One of my all-time favorite TV shows is The West Wing, especially seasons one to four. I was a dedicated fan when the show originally aired, and since then I’ve found myself re-watching it multiple times a year. Despite being nearly 20 years old, so much of the show remains relevant today, including the 18 marketing lessons I pulled from some of my favorite quotes. Keep reading for advice for developing a marketing strategy and a content marketing plan from President Bartlet, Leo, Toby, Josh, Sam, CJ and all the other wonderful characters.

Marketing Strategy Advice From The West Wing

1. Take Action

Leo: We dropped five points in a week?
Toby: Yeah.
Leo: We didn’t even do anything last week!
Toby: I’ll say.

If you don’t create and implement a marketing strategy, your online visibility, brand awareness and name recognition won’t improve. Be proactive; take action.

2. Always Keep Moving Forward

Bartlet: What’s next?

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Instead of always doing the same thing, look to the future. What are your plans to reach more potential customers?

3. Consider a New Marketing Approach

Leo: We spent millions of dollars developing a pen for the astronauts that would work in zero gravity. Know what the Russians did?
Toby: Used a pencil?
Leo: They used a pencil.

As you evaluate your marketing strategy, consider ways to be more efficient and successful. Is there a new tactic you could employ that will help you achieve your goals more effectively? You may want to consider including it in your plan!

4. Keep Learning

Sam: Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything.

You can always improve. Never stop learning. Take the time to read more, improve your skills and soak up as much as possible so you can put together the best marketing strategy for your company.

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Hard Work or Failure

Mrs. Landingham: You know, if you don’t want to run again, I respect that. But if you don’t run ’cause you think it’s gonna be too hard or you think you’re gonna lose – well, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you.

A successful marketing strategy takes time, consistency and a lot of hard work; don’t let fear stop you from trying!

6. Celebrate Victories

A picture of muffins and bagels with a quote from the West Wing superimposed on top.
How do you celebrate your brand’s victories? Make it part of your marketing!

Josh: Victory is mine, victory is mine. Great day in the morning, people, victory is mine.
Donna: Morning Josh.
Josh: I drink from the keg of glory, Donna. Bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land.

Did your company just achieve something? Share the good news! Post about it on your blog, include it in your e-newsletter and let your social media followers know about it. Or, if it’s truly newsworthy, pitch it to the media to let a wider net of potentially interested consumers know about it.

7. Get Marketing Help

Leo: This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.’

As you develop your marketing strategy, take some time to self reflect. Are you able to put together a successful plan? And if you are, do you have the capacity to carry it out? If you need help, ask for it! Whether you need consultations or day-to-day management, there are firms out there.

Content Marketing Advice From The West Wing

8. Establish Clear Marketing Goals First

Will: This speech is about creativity. In my judgment it’s a home run. But what it isn’t is a speech that will convince Zoey not to go to France tomorrow.
Bartlet: Well, let’s write that one!

Before developing any content for your brand, you need to establish clear marketing goals. What do you hope to achieve through your blog posts, social media updates and email newsletters? Are they appropriate tactics to employ? Are they the best ways to reach your target audience? And if they are, is the actual content itself compelling for them?

9. Know Your Audience

Sam: Ms. O’Brien, I understand your feelings, but please believe me when I tell you that I’m a nice guy having a bad day. I just found out the Times is publishing a poll that says a considerable portion of Americans feel the White House has lost energy and focus. A perception that’s not likely to be altered by the video footage of the President riding his bicycle into a tree. As we speak, the Coast Guard is fishing Cubans out of the Atlantic Ocean while the Governor of Florida wants to blockade the Port of Miami. A good friend of mine’s about to get fired for going on television and making sense, and it turns out I accidentally slept with a prostitute last night. Now would you please, in the name of compassion, tell me which one of those kids is my boss’s daughter?
Mallory: That would be me.
Sam: You.
Mallory: Yes.
Sam: Leo’s daughter’s fourth-grade class.
Mallory: Yes.
Sam: Well, this is bad on so many levels.

Before you begin creating content for your marketing plan, research your audience and get to know them. What will resonate well with them? What are the best avenues to share your content marketing messages with them? Take this into consideration as you begin moving forward with your strategy.

10. Capture Your Audience’s Attention

Bartlet: Time’s up.
Little: Actually, if I may, Mr. President. I didn’t get my full five minutes.
Bartlet: Yes, I know. But I got tired of listening to you.

Thanks to modern technology, the average attention span is at an all-time low: 8 seconds! You can bet this will affect your marketing strategy. It’s even more important to capture attention quickly and hang onto it by sharing compelling content your target audience will find valuable.

11. Pay Attention to Timing

Danny: [asking why C.J is going on the Portland Trip] Are you being punished?
C.J.: I’m not being punished. I’m going on the trip.
Danny: If the whole bus goes off the record, will you tell us why you’re going on the trip?
C.J.: [hesitating] I made fun of Notre Dame. [The journalists collectively groan] Usually I get away with it.
Danny: They’re playing Michigan tomorrow.
C.J.: I know that now.
Danny: You can’t do that when they’re playing Michigan.

When it comes to your marketing campaign, timing matters. In addition to researching industry trends about the best time to post social media updates or send an email newsletter, pay attention to your analytics. Is there any useful data you can glean regarding the best times to publish content?

12. Avoid Emotional Reactions

An image of bananas with a West Wing quote superimposed over it.
Are emotions seeping into your marketing?

Bartlet: Mrs. Landingham.
Mrs. Landingham: Yes sir?
Bartlet: You’re not going to believe this but I think I’d actually like a banana.
Mrs. Landingham: I’m afraid not sir, no.
Bartlet: Why not?
Mrs. Landingham: You were offered one earlier, sir, and you were snippy.
Bartlet: I wasn’t snippy!
Mrs. Landingham: I’m afraid you were, Mr. President.

It can be easy to let emotions get the best of us, especially if you receive a negative comment on Facebook or an accusatory email message from a customer. Instead of replying right away with an emotionally infused response, take a step back, breath deeply and really listen to the feedback. Are they offering advice about something you can do better? Once you’ve taken a minute to calm down, respond courteously and help however you can to remedy the situation.

13. Be The Best Writer You Can Be

Bartlet: Can I see the intro?
Sam: It’s up on the Prompter.
Bartlet: [reads] “Good morning! I’m speaking to you live from the West Wing of the White House. Today we have a very unique opportunity to take part live in an extremely historic event which…” Whoa, boy…
Sam: [waves and smiles] How you doing, Mr. President?
Bartlet: Who wrote this intro?
Tate: I did, sir. I’m Scott Tate from NASA Public Affairs.
Bartlet: [gets up and shakes his hand] Scott. “Unique” means “one of a kind.” Something can’t be very unique, nor can it be extremely historic.
C.J.: While we’re at it, do we have to use the word “live” twice in the first two sentences like we just cracked the technology?
Tate: Look…
C.J.: We’re also broadcasting in living color, right?
Bartlet: Sam?
Sam: Yeah.
Bartlet: Sam’s gonna make some changes.
Tate: Are you going to clear them with me?
Sam: Probably not.

Clear, compelling writing is vital to a successful marketing campaign – especially one that relies on blogging, social media, email and other forms of writing to communicate with current and potential customers. Avoid superfluous adjectives. Eliminate unnecessary words. Write in an active voice.

14. Don’t Fear Writer’s Block

Toby: All right… It couldn’t have gone far, right?
Sam: No.
Toby: Somewhere in this building… is our talent.
Sam: Yes.

Even the best writers face a block sometimes. Don’t let it discourage you! Your content marketing strategy depends on effective writing, so follow the advice from these seven famous writers and keep at it!

15. Proofread Everything – Then Proofread Again!

Bartlet: [practicing the State of the Union speech] I came to this hallowed chamber one year ago on a mission, to restore the American dream for all our people as we gaze at the vast horizon of possibilities open to us… in the 321st century. Wow, that was ambitious of me, wasn’t it?
Sam: Leo.
Leo: Let’s take a break.
Bartlet: We meant ‘stronger’ here, right?
Sam: What does it say?
Bartlet: I’m proud to report our country’s stranger than it was a year ago?
Sam: That’s a typo.
Bartlet: Could go either way.

Before you hit “publish” on anything you create (a blog post, e-newsletter, image, video), proofread a couple of times. A silly mistake can mean a big difference in your content!

How can you proofread effectively? Don’t just quickly skim through your marketing messages a couple of times – take a break and then come back to carefully re-read what you’ve written. It can also help your brain catch mistakes if you read it out loud or print it out on some scrap paper to look at a hard copy. Or, if you have a colleague you can trust, have them proofread it for you so you can have a fresh set of eyes on the content.

16. Check Your Facts

Will: [from Leo’s computer] Okay, I’ve searched “equinox” and “egg,” and the news isn’t good for the believers.
C.J.: What sites did they send you to?
C.J.: There’s no such site.
Will: Read it!
C.J.: “This has to be one of the silliest misconceptions around and it never seems to die.”

A lot of consumers are interested in the latest and greatest news, but make sure anything you share as part of your marketing strategy is accurate; you don’t want to be guilty of spreading fake news. This means you find credible sources for any research you include in your blog posts, any facts you share in videos or images, or articles you publish on your social media channels. I especially recommend clicking through and reading any articles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest before hitting the “share” or “retweet” buttons.

17. Be As Accurate As Possible

Larry: [reading a book that an ex-reporter wrote about the White House] “Bartlet was playing a round of golf with Toby Ziegler, the prickly communications director, whose bitter inner darkness spelled the breakup of the one marriage we know about.”
C.J.: It was miniature golf, wasn’t it?
Toby: Yeah.

Make sure every piece of content you develop for your brand is as accurate as possible. Yes, you can position the facts in the best light possible, but as Erika and I explain in this video, you never want to lie. Honesty is always the best policy.

18. Everything You Share is Marketing

A picture of a clock with a West Wing quote superimposed over it.
Do you consider everything you share to be part of your marketing strategy?

Mallory: Wow.
Sam: What?
Mallory: For a guy who’s trying to date me, that was pretty snotty.
Sam: Well, hang on. These are office hours. If I’d know I was working on that I would have had a whole different attitude.

We live in a world where everyone and everything is connected. Even if you have a personal Facebook account or blog, remember that potential business contacts or customers may find and connect with you there. Yes, you can be yourself – and you should be! But think through what you’re posting and make sure it doesn’t detract from your business’ marketing strategy.

Whether or not you’ve seen The West Wing yet, you can learn a lot of marketing advice from the show; it may be time for you to sit down and (re)watch it! If you do, let me know if you come up with any advice I’ve missed!