How Content Marketing is like International Soccer
Between the 2016 UEFA European Championship tournament in France and the Copa América Centenario tournament here in the United States, international soccer has been a mainstay on the TVs at SCORCH for the past month or so. When teams like Argentina, Spain, Chile, and Germany are clicking on all cylinders, it is a breathtaking sight to behold. As content marketers, there are several aspects of the beautiful game that we can take to heart as we strive to succeed at our craft.
Always start with strategy
At its most basic level, soccer strategy is referenced by style of play—possession, attacking, counter-attacking, or defensive. Depending on how a team wants to execute, players will organize themselves in different formations on the pitch (or field for the Americans). The purpose of a sound strategy is to have players prepared for thousands of in-game scenarios and instinctively understand their role on the pitch, as well as the roles of their teammates.
In content marketing, as in soccer, a sound strategy is paramount to success. Before diving into any project, taking the time to understand why you’re creating it can help your organization make more-informed decisions about what to produce and get your team to buy in. In order to use time and resources most effectively, the Content Marketing Institute recommends implementing a content strategy that prioritizes the following three points:
- An in-depth understanding of your target audience.
- An evaluation of what your audience expects from the content you’re about to write.
- A knowledge of when and where the content can be shared to meet expectations.
Dictate the pace/conversation
In both soccer and content marketing, possession is the name of the game. Although possession doesn’t always equate to victories, more often than not, the team dictating the pace wins the game. It’s not a coincidence that four of the five teams (Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and England) with the highest average possession finished either first or second in their respective Euro 2016 groups. The fifth team, Portugal, also advanced to the knockout stage, but placed third in Group F.
The same is true of our industry. We often refer to content marketers that are able to dictate the industry conversation in a profound way as thought leaders. These individuals and agencies are the ones generating engaging content that establishes them as authorities on a certain subject. Often, thought leaders challenge industry peers to think differently and provide a vision for the future of content marketing. Agencies and individuals who occupy the coveted thought leadership space gain credibility, but accomplishing this is difficult, just like keeping possession on the soccer pitch. Here are a few tips to help you create thought leadership-driven content:
- Offer an innovative solution to a real problem affecting the industry right now.
- Be charismatic and offer a unique perspective on content marketing.
- Embrace the uncomfortable, take risks, and adopt new ideas.
Following these steps can help your agency dictate the conversation and start scoring with peers and customers.
Find your X-factor
Only Portugal and France remain in Euro 2016, but the tournament began in June with a crowded 24-team field. On this side of the pond, several weeks before Chile claimed the Copa América Centenario title for the second year in a row, 16 teams opened play with dreams of claiming the ultimate prize in the 100th edition of this tournament. In international tournaments like these, teams that emerge victorious are often able to do so by relying on an X-factor, like a star striker or suffocating defense.
The content marketing industry is far more crowded than a 24 or 16-team field. Content marketers that want to emerge victorious must generate and distribute content that is different from everything else out there. Establish a tone, take on a familiar topic from a new angle, create a niche—all of these things can separate your agency from the pack. Need help pinpointing what makes your organization different? Try participating in this helpful exercise from the Content Marketing Institute.
When done correctly, both soccer and content marketing create narratives that capture the world’s attention, much like Iceland’s Cinderella run to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016.
They can result in stunning works of art that cement your legacy as one of the premiere masters of your craft, like Lionel Messi’s goal in the Copa América semifinals. Achieving the desired results hinges on your team’s ability to plan, execute, and adapt when necessary. By focusing on strategy, dictating possession, and featuring your X-factor, your organization can score with its content marketing and thought leadership strategies.