A Sobering Reminder That Authority Can Change the Course of History

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Editor’s note: This essay is one of three Second Prize winners of the Copyblogger Media Essay contest, for which writers had 250 words to discuss why it’s essential to be an online authority.

Wayne Wheeler knows a thing or two about authority.

Essentially erased from the public conscious, Wheeler led the Anti-Saloon League, an advocacy group that made possible the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

Though he never cast a single vote for the amendment or its ratification, Wayne Wheeler used his authority to enact Prohibition.

How did he establish this authority? It started with content marketing.

A man ahead of his time

By 1913 the ASL was printing “more than 40 tons of prohibitionist propaganda each month,” according to historian Daniel Okrent. This provided Wheeler with the scale that most pre-internet marketers lacked.

Wheeler might not have been the original content marketer, but he was a stunningly effective one.

Authority and singular focus allowed Wheeler to stand out among myriad competing voices.

Online marketers and entrepreneurs face the same issues today.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Small groups of every ilk try to change the conversation. Only the authoritative, focused, unique voices can find a space among the masses.

Those with influence, built with authority, determine the course of history. Wheeler used his to constitutionally outlaw alcoholic beverages.

Times haven’t changed much since the early 20th century. The means of distribution might have, but the general rules remain the same.

The value of authority increases exponentially amid the millions of voices on the internet. Affordable tools and free social media remove barriers to entry.

The only way to stand out, as Wheeler did, is to establish authority and gain influence.

Failure means screaming for relevancy among the masses.

As a Second Prize winner, Joe received a one-year membership to Authority. Previously, Grand Prize winner Anthony Sills received a lifetime Authority membership plus a ticket to Authority Intensive, the live content marketing experience we are hosting this May. You can read Anthony’s winning essay here.

And if you want more insight on how 270+ essays were whittled down to five winners, watch the Essay Contest Wrap-Up Hangout with Demian and Jerod. They highlight the specific elements of the winning essays that separated them from the pack.

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Reader Comments (16)

  1. says

    Saying enough to make an impact in just a few words is a great essay.

    And that is the dilemma – how to stand out as an authority in this day and age among so many other “authorities”. The main objective of standing out among a crowd hasn’t changed over the years, but the playing field has dramatically. Well written essay.

  2. says

    From a marketing perspective, effectiveness trumps originality. As longs as you find your voice in the proper means of distribution for the time, it could give you authority beyond measure. Very good article!

    • says

      Disrupted, exploded, reinvented, there are many verbs we could use. :)

      One thing being online does for us is to make it much easier to tell a complex story over time at a reasonable cost. A 5-step direct mail sequence is heady stuff; a 5-step autoresponder is something any business can do, even a tiny one.

  3. says

    The main objective of standing out among a crowd hasn’t changed over the years, but the playing field has dramatically. Well written essay.

  4. says

    Well written post! At the end of the day, no matter how many changes have been made the fundamentals will remain the same. Old is gold as always!

  5. says

    Pretty darn interesting. I had to read up about this guy! Apparently he teamed up with churches which could be interpreted as borrowing authority, or at the very least an effective way of distributing his message.

  6. says

    Short enough to get you to read it in its entirety and catchy enough to follow the links to see who is this Wheeler guy, this article is right on the spot. It made me curious about this, even though I live in England (and know not too much of the American history). Great job!

  7. says

    I’m not even that interested in copy writing, and yet, I found this article more than held my attention.

    I wish I paid more attention in history, so that I knew about seemingly random facts to use in my copy!

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