Jesse James: The Legend That Content Marketing Created

Jesse-James-The-Legend-That-Content-Marketing-Created-FINAL

If you’ve followed my writing for even a short period, you probably know that I am always on the search to find old and little-known content marketing examples.

As I mentioned in a post I wrote for MarketingInsiderGroup.com, called Did William Penn Use the Oldest Known Content Marketing to Establish Pennsylvania? I point out content marketing examples so often to my wife and kids that THEY now notice them!

Well, the surprising example I am going to show you today is thanks to my wife.

You see, I came home the other night and when I sat down in the living room she said, “You’re going to want to watch this special series on AMC called ‘The American West.’ It told the story of Jesse James and I think there’s a content marketing example you might like.”

The next night I was up late and decided to watch the first two episodes that were on-demand to see what she was talking about.

First of all, the series is great! I learned all sorts of things I never knew about Jesse James:

  • I learned he was a former confederate soldier who might have had PTSD.
  • I learned that he robbed trains because they contained the wealth from the North.
  • He didn’t see himself as a bad guy. He saw himself as a hero for the South, stealing back some of what was taken from their families and their land.

It was some amazing stuff!

But then, during the second episode, there it was. My wife was right! Content marketing was involved in creating the legend of Jesse James!

Let me explain…

Not long after Jesse James and his brother committed their first major crime, Jesse got a message from Missouri newspaper editor John Newman Edwards who was a former adjutant to the famous Confederate General Joseph O. Shelby.

john newman edwards the man who made jesse james a legend, old content marketing example

Editor John Newman Edwards

Edwards was a hardcore confederate who felt like Southerners had been robbed and made into outlaws. Edwards was looking for a new way to push his Confederate agenda. (In the run-up to the election of 1872, Edwards focused most of his editorial power to denounce Republican President Ulysses Grant and his administration.)

But when he heard about Jesse’s daring robbery, he believed Jesse James gave him a new opportunity to energize the “Southern spirit” of his readers. He felt that the South needed someone to believe in. And he believed that Jesse James could be that person.

According to The American West, when Jesse James met with Edwards in Kansas City, Edwards toasted James for his work for the Confederacy. And he told Jesse, “You don’t have to be a common criminal. I can make you a hero!”

And that’s exactly what Edwards did.

Edwards went on to write dozens of articles in which he portrayed Jesse and his brother Frank as if they were some kind of modern-day Robin Hoods who stole from the rich so that they could give to the poor. 

And it worked! Across the South, Jesse James went from being known as a criminal to being seen as a hero of the Confederacy.

How Content Marketing Made Jesse James Famous

In my book, 51 Content Marketing Hacks” I give this definition for content marketing…

“Content marketing is the creation (or curation) of engaging content for the express purpose of gaining the attention and favor of a certain group, so that they will be persuaded to do business with an individual, business, or organization.”
– From my book “51 Content Marketing Hacks: Extraordinary Lessons on Creating Content That Will Help You Sell More and Gain More Customers

Why do I say content marketing created the myth of Jesse James?

Because John Newman Edwards created content that sold Jesse James to his audience and, more importantly in Edward’s mind, sold the dream of the Confederacy that he wanted to keep alive in his reader’s minds.

As I sat and watched, The American West,  I heard it explained powerfully like this…


It’s impossible to talk about Jesse James without John Newman Edwards, who really just becomes Jesse James publicist, and is the one who manufactures the myth of ‘Jesse James the Rebel’ who is on this mission to stick to the establishment, justifying these criminal acts.” – Historian David Eisenbach

That’s when I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that content marketing created the legend of Jesse James.

How come Jesse James is such a famous outlaw that we’ve all heard of? It’s because of John Newman Edwards and the content he created that made James a hero who was larger than life.

Now that you see the power of content marketing in Jesse James and John Newman Edwards lives, let me share with you what I believe is an important content marketing lesson we can learn from them.

An Important Content Marketing Lesson We Can Learn from the Legend of Jesse James

About seven months ago, I did a podcast interview with Ed Gandia in which I shared what we called Taking the First Steps to Becoming an Authority in Your Field.

Ed Gandia, host of "High Income Business Writing"

Ed Gandia, host of “High Income Business Writing”

In that interview, I talked about the major error that most people make in their marketing and content marketing: They put all their focus on marketing WHAT they are selling.

Instead of focusing only on what you’re selling you need to start working on promoting the WHO of your business. And when you focus your marketing and content marketing on your “who,” it changes everything!

Why is this so important? Because who you are influences your prospects and customers.

If you are perceived as an expert or an authority – if you have a certain level of status in your niche or subculture, then you will be more desired and you will be able to charge more.

That means the important content marketing lesson we can learn from the legend of Jesse James is this…

Never overlook the power of content marketing to position yourself powerfully in the minds of your audience.

So how do you use content marketing to position yourself in your industry or niche? I think there are some lessons we can learn from Jesse James and John Newman Edwards.

Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean…

3 Ways to Use Content Marketing to Become an Authority or “Star” in Your Industry

If you look again at the Jesse James story, you’ll see the importance of “Who,”  but you’ll also discover a lesson on how content marketing can change our “Who” and position us as an authority in our market.

The lesson is this: Be seen on other people’s platforms.

When Edwards decided to feature Jesse James in the Kansas City Times it changed Jesse James’ life. Content Marketing can allow you to experience the same kind of life-changing experience.

Here are three ways you can use content marketing to be seen on other people’s platforms:

1. Write guest posts to build your authority

Back in 2010, I had already authored two books called How Your Business Can Survive and Prosper in Recession. And it was around that time that I began noticing content marketing being mentioned over and over.

The more I began to read and research about it, the more I realized I had been accidentally using content marketing for years, even though I didn’t even know what it was. 

So in 2011, I approached ContentMarketingInstitute.com (CMI) with a blog post about Justin Bieber and how Disney used content marketing to make him a star. They really liked it and posted it.

With that post, I began writing for CMI 2-3 times a year.  And in the process, I learned the importance of being seen on other people’s platforms. By writing for others, it helped increase the exposure of my ideas to others and it changed “Who” I was in their eyes.

A while ago, people were saying we should stop doing guest posts, because they thought Google would penalize that kind of content.

But I never stopped guest posting. Why?

First of all, from what I had read, people misunderstood what Matt Cutts had originally said. But the most important reason I didn’t stop is because I have never written guest posts for SEO reasons.

I have always written guest posts because of how they impact my “Who.” I have gained clients, exposure, and even respect from any/all guest posting that I have done.

So I would encourage you to do the same and make sure that a certain amount of your time is focused on creating content for other people, so you can be seen on their platforms.

2. Keep an eye out for opportunities to be interviewed

The reason I take advantage of every opportunity to be interviewed on any podcasts (like Ed Gandia’s) is because it is another way for me and my content (via my words) to get exposure on someone else’s platform.

And when I am seen or heard on other people’s platform and interviewed as an expert, then it impacts and elevates my “Who” in my arena and in the arena that I am being interviewed for.

How do you get interviewed on other people’s platforms?

It all comes down to content marketing again. You need to create powerful blog posts on your own site, write guest posts for other sites, and publish reports or ebooks. If you do that, then you become someone worth interviewing! 

And then one of three things will happen: People will approach you to interview you, people will recommend you to others to be interviewed, or you can approach people to see if they’d like to interview you. (All of these methods have gotten me interviews.)

3. Get your content syndicated on other websites

This is an overlooked way for you to get exposure on someone else’s platform, but it’s a great one. Instead of writing guest posts for other sites, see if there are any websites that will syndicate your content.

I currently have my content from this website syndicated on two different sites: Business2Community.com and Curatti.com.

business2community.com logocuratti.com logo

That means, that instead of writing guest posts for these sites, these sites have been given permission by me to republish any posts on my site that they like and want to share with their audiences.

This can especially be helpful if you don’t have time to write content for guest posts and it still allows you to be featured on other people’s platforms.

Are you wondering:

  • “Why would anyone want to let me guest post?”
  • “Why would anyone want to interview me?”
  • “Why would anyone want to syndicate my content?”

It’s simple.

Everyone needs content these days, so it’s really not as difficult as you think. You just have to begin creating great content and then have the courage to approach other people who have platforms you want exposure on.

And when people begin to see you on other people’s platforms, that’s when the “magic” starts to happen.

You’ll begin to experience just a little bit of what Jesse James experienced when John Newman Edwards decided to feature him in the Kansas City Times and make him a star.

You might not become famous like Jesse James (and if you do, I hope it’s not for the same reasons), but it will begin to change how your market perceives you.

Your “Who” will begin changing. And when your “Who” changes, your results will change!

My Full Interview with Ed Gandia About “Taking the First Steps to Becoming an Authority in Your Field”

If you want more information about how you can implement these content marketing lessons borrowed from Jesse James and John Newman Edwards, then you can take a listen to my full interview with Ed below…

“High Income Business Writing” with ed gandia

My interview with Ed where I share “Taking the First Steps to Becoming an Authority in Your Field”…

If You Liked This Post…

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Scott Aughtmon
I’m author of the book 51 Content Marketing Hacks. I am also a regular contributor to ContentMarketingInstitute.com and I am the person behind the popular infographic 21 Types of Content We Crave.

I’m a business strategist, consultant, content creation specialist, and speaker. I’ve been studying effective marketing and business methods (both online and offline) since 1999.

===> If you would like to see ways that we could work together, then please click here to learn more.

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