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Content Marketing Tips from the Late, Great Bob Feller

This article from Cleveland’s own Joe Posnanski at Sports Illustrated on Mr. Bob Feller (Rapid Robert) is worth the read.

Bob Feller, who died yesterday at the age of 92, will forever be known as the most famous pitcher in Cleveland sports history. He was one of the greatest pitchers of all time.

Bob Feller Autograph

I first met Bob Feller when I was seven years old at a baseball card show at the Sandusky Mall (Sandusky is one hour west of Cleveland, Ohio). On that day I received my first ever signed baseball. The line was long, and Mr. Feller stayed well past the time limit for the autograph session to sign every ball and baseball card from the hundreds of big and small kids around the area.

He shook my hand and smiled.  My Dad told me he was the greatest pitcher who ever lived, even though he missed four years in his prime to serve in World War II.

One of the major reasons I still love baseball is because of that day, and that long line at the Sandusky Mall.

We can learn a lot about life from Bob Feller.  And whether Bob knew it or not, he was a masterful content marketer.

Have an Opinion/A Point of View

I see this mistake often in content marketing. Brands create content, information for customers, but it’s just like everything else out there.

Bob Feller always had an opinion.  Sometimes he was disliked for that, but in the long run, he was beloved. He was honest. He was transparent.

If you talked to Bob Feller, you came away with something of value, wrapped in a story that made you long for more.

Bob Feller always gave you something special…something worth talking about.  And it wasn’t anything like you’d hear from another person, let alone another ballplayer.

Does your content have a higher purpose? Do you have a content mission? If not, your story might not be worth remembering or repeating…and your product may not be worth considering.

As Joe Posnanski states in the article, “Bob Feller was not much for shades of gray.” You always got his expert opinion. He wasn’t afraid of going out on a limb.

Go Out to the People

Whatever was going on in baseball in the Cleveland area, Bob Feller was there.  He was at card shows, special Cleveland Indians appearances, fantasy baseball trips. He was always available for a quote or interview.

Wherever kids gathered who were interested in the sport, he was there.

Content marketing only works if it’s available where your customers are at. Are your customers hanging out on a media site or blog in your industry? You need to be there. Are they on Slideshare? If so, create great content that’s available there.

Don’t wait for people to find you.  Go out to where your customers are at. Be a part of the community (something Bob Feller did extraordinarily well).

Give the Story Away

There is a time and a place for gated content, but the majority of your stories need to be freely given.

The most I ever saw Bob Feller charge for an autograph was $5.  Most times, it was free. This gave him the chance to interact with more people. Each time, he shared a story.

(Side note, I was once at an autograph show where there were over 30 baseball players signing autographs, the cheapest for $20. Bob was there. His was $5 and the line was long.)

Locking your story up may get you some names in the short term, but you are missing out on the opportunity to influence the vast majority of those who might be interested in your product.

And no-one shares gated content (anyone say Social Media).

Over the years, I was able to get many more autographs from Bob Feller and gave many away as gifts to other baseball lovers. If the autographs weren’t free, this would have never happened. Those fans would have never experienced the story of Bob Feller.

Wrong? Admit It and Move On

Being opinionated means that perfection is unattainable.  You will be wrong, and that’s okay.

Bob Feller made some horrible mistakes with his content, specifically about Jackie Robinson and African-American ballplayers. It stayed with him for a while.

Mr. Feller apologized, and later became a huge proponent of Negro league ballplayers getting into the Hall of Fame.

Content marketing is not safe. It cannot be controlled.

If you want safe and controlled, stick with advertorials.

If you want stories…if you want the truth, then content marketing is for you.

Thank you Bob Feller. I will miss you, but never forget you.