Marathon Runners

6 Marathon Lessons for Content Marketers

I’ve been a content marketer for years, but it wasn’t until I arrived at a OpenView’s “content factory” that I realized how different this role can be depending on the business. I’m starting to get into the hang of things and here’s why: content marketing is just like running a marathon. 

6 marathon lessons

Having been through my share of races and two marathons, I carry around quite a few lessons for each new race. Now, jumping into a well-oiled machine of content production with an active social media presence (all within niche business topics) certainly comes with growing pains. But instead of getting overwhelmed with what I don’t know, I’m leveraging what I already know and do pretty well: running.

Does this sound familiar? Work and athleticism is a popular topic. Most notably, you may be thinking about the Harvard Business Review article, The Making of a Corporate Athlete. In that, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz compare performance requirements of high corporate roles to those of professional athletes. They arrive at insightful conclusions about how you need to train yourself to avoid burnout at work.

“In the living laboratory of sports, we learned that the real enemy of high performance is not stress, which, paradoxical as it may seem, is actually the stimulus for growth. Rather, the problem is the absence of disciplined, intermittent recovery” – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz

Their piece is a really worthy read (after this blog of course!), but ultimately, the conclusion is that you’ll stunt your success if you keep forcing yourself to pummel through work. Everyone needs a break.

Approaching work like a training program certainly helps me with burnout. And over time, I’ve come to realize more and more instances where running marathons could and should help me be a better content marketer. This post marks the launch of a six-part series on my blog about just this. Here are the marathon lessons I’ll be covering – I hope you’ll stop by to check them out.

6 Content Marketing Lessons Running Marathons Taught Me

  1. Practice. Marathon training is a 16-week process, assuming you already have a good foundation. Without the proper training, you might get injured along the way and lack the ability to sustain the grueling sessions of sprints, weights, hills, and even recovery runs. Like training for a marathon, becoming a good content marketer requires diligent practice to learn the tricks of every trade.
  2. Develop a daily routine. For 16 weeks, marathoners keep a calendar schedule of the basic marathon training program. Every day has a purpose, even if that means recovery. The same is true for a content marketing schedule – you need to be on it every single day.
  3. Be agile. Life gets in the way, and sometimes a conflict interrupts your plan. Whether your disruption is something you know ahead of time, like when you know you’ll miss a long run on a Saturday, or spur of the moment, like when one of your contributors stalls the publishing process with last-minute edits, you need to be ready to pivot.
  4. Be patient. Unless you’re an athletic marvel (which you may very well be), you won’t get into marathon shape overnight. Making the leap from running three miles to running 18 is a major feat and takes time to accomplish. In content marketing, you won’t see immediate results – and that’s ok! It doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
  5. Know your strengths (but know your weaknesses better). Before my first marathon, I obsessively ran hills because that’s what I enjoyed and that’s what I was good at. The only problem was that I never gained speed and ended up with a lasting injury because I hated sprints and strength training. While it’s always good to boost your strengths, sometimes the agony of fixing your weaknesses is more worthwhile.
  6. Test and iterate. It wasn’t until after my first marathon that I starting thinking about where things went wrong (or right) in the training process. As a content marketer, race day is every day – your training plan is just a little shorter (ok, a lot shorter). And while being prepped for a race every day is exhausting, it also gives you more chances to test something new, solve a problem, or capitalize on something that worked well.

Join me as I hone in on how these marathon lessons can teach us to become better content marketers. I’ll be back next week with my first post on practice. In the meantime, what have your hobbies taught you about your job?


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