Was anyone actually surprised at the news out of Punxsutawney earlier this month? That fat varmint groundhog didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know—that this hellish winter still wants to party with us. We’ve been waking up every day for months to the same news of polar temps and frozen pipes. It’s actually starting to feel a lot like the movie Groundhog Day. Content writers, time to grab a copy of this film, curl up in a blanket on the couch, and behold these three things you can learn from watching weatherman Phil Connors tackle the same day ad nauseam:
- Be willing to make big changes. Over a meal, Phil can choose to recite 19th century French poetry or mock it. He tries his hand at both. One lands him a shot with the girl; the other lands him in the doghouse. In writing, as in life, you can drastically change your destination only when you’re willing to drastically change direction—and try more than one path. So, if you just spent an hour writing in one direction and know it falls short, don’t try to fix it with a thesaurus and a moved sentence or two. Be willing to try something really different, take the piece on a whole new trajectory. That first hour wasn’t wasted time; it was research.
- Be relatable. Phil’s first attempts at seduction suck. Pretty much nothing about him appeals to the girl. But by studying up on her interests—hey, she always drinks sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist—Phil can be more like her each day. Guess what? She digs it. In psychology, this is called mirroring. Research shows that people act more favorably toward those who copy them, probably because it makes them feel validated. If you want to connect with your readers, get to know what makes them tick, and let them see you’ve got the same thing ticking in you.
- Don’t get lazy with repurposing. When Phil has a nearly perfect day and gets this close to bedding the girl, he tries to replicate nearly everything the next day. His behavior is totally manufactured, and she couldn’t be less turned on. Think about this when repurposing content. In writing, repurposing content is a tried and true marketing technique rooted in sincere efforts to appeal to an audience. But replicating content is a cheap and easy ploy that repulses searchers and search engines alike. When you repurpose content across different platforms, try breathing at least a little new life into it each time. Be authentic in your efforts to appeal to your audience. You can’t recapture the magic by cutting and pasting even great material.
- Repetition is opportunity. For a time, Phil flat peters out. He shuffles around in his jammies, unkempt and resigned to the ho-hum. Eventually he realizes the repetition is actually an opportunity to use his imagination, try new things, and conquer challenges. When churning out regular content about a niche business or narrow topic, as content writers often have to do, it’s easy to feel like bedhead Phil. But when we feel caught in monotony—in a job, our writing, or just about anything in life—the answer isn’t giving up. It’s recognizing the opportunity that comes with repetition. Repetition forces us to stretch our imagination, learning, and abilities. It forces us to dig deeper. What new things have you learned each time you’ve written?
- Monitor reactions and recalibrate. Every time Phil tries something that doesn’t work, he mentally crosses it off his list so he can try a new tack the next day. In other words, he collects data to improve outcomes. You should be doing the same. If you create content but don’t know how it’s performed, you’ll have a hard time improving outcomes of future content. Behind-the-scenes analytics may be someone else’s work, but you need to stay in the loop. Check in periodically with that team or person. A piece with but three likes and no shares may actually have many hundred views, for example, and over time the analytics will show trends that explain why this or that article or blog performs better than others.