Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister, a civil rights leader, and a source of hope to millions of people. Whether it was leading the Montgomery bus boycott started by Rosa Parks in 1955, protesting in Birmingham, Alabama, or marching on Washington to deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech, King was a courageous leader who inspired millions of people and changed the course of history.
Today, nearly 50 years on from his death, as we remember Martin Luther King, we can also be inspired by him with our content. King was, after all, an incredible orator who knew how to use language — like virtually no other — to make a deep and lasting impact. Let’s look at some lessons that today’s content professionals can draw from the late, great Dr. King.
1. Patience is an important virtue. One of the arguably most admirable qualities that MLK demonstrated was his ability to be patient. He had to wait many years and overcome a lot of obstacles to make progress toward his goals. If you’re in content, you’d be well served to try to follow King’s lead. Patience is just the quality you need to, say, get a content marketing program off the ground, or navigate your way through the challenges of dealing with lots of stakeholders with different points of view. People who have the fortitude and patience to carry on toward their goals over the long haul are the ones with the greatest chance of actually achieving them.
2. Bring passion to your work. While few of us have jobs like MLK, where we’re championing a cause as important as human rights, we’ve all got to find a way to bring passion to our work. It was King’s passion that fueled him to write some of his most memorable content, such as “The Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Admittedly it can be hard to be passionate about selling widgets if that’s what you do. But even so, you can bring passion to some aspect of your work, such as creating the best content possible to sell those widgets. When you do, it will not only make you happier, but also translate into better content that gets results.
3. Always be persistent. Martin Luther King never gave up. He was resolute and steadfast in his beliefs and dedicated his life to advancing them. Content professionals need to be just as tenacious. To be successful at content, you’ve got to keep at it day in and day out. It takes a long time to build an audience and to get your message across. If you’re tempted to call it quits, think back to MLK. You’ve got to forge ahead and keep working toward your goals every day. Eventually your persistence will pay off.
4. Never underestimate the power of words. This is something that Dr. King clearly appreciated. He chose his words carefully and deliberately, and delivered them flawlessly, which is why many of them have found their way into the fabric of our nation’s consciousness (cue the aforementioned “I Have a Dream” speech). What King’s example shows us so clearly is that the pen really can be mightier than the sword. However, to have that kind of effect, you need to be patient, passionate, persistent, and, above all else, persuasive. Appeal to your audience on a personal level and you may find out just how powerful your words can be.
5. Build a lasting legacy. In 2018 we’ll commemorate the 50th anniversary of MLK’s death. And yet even though five decades have passed, we still turn to his words, many of which ring just as true today as they did during his lifetime. As a content professional, one objective to strive for is to create something so great that it too stands the test of time. It could be the definitive eBook or report on topic X or the best video or infographic on topic Y. The point is that if you can create something that endures and that people keep coming back to time and again, it will not only pay huge dividends, you’ll find that it’s incredibly rewarding.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on one of the great men of the 20th century. While doing so, you might just find some inspiration that you can apply to your work.