white noise, rather than an actionable piece.

Digital channels make it easy to push content out as often as you’d like, but in the rush to publish or contribute to a conversation, it’s still valuable to pause and ask “why?” You should be able to answer what you want your content to do, whether it’s a blog post, e-blast, or report. Clearly articulating the goals of your content strategy maximizes your content investment and will help you understand its success once you’ve executed it.

Iteration. Olympic athletes possess nearly incomprehensible athletic talent, physical strength, and dedication. It’s that dedication that feeds their ability to do the same thing repeatedly, whether swimming laps or throwing javelins. Through rounds and rounds of iteration, they identify the technique, style, and mind-set that lead to peak performance, rather than resting on “good enough.”

Similarly, producing high-quality content is an iterative process. Pushing a piece of content to its peak involves questioning it, identifying gaps, and iterating to sharpen the ideas and draw out distinctive insights.

Teamwork. The Olympic athletes in Rio, as they do every Olympic year, displayed the type of teamwork and sportsmanship that make the Games so galvanizing. Teamwork takes a unique shape at the Olympics because it exists not only within the teams themselves but also among all of the athletes, coaches and managers, and loved ones. In fact, one of the most touching demonstrations of teamwork in Rio came when two opponents from different nations competing in an individual event helped one another to the finish.

This is the essence of teamwork: helping one another finish what you’ve started in the best way possible. It’s difficult to overstate the value of teamwork and support, whether in athletics or the professional lives of those less athletically talented. Content marketing relies heavily on a solid team, from strategy development to execution. You must look to your strategists, designers, account managers, writers, and editors for the different skills they bring to a project, a critical eye, and a bit of encouragement. Without a team, the content process can flounder, causing you to miss deadlines or lose the client’s voice.

A content marketer sitting at her desk eating trail mix and drinking La Croix while she types away may not seem a likely, or fair, comparison to an Olympic athlete. But the fundamentals that drive success overlap in various endeavors, whether it’s performing a feat of athleticism or creating meaningful, high-quality content. Take the time to articulate goals, iterate tirelessly to meet them, and manage the process as a team. Your company’s marketing strategy and the content you produce is guaranteed to be more effective as a result.

Alia Samhat

Alia is a partner at Leff. Her expertise is in creative strategy and content development. She spends her time working with writers, marketers, designers, video producers, analysts, and subject matter experts to produce meaningful work.

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