Now, I wouldn’t want to overstate my role in this, but you can actually trace the breakthrough of Irish Women’s Rugby to my first interaction with them.
Picture the scene. A misty, dank oul’ February day in Ashbourne as your correspondent takes the mic to commentate on Ireland v England in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations for live streaming on irishrugby.ie (I’m not just a world-leading content marketing strategist, you know!). Don't let the confident tone fool you - I was terrified. I’d never seen a women’s rugby match before, much less commentated on one.
My co-commentator, a former player, couldn’t have been more excited about this big day as she regaled me with tales of her time with Ireland, when they saved money by sharing floor space in hotels. We were playing England, the perennial 6 Nations champions - a team we had never beaten before and who definitely got a bed each when they went away.
My own biggest concern was that I’d come out with a typically patronising comment such as ‘They’re actually quite good, aren’t they?’ as I watched Niamh Briggs boot the ball further than I ever did in my own playing career (well, apart from that one really windy day in Wexford).
A rolling bandwagon gathers no moss
Like I said above, my role in this shouldn’t be overstated, but we spanked the Saxon invader 25-0 that day and the bandwagon rolled all the way to the first ever Grand Slam title for this merry band.
Now look at them. Not content with becoming the first Irish rugby team to beat their New Zealand counterparts and the winners of the last five World Cups, they are intent on going the whole hog and winning the World Cup.
From little underfunded acorns
When Ireland Women played France in the 2012 6 Nations tournament in Pau, in the rugby heart of the south of France, they arrived in their hotel at 7am ahead of their match at 2.30 that afternoon. Yes, you read that right. They left Dublin on Friday morning on a commercial flight to Paris, boarded a bus to meet their high speed train. But, if you’ve ever been in Friday evening rush hour traffic in Paris, you’ll understand why they were 2 hours late for their connection.
Remarkably, they played ferociously and only lost by a point to the host team for the current World Cup and semi-finalists on the other side of the draw.
Since that Grand Slam (no, honestly, I can take very little credit), they have attracted proper funding from the Irish Rugby Football Union, have their own sponsor (Aon Insurance - fair play to ye, lads!) and a full support team in Paris. Even if they don’t win this World Cup, they will be one of our main medal hopes at the next Olympic Games in 2016.
The business lessons
The business lesson from this? Well, it’s only 2 years since this squad was hopelessly funded, and getting by through sharing floor space on trips abroad. However, with passion and focus, plus their own talent, they have changed the landscape forever for their brand.
Content marketing is a lot like this. You can actually carve out a very successful future for your struggling, cash-starved brand through passion, application of your knowledge and discipline.
Use what you have - knowledge, passion and application
Many of the activities that Content Marketing has as its fundamentals can be undertaken by utilising your own talent and application. As a start-up, you have the passion for your brand. You know more about your chosen area than almost anyone. But you don’t have money. You are sharing that hotel floor space.
However, you can blog. You can write about your subject area. Just do it in a way that puts your prospective customer’s needs first. This will bring traffic to your website. Gold dust. But you’ve got to carve out the time and space to make it happen, understanding that it’s as important a business activity as making the blinking product in the first place.
Establish your content calendar as you would your training calendar. And, most importantly, turn up for training. Content doesn't just happen, you have to work at it on a regular and planned basis.
Appoint a Captain, but share the responsibility amongst the team
Fiona Coghlan has done a sterling job leading the Irish girls. Equally, you need someone who is ultimately responsible and leads the troops that are implementing your content strategy. But you also shouldn't leave everything to one individual. Divide the content tasks amongst the team.
And a Coach
Philip 'Goose' Doyle has been an outstanding setter of the direction and the strategy. And a liaison with the board (IRFU). Someone needs to report on events and justify the budget.
It's a Game Changer
You’ll find that pretty soon, like the Irish Women’s rugby team, your whole landscape can change very quickly.
And, really, this isn’t just for start-ups; it also applies further up the commercial food chain. More established businesses need this traffic and sales just as much, and are often equally pressed for thinly spread resources.
Our own business, 256 Media, is a case in point. We are the highest ranking Irish company under the search term ‘content marketing’. Why? Because we blog. We haven’t spent a penny.
But it's not all about me
Now, I know what you're thinking - I could be the catalyst for this for your company too. But listen, that's not what I'm after. The role of the squad itself shouldn't be lost in all of this.
In fairness, the girls themselves did most of the work.
Ireland take on England once again at 17.00 Wed 13th August - in the semi-final of the Women's Rugby World Cup. Tune in to Sky Sports or TG4 and roar at the telly. I can't make it to Paris myself (which is a bit of a worry), but they deserve our support and everything they get. #shouldertoshoulder #coygig #WRWC2014