The Ron Swanson Guide to Content Marketing

Ron Swanson One

“You had me at Meat Tornado.”

The top brands in content marketing follow a core set of principles.

We’ve discussed the basic principles of content marketing many times on this blog.

They’re timeless.

Helping you better understand these principles is the primary goal of my work. Helping you better understand content marketing is why I wrote the Content Warfare book.

The Wisdom of Ron Swanson

It’s easy to get lost in the battle for attention online. We all want to grow our business. Sometimes in doing so, we get deep in the weeds on tools and tactics.

We start to take content marketing a little too serious. At times, I definitely do.

Today is not one of those days. Today we’re going to unpack the eternal wisdom of Ron Swanson. Yes, Ron Swanson the fictional character from the TV show Parks and Recreation.


Because he’s hilarious.

Here is your Ron Swanson Guide to Content Marketing:

“Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”

Translation = Focus.

It’s easy to find yourself trying to take on too many projects at once. Add in your family/personal life and a hobby and it’s easy to get over-extended.

Its impossible to do your best work with a divided mind.

I’ve found the biggest culprit to focus is overwhelm from mismanaging our “To-do” list.

I like the Todoist app which connects with Gmail, Chrome and my iPhone allowing me to stay focused on task all the time.

“I’m not interested in caring about people.”

Translation = Don’t sweat the haters.

All content marketers at some point will have to deal with haters. It’s an undeniable truth of creating content in the public space.

What we can’t do is allow haters to impact the quality of our content.

Hate comes in all shapes and forms. Some haters will question your expertise. Others will post unsubstantiated negative feedback. Then there is the particularly inappropriate and vulgar group known as trolls.

These people are not your audience. They are not your True Fans.

Care not about people who hate on your work. Time spent engaging haters is time wasted.

Remember always, “Grow your audience, grow you business.”

“Well, I’m not usually one for speeches. So, goodbye.”

ron swanson guide content marketing

image credit: cheekymonkeyart –

Translation = Brevity is your friend.

Brevity in content marketing is not a debate over short vs long-form blog posts. Brevity in this context refers to run-on sentences, passive voice and extravagant language.

This type of language strangles your message.

For those struggling with wordy-ness, consider using the Hemingway App.  The Hemingway App’s online platforms help writers condense and strengthen their message.

Brevity is a weakness in my writing game and have found the Hemingway App to be useful.

The trick I use most often is to speak my blog posts out loud. Listening to each word out loud helps expose clunky sections in your writing. Which then become simple to fix.

I call this “Finding Your Cadence” and is a big part of authentic writing.

“When I eat, it is the food that is scared.”

Translation = Enthusiasm wins.

There are few things as infectious as enthusiasm. If you aren’t excited about what you do, why should your audience be?

We pass our mood through and into our content. Anxious? Angry? Sad? Excited?

Your audience is going to know. Especially the audience members that actually give a crap about you and your work.

In most cases, this is a good thing. Content containing emotion is often more enjoyable to read. Emotion adds humanity and authenticity to your work.

There is one emotion which your audience will not abide: Apathy.

If you don’t care, do not even begin to hope your audience will.

They won’t.

The moment your audience senses you’ve “Mailed it in,” they’re gone. Forever.

Harness enthusiasm and your audience will feed off it.

“Skim milk is water that is lying about being milk.”

Translation = Never pretend to be something you are not.

Seth Godin can write 20 words blog posts because he’s Seth Godin.

Gary Vaynerchuk can spit wine into a Jets helmet because he’s Gary Vaynerchuk.

Marcus Sheridan‘s presentation style has an energy few can pull off.

James Altucher’s interview style is mixes enthusiasm and curiosity like few are capable.

My point.

Do the thing you do the way you do it.

That’s what Seth, Gary, Marcus and James’ do. They’ve each found their own unique voice and committed themselves to it.

Do you.

“Honor: if you need it defined, you don’t have it.”

Translation = Ethics and morals matter.

As content marketers, we have a responsibility to our audience. Our readers, viewers and listeners are spending valuable time with you.

Your audience is giving you a gift. The gift of their attention.

Respect this gift.

For the core audience members of this blog, what I’m about to say is almost not worth saying. But sometimes reminders are good for the soul.

It can take 1,000 honest acts of faith to build trust and one dishonest act to destroy it all.

Put your integrity and the integrity of your work before all else. Always.

“I like saying ‘No,’ it lowers their enthusiasm.”

Translation = Know when to say “No.”

There is no doubt I have a hard time saying “No.” I love to be part of new projects and work with new people. This is how we grow a greater understanding of our work.

So I say, “Yes” a lot.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to saying, “Yes.” I perpetually find myself in a state of overwhelm. There is a reason some of the work lately has questioned the topic of “Writer’s Block.” When the mind is spread thin its easy to lose focus.

There is no doubt a willingness to say “Yes” is vital to personal growth. Yet for some, (myself included), saying “Yes” is almost a sickness. We feel like by saying “No” we’re going to be left out of some great thing.

We all have a right to say “No.”

Say “No” and watch your business grow.

“Stillness: Don’t waste energy moving unless necessary.”

Translation = Be efficient.

To be an effective content marketer you must be efficient in your efforts. Here are five efficiency crushing items that immediately come to mind:

There are many more. My point is not specific items but rather the need to find efficiencies in our work where we can.

You will find your own unique methods to be more efficient at content marketing. Here are few of mine:

Have an open mind towards new methods of efficient content marketing.

“Greatness Itself: The best revenge”

Translation = Set your own goals.

Don’t get jealous. Don’t envy the achievements of others. Don’t allow what others have to dictate your actions.

image credit: Nachodraws -

image credit: Nachodraws –

Don’t try to beat your opponent.

Be so damn good your opponent doesn’t matter.

Cream rises to the top. Cliche, yes. True, hell yes.

All we can do is work to be the best version of ourselves we can.

Ask yourself: When do you create great work? What does your great work look like? Who appreciates and seeks out your great work?

Look inside yourself and get better.

Focusing on the work of others, or worse, creating simply to “beat” the competition will not produce the great work you desire.

“Intensity: Give 100%. 110% is impossible. Only idiots recommend that.”

Translation = Don’t overpromise.

Nothing destroys confidence in your business more than to over promise and under deliver. When talking about your business, tell them exactly what they’re going to get.

Don’t embellish. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t overpromise.

Why does the Connected Generation hate to be sold so much?

They’ve lived a life filled with advertisements promising more than the product actually delivers. They’re jaded by “The Catch.”

Today’s marketing discourse centers around words such as: Authenticity, transparency, and loyalty.

And whether this is genuine messaging or the same bullshit in a new wrapper is inconsequential. For its exactly what the Connected Generation responds to.

Be direct: In costs, in benefits, in customer experience.

Your audience will love you for it.

“I think it’s pointless for a human to paint scenes of nature when they can go outside and stand in it.”

Translation = Get out from behind the keyboard.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s message is powerful because he did. We watched him grow Wine Library TV from nothing to something.

Gary V has done the work. Have you?

I’ve spoken on content marketing in front of something like 67 insurance industry audiences. You know why they keep asking me to come back?

I was an agent. I did the work they do. I grew my insurance business with content marketing.

At some point, you have to prove you own the material or the message doesn’t mean shit.

Get out from behind the keyboard and live it.

“Cultivating a manly musk puts your opponents on notice.”

Translation = Let your reputation proceed you.

Nobody likes a bragger.

Confidence is sexy. Even a little waft of arrogance can excite.

But you shouldn’t be the one telling me how great you are. Let your past success speak for itself.

If your competition is actually competitive, they’ll already know what you can do.

Let the quality of your work be a reflection of the community you build around your brand.

We don’t need to brag, we need to do better work.

The Rub

You might be asking yourself if Ron Swanson is a content marketing visionary. He’s not. He’s a fictional TV character.

But that does not mean we can’t learn from his incredible wit and stoak philosophy on life.

We might all do better as students in the Ron Swanson School of Content Marketing.

Thank you and good luck,

I am Ryan Hanley

P.S. This was fun.

P.S.S Dive deep in content marketing and win the battle for attention online with my new book Content Warfare. Now available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

image credit: Olechka –

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