Unexpectedly, Tony Hawk said something relevant about media-related teamwork

By Sean Stanleigh

The Globe and Mail

Toronto, Canada


How can skateboarding be even remotely relevant to content marketing?

A few days ago, I would have said it can’t. But after listening to Tony Hawk wax poetic about his time in the half-pipe, I’ve changed my tune. Skateboarding is very much an individual sport, he pointed out. You determine your own success or failure based on talent and drive.

Content marketing is stronger when teams lean into each other instead of working completely in isolation. This philosophy holds true in skateboarding, too.
Content marketing is stronger when teams lean into each other instead of working completely in isolation. This philosophy holds true in skateboarding, too.

It’s also a team sport. Skateboarders, he said, tend to be very supportive of each other, even when they’re competing. It’s likely a throwback to the origins of the skate culture and lifestyle that emerged in the early days in California, when riders had to fight for respect before they got anywhere near fame. Or money. A lot has changed in the decades since.

At the C2 Montreal marketing conference in May 2023, Hawk was one of the big-name speakers, tapped for a Q&A with retired Canadian diver Rosaline Filion. He talked about his athletic journey, his quest to complete a 900, side projects such as his video game franchise, and how skateboarding relates to business.

Hawk called for “more universality.” His argument is that the default option for most big companies and their employees is to protect anything they consider proprietary. This is where he drew parallels to skateboarding: Even when you’re on your own, you can support everyone else, including your competitors.

Am I going to start cheering on the competition? Haha — no. Do I bad mouth them? No. Do I want them to go out of business? Also, no.

Competition is healthy. It keeps you on your toes. It forces you to innovate, strive, and work hard. There’s no harm in treating it as “friendly.”

That said, Hawk’s comments got me thinking about how, on a content marketing team, you can do great individual work, while supporting and drawing on the talent of your colleagues.

Individuals spur creativity — colleagues spur action

When you’re trying to come up with a concept for a campaign, it’s best to start small. Research the topic you plan to cover. What news or trends are happening? Who are the experts, inside and outside your company? Have you hosted stories on this topic on your owned and operated spaces? How have they performed? What actions or emotions are you hoping to spark?

Then it’s time to bring in the team. Even if you think you have some great ideas, you can always layer on bigger and better executions. Most importantly, everyone ends up with skin in the game, and they’ll be more inclined to dive head-first into creation of the final product.

You should never own this alone. You need to get the team on board for optimal final results.

Individuals have specialised expertise — colleagues stitch them together

I’ve often made the argument that successful content creators should have a range of skills, including writing, editing, audio and video production, social media strategy, and data analysis. Should there be an expectation of expertise in each of these areas? No. Everyone has their strengths.

At Globe Content Studio, our content strategists, who generally specialise in editing, steer the process. They can’t build a campaign alone, even if they have a range of skills. It’s the melding of varying content experts that enables any multi-faceted campaign. Talent is one thing; combined talents is next level.

Individuals have bias — colleagues check it

Real people-led storytelling is not only key to delivering the connections audiences appreciate, it also differentiates human-led from AI-led content production.

Diverse, relevant subjects who express their lived experiences in ways that make stories stand out are not the only crucial step. Individual content creators bring their own biases, and they frame the world, inadvertently or otherwise, around their own. However, they might have a hard time admitting it to themselves, let alone taking action to avoid it. Ideally, teams are diverse, working together respectfully to hold individual colleagues to account to ensure they make space for individuals to tell their own stories.

When I attended the Hawk session, this wasn’t the reflection I’d expected. It was a nice surprise. On a side note, Hawk said he rode his skateboard from his hotel to the conference. Also surprising, in a good way!

About Sean Stanleigh

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