Ryan Hanley

author, speaker, marketing geek

Why the Single Most Important Content Marketing Skill is Blowing the Whistle

content marketing

content marketingI’ve never written about this before at length, but when I’m not marketing my insurance business or writing this blog, I work as a high school basketball referee.

The 2012-2013 season is actually my tenth wearing the stripes and in those ten years as a basketball official I’ve worked over 1,500 games ranging from 4th graders to high school varsity.

There are days I love it.

There are definitely days I hate it.

But regardless of how I’m feeling about the game on the ride home there is no single activity over the course of my life which has taught me more about what it takes to be an artist then working as a referee.

…because reffing basketball takes balls (figuratively).

You don’t like to judged?  Don’t become a ref.

As a referee every action is judged.

The way you look.

The way you stand.

The way you talk.

Every word you speak is dissected.

Every gesture and mannerism critiqued.

Not to mention the calls you make.

…and therein lies the rub.

In order to be an official, in order to practice your art as a basketball referee, you have to blow the whistle.

As simple as it may seem in theory, blowing the whistle is incredibly hard in the moment.

What if your wrong?

What if you anticipated the play?

What if you’ve mistaken the rule?

What if what you thought happened really didn’t?

What if the coach yells at you?  Will you have to give him a technical?  What if he’s yelling at you because he’s correct and you’re not?

What if the player reacts to the call?  How will address that?

What if the crowd goes bananas?

What if other referees are in the crowd and see your mistake?

What if… What if… What if… it’s paralyzing.

Every single time you blow the whistle you’re going to be judged.  Some donut eating, ignorant, never-was in the stands is going to yell something offensive questioning your integrity, your intelligence or your character every single time you blow the whistle…

…but the whistle has to blown for a basketball game to function.

So be a referee you HAVE TO BLOW THE WHISTLE.

This is why so many men and women with great intentions drop out of reffing after a year or less.  Blowing the whistle means judgement, but the whistle has to be blown.  There is no way to be a referee and not blow the whistle.

Think I’m being dramatic?  Too sensitive?

Try calling a charge on the home team in front of 500 raving lunatic fans in a tie game with less than a minute on the clock.

You want to know what it’s like to experience unfiltered hate and judgement?

Sell that call when you know exactly what’s coming as a result.

Blowing the whistle is the hardest part.

Sell that call and don’t sweat…

…like you’ve done it a million times.

…like the gym is empty.

…like a father in the first row didn’t just threaten your life.

Blowing the whistle is the hardest part.

Sell that call and then stand there like it doesn’t phase you.

Better yet… Don’t pretend it doesn’t phase you… Just don’t let the judgement phase you. You know it’s coming.  The judgement is coming regardless, so the only way to get really good at dealing with judgement is the blow the damn whistle.

Once you’ve blown your whistle 100 times dealing with judgement starts to become easy.  Blow your whistle a 1,000 times and handling judgement becomes second nature.  Blow your whistle 10,000… You blow your whistle 10,000 times and you forget that anyone is even judging you.

This is why blowing your whistle is the single most important content marketing skill

…simply replace blowing your whistle with creating content and you’ve set yourself apart from everyone else in your industry attempting to market their business online.

blowing the whistle

If you want to drive traffic, build relationships and ultimately generate revenue from content marketing you have to create content.

Seems obvious right?

Undertand then that every piece of content you create is going to be judged.  Everyone who reads your content is going to make immediate judgements based on their unique perception of your content.

Some will agree with what you say. Some will enjoy your content. Others will disagree. Others will comment and push back on you. Others still will question your expertise, your motives, your experience…

Don’t let this paralyze you.

No matter how you create content, using whatever tools you use, following whatever template you follow, they are going to judge you and you have absolutely ZERO control.

Don’t let the judgement phase you.

Don’t let it bother you.

Don’t even think about it.

Simply create your art.  Create your content.

Create your content with reckless abandon.

Harness the power of content marketing and blow that damn whistle…


Thank you and Good luck,

I am Ryan Hanley and if you enjoyed this article you’ll love the Content Warfare Newsletter, get it here.

SPEAK YOUR MIND: What paralyzes you from creating content?

About Ryan Hanley

I help make sales easy through content marketing. My work as a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and Amazon bestseller author will help your business establish authority, attract an audience and grow revenue. Hire me to speak at your next event or grab a copy of my new book, Content Warfare.

  • http://www.makesocialmediasell.com Jeff Molander

    “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

    ― Ken Robinson

    And although I see you arguing against the need to have original thought, Ryan, (in order to add value and create attention) I think this applies :)

  • http://www.inspiringwomen.in Gaori Agrawal

    By the very act of doing something, you open yourself up to criticism! But as long as you believe in what you do and you know that you gave it your best, nothing else matters. However, you should remain open to constructive criticism as it can help you improve. The rest just needs to be ignored.
    A very powerful and apt analogy! Thanks for sharing, Ryan.

  • Adil

    In the start I was thinking that you are going to tell how to become referee but thank God I red the full story. Usually I leave reading after few paras. 😀

    But I must say that it is the Great way of motivating Us (bloggers) to write content and not think how others judge you (Y). Thumbs up!

  • http://chickoryonline.com Patricia Haag

    Wow, Ryan! Powerful piece you wrote. BB refs do take a lot of garbage from everyone in the arena.

    I don’t think I agree with “Create Content With Reckless Abandon”, however. It takes thought and preparation. Maybe that’s my paralysis, being a bit of a perfectionist. Once a person feels more comfortable with a topic, then content flows more freely.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      I definitely think that people will disagree with me on the Reckless Abandon idea. My personal opinion is however no matter how much of a perfectionist you are some of your work is going to hit and other work is going to flop…

      If you believe in that then belaboring content creation is only slowing your flow of quality content. So just create, over and over again. The crap content will be forgotten and great content will be your legacy.

      Appreciate the thoughts!!!

      Ryan H.

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  • http://www.thesaleslion.com Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion

    Hanley, this was down-right awesome my man. I had no idea you were a ref, but having watched you do your thing, I can see it, no doubt.

    Beautiful analogy man, certainly to content marketing too.

    I’ve seen bloggers/marketers who just had to make everyone happy, couldn’t handle a disagreement.

    They usually burn out in less than one year. The kitchen gets too hot.

    Same with the refs you mentioned.

    It’s funny how principles of human behavior, success and leadership apply across the board…to everything man.

    You’re such a thoughtful writer Hanley, I really love your stuff.


    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      I appreciate that so much my man… and it is so true that who we are as people shows through in everything that we do. It’s like Seth Godin say… Picasso only painted because it was the medium of his day, the Art would have happened regardless.

      All the best my man,


  • http://www.ameenafalchetto.com Ameena Falchetto

    This was AWESOME Ryan – I’ve never really played team sports but I could feel the excitement and the emotion and wow, it drove the point home.

    I always say when it comes to content creation you need to write like no one is ever going to read it – but most of my clients stall, frown and say eh? So, a better way of phrasing it is, write like you are singing in the shower, or dancing in your bedroom – Like no one is watching – only then will you really unleash the YOU in your writing!

    Yes to blowing your own whistle! Your site, your business, YOUR RULES!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      Thanks so much for stopping by. I love the singing in the shower analogy… or when a really bad 80s rock song comes on the radio while you’re driving!!

      Control is a big issue for a lot of people and what we’re asking them to do is let go… So much easier said then done but ultimately a huge part of online success.


      Ryan H.

  • http://inspiretothrive.com Lisa

    Ryan, I love this analogy! Awesome way to remind us to keep on writing and don’t be afraid. You’ll improve as you go and you’ll believe in yourself more too. It sure sounds referring was a lot of pressure!

  • http://www.matthewlbrennan.com Matt Brennan

    Yea, high school basketball ref, that’s a lot of pressure! They are similar though. As a content producer you definitely have to make your move with conviction. Good post!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks Matt… It’s all about conviction in what you believe. Then let the chips fall where they do.

      Appreciate the feedback,


  • http://www.bloggersmakemoney.com Wade

    Ryan, you’re definitely right. Everything you share gets judged. This is why the share is just as important as the content. They scratch each other’s backs. You are being graded by the content you share and write! Building a blog of integrity not only happens on the blog but everywhere else as well!

  • Wayne Jooubert

    Nice, Ryan. Would make an excellent chapter in a book on leadership.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks Wayne! I might have to make that happen.

      Hope all is well!

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