Content Marketing Made Simple

Not long after Ted Leonsis bought the Washington Capitals in 1999, he hired a freelance sportswriter who happened to be a good buddy of mine. Nothing strange there; reporters get pulled into corporate life all the time—usually as PR staffers.

But Leonsis had other ideas: he wanted my buddy to keep reporting. On the Capitals. As a team employee. And for nearly 20 years, that’s exactly what my buddy—Mike Vogel—has done.

Leonsis saw then what the business world sees now: content is the best marketing. Mike would no doubt cringe at being labeled a marketer, but he’s a content producer extraordinaire. (If you’re a local hockey fan and don’t read his stuff, Google it up and change that.) Leonsis understood that a direct, consistent connection with your audience is incredibly effective and builds loyalty.

What Leonsis did then is common now: it’s tough to find a sports team (or large organization, for that matter) that doesn’t self-publish. Blogs, podcasts, videos, social media feeds that deliver it—it’s direct connection from source to audience. It’s content marketing. And if you’re in business, you can probably benefit from it.

Start by figuring out what you know or have access to that can inform and/or entertain. Then, figure out ways to deliver that information on a regular basis.

A blog is a great start. In Mike’s case, he covers the team like a reporter—he’s at every practice, game, and draft, and even hits the minor-league affiliates. He gives fans insight that they don’t get anywhere else, and he’s been doing it for far longer than any other reporter covering the team. The content is valuable—and free—to his audience.

You don’t have to hire a reporter to write about your organization. But you should take an outsider’s look at what you do and figure out what would be of value—or at least of interest—to share.

If you run a winery, don’t just talk about your tasting schedule. Share insight into why you choose the grape blend you do, or how to keep an open bottle fresh for a few extra days. Post short behind-the-scenes videos of neat processes, like tending to vines post-harvest.

Once you have some ideas, develop a simple content calendar, and start cranking stuff out.

Share your content far and wide, and don’t sweat the small stuff, like Oxford commas or shaky videos. Just go forth, convey what you know, and strengthen that connection between you and your fans. It’ll be the most effective marketing strategy you’ll ever have.

A version of this post first appeared the Times Business section of the Fauquier/Gainesville/Prince William Times papers.