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5 crucial lessons Buzz Lightyear can teach us about content marketing

1)  It’s a long mission

“To infinity… and beyond!”  Those are the well-known words of Buzz Lightyear, the lovable astronaut character from Toy Story played by the voice of Tim Allen.  Buzz is the eternal optimist.  He refuses to recognize he is a toy and his goals are off the charts.  He is not just headed off into infinity, which by definition goes on forever, he is going further.

Buzz’s famous catch phrase applies well to content marketing.  Why is that?  Because, when implemented correctly, content marketing does not stop.  Content marketing is not a campaign with a beginning, middle and an end.  It is an ongoing effort that lasts forever.

In a great Q&A last year, Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute put it perfectly:  “The biggest reason why content marketing fails is because it stops.  The greatest media companies of all time are all consistent with everything they do.  They deliver whatever they deliver – whether it’s video, audio, television programs or print – always on time.”  We need to think of ourselves as publishers and our content marketing program elements as our continuous publications.

2)  Limit the mission scope

Buzz Lightyear is a proud space ranger from the Intergalactic Alliance, stationed in the Gamma Quadrant of Sector 4.  Not the Delta Quadrant.  Not Sector 5.  He has his base territory and he knows it.  He may be going to infinity, but he understands his role in the big picture of the Alliance. 

As a content marketer, do you know your role?  What are the limits of what you do?  These days, one might assume every sales, marketing and communication tactic now falls under the umbrella of sizzling-hot content marketing.  It may be hard to believe, but not everything is content marketing.  Introducing a new product to distributors this month?  Not content marketing.  Rolling out a summer lead generation initiative for the sales force?  Not content marketing.  Creating a thought leadership blog to educate your target market on a key topic of interest that may relate to your offering?  Now we’re talking.  But if you start, don’t stop.

3)  Technology isn’t everything

Buzz wore a high-tech spacesuit with lots of bells and whistles.  His suit, similar to the NASA Z1, had built-in equipment to plan missions, record surroundings, analyze data and more.  Likewise, we have plenty of tools to help with content marketing…also to help us plan, record and analyze.  If you recall, Buzz’s suit malfunctioned once in a while and he had to learn over time not to rely completely on these clever features for his survival. 

We can’t count on technology, either, to do our content marketing for us.  Many of us receive notifications each week about new tools to help us.  Two of the latest we’re using are Marketing.ai and Zignal Labs.  But we can’t use every new tool and we can’t assume they fully automate our work.   Sometimes we have to buckle down and write, manually distribute and even meet people in person to get our messages across.  We’ll be better for it.

4)  Turn naysayers into heroes

If you’ve seen Toy Story, you know the path was not always smooth for Buzz Lightyear.  Not everyone understood his mission or cooperated with his plans.  Here’s one of his most famous lines:  “Right now, poised at the edge of the galaxy, Emperor Zurg has been secretly building a weapon with the destructive capacity to annihilate an entire planet! I alone have information that reveals this weapon's only weakness. And you, my friend, are responsible for delaying my rendezvous with Star Command!”

Do you rely on others to create content?  If so, they might not always appreciate what’s being asked of them.  A fellow marketer I know who heads up content marketing for a B2B scientific company asked one of the engineers to start blogging.  The engineer participated reluctantly until realizing comments and questions were flooding in, after which he couldn’t be held back.  Now all nine top engineers in his company have active blogs, driving most of the company’s website traffic.

5)  Determination is the key

In Toy Story, the characters had a sense of sheer determination.  When it looked like the deck was stacked against them, they overcame what seemed like insurmountable circumstances.  The GI-Joe-inspired action figure said it best:  “Combat Carl never gives up. Combat Carl finds a way.”  And we, too, should always find a way.  We should never give up on content marketing.  Don’t think of it as a program, but as a continuous process.  It won’t be easy.  One recent study reveals 50 percent of marketers say they run out of content marketing ideas.  Budgets are up, but measurement can be elusive.  And, we won’t be able to do it ourselves.  We’ll need a team behind us contributing, supporting, repurposing and distributing.  It will be tempting to take a break.  But we must push on.

Conclusion

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit I have a built-in bias for Buzz.  It turns out Buzz’s owner, Andy, and all the toys in the movie are from my hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  True story.  I wonder if Buzz knows Calvin & Hobbes, who coincidentally hail from the very same village.

Looking for wisdom in cartoons is good fun.  And content marketing can be fun, too, as long as we keep at it.  If we set our sights too low, move too slowly or quit, then content marketing doesn’t work.  We need to stretch.  In fact, we need to do what Cowboy Woody tells us to do when his cord is pulled.  We can hear the voice of Tom Hanks saying it now:  “Reach for the sky!”

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