Why runners make great content strategists
Our Senior Content Strategist, Simon Fairbanks, looks at the similarities between runners and content strategists. These two separate vocations have more in common than you might think. Simon is organising an early morning run at the CASE Europe Annual Conference on Thursday 29 August. You can meet him at the entrance to the ICC at 7.30am if you fancy a light run around the streets of Birmingham.
I have recently rediscovered the joys of running after a nine-month hiatus.
I experienced lots of change in those nine months, including the start of my career as a content strategist for Pickle Jar Communications.
Now, for the first time in my life, I am both runner and content strategist, and I am starting to notice lots of similarities between the two callings.
I have discovered that runners are a natural fit for content strategy.
Here are five reasons why.
1. We are goal-orientated
Runners always have a goal. It is rare that we go for a run just for some fresh air. We typically have a route in mind, a distance, a time that we want to achieve. We might be training for a half-marathon, full marathon, or triathlon. There is always a big picture.
Sometimes we are literally trying to draw a big picture with our route. Look, an elephant!
Content strategists are equally focussed on goal. We don’t launch into creating webpages and videos without an idea of the organisational goals we want the content to help us achieve. We like the big picture too.
2. We use technology
Runners love technology. It gives us an edge when pounding the pavement. Wireless earphones, GPS, Spotify playlists, smart shoes, the Lumo Run sensor, heart-rate monitors – we are borderline cyborgs.
But we use technology for a reason. It helps us think strategically about our running, by providing us a rich array of metrics. We can now track data on everything from route to speed, from cadence to bounce, from pelvic movement to impact.
Content strategists embrace technology too. We use the platforms and channels at our disposal to better plan and distribute our content. We identify which digital avenue is the best way to reach our target audiences, and therefore the best way to achieve our goals.
And we also love metrics. As with running, metrics are a key tool for informing strategy. We evaluate web analytics and social media stats to better understand the performance of our content, so it can be continuously improved.
3. We are big on maintenance
Runners realise that the work isn’t over when we kick off our shoes. We take maintenance seriously to prevent damage. This could be a warm-down, stretching, or taking an ice bath. Remember the ice bucket challenge? Imagine that, three times a week.
Content strategists also think about maintenance. Our work isn’t over when the content is posted. We need to oversee that content to make sure someone is replying to enquiries prompted by the content and flagging any controversial trolling comments.
We also assign responsibility for maintaining the content moving forwards. This means someone is responsible for updating or removing the content should its information no longer be accurate, avoiding any run-ins with the Competition and Markets Authority.
4. We seek buy-in
Runners are often misunderstood as a solitary bunch. However, we need support and buy-in from others to make our running a success. This could be the support of our family to help us find time to run, camaraderie from a running community on apps such as Strava, or kind sponsorship from colleagues for an upcoming half-marathon.
Content strategists seek buy-in too. A content strategy requires the support of colleagues throughout the organisation. After all, people components occupy half of the classic content strategy quad.
We seek insight from colleagues on everything from their goals to our target audiences to content ideation. In doing so, we hope to gain their buy-in to champion the strategy when we need them.
5. We are planners
Runners have a plan. If we sign up for a half-marathon, then we plan the weeks leading up to the race. We schedule which distances we will run on which days. We will plan our routes before leaving the house. We will plan our diets. “Alexa, add pasta to the shopping list!”
Content strategists also have a plan. The creation of a robust content strategy requires careful project planning. At Pickle Jar Communications, there are five steps to our approach: Define, Discover, Develop, Deliver and Depend.
Furthermore, an effective content strategy is supported by planning tools, such as an implementation plan, resource plan, promotional plan, and editorial calendar.
If you were born to run, then you were probably born to be a content strategist too!
Simon is organising an early morning run at the CASE Europe Annual Conference on Thursday 29 August. You can meet him at the entrance to the ICC at 7.30am if you fancy a light run around the streets of Birmingham.