Across the world, we have all been saddened by the recent death of Muhammad Ali. He was a man of colossal stature, who had tremendous influence beyond the world of sport. In addition to an illustrious boxing career, he also won awards from Amnesty International and the United Nations, and will always be remembered for a very wide range of achievements.
Below are five key learnings from his career that we can potentially use to improve our content marketing skills. We have included some of his best knockout quotes underneath each of these points:
1) Be Great & Stand Out
“If I were a garbage man, I’d be the world’s greatest garbage man! I’d pick up more garbage and faster than anyone has ever seen. To tell you the truth, I would have been the greatest at whatever I’d done!”
The 2 things that Muhammad Ali is best known for, are probably achieving greatness within his field, and always standing out from the crowd. As a young man, he targeted becoming the best boxer that he could possibly be. He achieved this by training harder than each of his opponents, and by studying previous boxing legends in detail. The results that followed speak for themselves.
No matter what your role is within any content project, you should always aim to become the greatest you can be in that role, and fight to make the content as great as possible. Being mediocre is not enough to engage your target audience. Or to develop your brand into a respected thought leader. If you produce the same content that everyone else is posting, you’ll never be fully rewarded for your efforts. To summarise, in a world that has too much ‘noise’ and repetitive content, you should always aim to be great and stand out from the crowd whenever you can.
2) Make a Big Impact
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
The above quote is probably Ali’s most famous. Not only was he the fastest and most graceful fighter in heavyweight boxing, most of his attacks were also delivered with a large amount of precision, making a strong impact on each of his opponents. Similar principles are also needed in content marketing.
Our content should always be well-designed, easy to read and easy to digest. However, it should also contain some kind of emotional hook when possible, in order to make a big impact with the reader. Just like some of Ali’s punches and memorable interviews did.
If you can make your readers feel something when consuming your content, they are much more likely to enjoy it, share it and remember it. Effective strategies here can include:
- Making it funny (to target amusement)
- Providing thought leadership (to target empathy, anger, etc)
- Being a useful resource (to target appreciation)
- Being insightful (to target thoughtfulness)
- Breaking industry news (to target surprise)
Using primary data can be an effective way to make a big impact. Please see our Putting ‘Owned’ Data at the Heart of Your Content Marketing Strategy post for more information on this.
Finally, just as Ali would float around the ring with his ‘Ali shuffle’, and engage the world with his amusing interviews, you should also aim to find consistency in your tone of voice, so that users can learn what to expect when consuming your content.
3) Meet Expectations
“I’ve wrestled with alligators, I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And throw thunder in jail. You know I’m bad. Just last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”
Nearly every time that Ali talked loudly to entertain people, he went on to back up his claims exactly as he said he would. Examples of this include winning the Olympic Gold medal, becoming the world champion at just 22, and winning the “Rumble in the Jungle” against the feared George Foreman. Ali talked loudly and made huge claims before each of these events, and then delivered exactly what he said he was going to on each of these occasions. The same principles should also apply to each of our content marketing efforts.
Firstly, if you’re going to make big statements about how great the content is, then you need to make sure that the content meets the user’s expectations. If they are disappointed, they may never come back to read your content. However, if they are satisfied, they may come back and become a brand advocate for you. In summary, pleasing your customers doesn’t just mean quality content. It also means not misleading them with any of your headlines, and delivering what you promise.
Secondly, if you’re going to make any big claims within the content itself, then it’s important to back these up with evidence whenever possible. Referencing quotes from credible people and data from trusted sources are usually good techniques here. Including your own data can also be very effective. Especially if your company or client is a well-known brand.
4) Always Learn & Evolve
“Wisdom is knowing when you can’t be wise.”
One of the main reasons for Ali’s long term success, was his ability to learn from his mistakes, whilst constantly evolving his style over time. In the latter part of his career, Ali lost to several opponents on points the first time he fought them, then won rematches with the same opponents soon afterwards. As his footwork slowed down, he was also able to develop new techniques such as the “rope a dope” tactic to keep himself at the top of his sport. In our industry, we often face many similar challenges.
We should never assume that we know it all. There are always new techniques for us to learn, and new case studies that deliver great insights. We found a recent Buzzsumo whitepaper to be a great example of this. Within each niche area of content marketing, there are always several experts that we can learn from, so we advise networking as much as possible.
Our landscape also changes a lot more frequently than it does in most other industries. Partly due to regular updates within Google and the various social networks. Therefore, it’s very important to stay on top of the news, and be aware of any changes that may affect us as soon as they happen.
However, even if we study well and stay up to date, we will never be equally strong in all areas. Therefore, it’s very important to find your niche and delegate effectively, using various specialists when helpful.
5) Have Courage
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Above all else, Ali’s greatest attribute was arguably his ability to show true courage every time it was needed. Aside from his achievements in boxing, he also sacrificed his title whilst protesting against the Vietnam war, and then bravely fighting Parkinsons disease for over 32 years. As content marketers, we also need to show courage in everything that we do.
Firstly, we need our teams to be brave at the ideas stage. It’s important to establish a brainstorm environment where creativity prosper. Whenever possible, it’s also important to stay loyal to long term goals rather than chasing short term quick wins. Despite the pressures from various stakeholders.
Secondly, as a content marketer, you will often find yourself fighting for resources as the underdog, against other marketing channels that promise much quicker rewards. It’s very important not to give up in these circumstances, and to stay true to what you believe in.
Thirdly, we need to be brave when producing the content itself, as playing it safe will usually get us nowhere. We’re all in the business of trying taking market share from our competitors, and high quality “knockout” content is usually the best way to do this. The results will speak for themselves, so there is usually nowhere hide on this one.
As a final note, everyone at Semetrical would like to thank Muhammad Ali for so many years of inspiration, and pledge to always follow each of the above principles. Rest in Peace Champ, and thanks for all of the memories.