What nettles, narrowboats and freaky clowns can teach us about content

Make Your Copy Count
10 min readApr 22, 2021


Every so often, I ask my LinkedIn connections to suggest random topics and then I attempt to create a piece of content that relates them back to marketing or business in some way.

The topics suggested this time round included party balloons, narrowboats, nettles, Made In Chelsea and fear of clowns. Here’s my attempt at showing you what they can teach us about content creation.

Party balloons

When I asked for topics for this post, one of my connections suggested the following.

“Leftover party balloons and how they stay alive in your daughter’s room for months, and then you feel guilty cutting them and letting the air out of them. Because you finally give up in frustration and just want to be able to open the cupboard without kicking away eight balloons.”

And while it sounds like this was based on a very specific experience it’s definitely something that can be related back to content. More specifically, fad-based content or ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ content.

Think Mannequin Challenge, Harlem Shake, and the blue-black/white-gold dress debate. Think Jackie Weaver memes, beans on Weetabix and the Colin/Cuthbert caterpillar saga.

Just like balloons, this type of content is fun and engaging at first. Then it starts to deflate and lose its appeal as you see it over and over. Eventually, you’re so tired of seeing the same content rehashed again and again that it just becomes an annoyance.

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with commenting on the latest news or creating content based on current trends — the ice bucket challenge eventually lost its shine, but it still raised over $220 million for ALS.

But just like balloons, this type of content only has a short life span before the novelty wears off. So unless you started the craze, were one of the first to share the content or were able to put a new spin on something, be aware that it might not have the impact you want. And even if it does get a lot of engagement, will it help you build lasting customer relationships or will you be forgotten once the fad has died down?

Don’t create content with the aim of going viral, create content with the aim of being useful and relevant.

Talking of fads: remember all those people who quit their jobs to play Pokémon GO full time? Wonder what they’re up to these days.


If balloons represent ‘fad’ content, then narrowboats are the complete opposite.

They were designed for a specific purpose — to transport goods on UK canals — and they served this purpose well. But as railways and road systems evolved, the need for commercial canal transport diminished.

Rather than fading into obscurity, many narrowboats were repurposed for other uses, with over 6,000 narrowboats currently registered as permanent homes in Britain and many others being used for leisure and tourism.

And this is exactly what your content should be like. It should be created with a purpose — inform, promote, optimise, engage, entertain and so on. But you should be able to repurpose for other uses too so that it stands the test of time.

You can transcribe videos and turn them into blog posts. You can turn blog content into an email series. You can use the results of a survey or poll as the subject of a podcast.

There are loads of ways to get more mileage out of your content. In fact, if you go through your old blog posts, social posts, or videos, you’ll probably find a whole load of content you can repurpose.

That’s why I prefer creating evergreen content rather than fad based content — it has a much longer lifespan, so is a far better investment of time or money.

Canal fact: There are about 4,700 miles (7,600 km) of navigable canals and rivers throughout the UK. Plenty of choice for a narrowboat holiday — staycation anyone?

Nettles (Urtica Dioica)

Despite the potential benefits of drinking nettle tea, nettles get a bad reputation and it’s not really surprising. If you’ve ever accidentally brushed against any while out on a walk, you’ll be familiar with those telltale bumps that appear and that sudden feeling of your skin being on fire.

And most people know that if you do get stung, the most commonly recommended solution is to find the nearest bunch of dock leaves as quickly as you can.

It’s not really known why dock leaves relieve the pain. Some people think the sap has a cooling effect, some say there may be a natural anti-histamine in the plant (although this has never been identified), others say it’s the placebo effect in play.

But whatever the reason, let’s face it, dock leaves wouldn’t have half the fame they have without their mate, the stinging nettle.

And what on earth does this have to do with content?

Well, problem-solving content is one of the easiest and best types of content to create. You identify a problem, a pain, a ‘sting’, that your target audience may have and then you offer the solution. You tell them what they can do to fix the problem, ease the pain, or relieve that sting.

You can do this as in-depth content, short social media posts and even as sales copy. Check out my article, ‘ Less We, More P’, which outlines a simple formula for doing this.

Nettle fact: It’s not the jagged edges of a nettle that sting you, it’s the tiny hairs on the stem and leaves. The phrase ‘grasp the nettle’, (meaning to tackle a difficult problem boldly), is thought to have come about because if you grasp a stinging nettle quickly and firmly, you squash the hairs before they can sting you. I don’t know if this actually works, so please don’t rush out and grab handfuls of nettles to test the theory.

The influence of Made In Chelsea on Millenials

I have to admit, I have never watched a single episode of Made In Chelsea. I don’t watch any of these types of show. My friend once made me watch an episode of TOWIE and I thought it was utter shite.

From what I understand, TOWIE, Made In Chelsea, Geordie Shore etc. are all pretty similar, just with different people involved — the MIC cast being mostly rich kids with posh accents.

There’s no doubt these shows are popular, after all, MIC has been running for over 10 years. And I appreciate that everyone finds different things entertaining. But my problem with this type of show is the celebrity and influencer aspect to it all, which I’m sure wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad without social media.

I find it terribly sad that the only aspiration of so many young people now is to be famous. And they don’t even want to do it by learning a craft such as acting, or singing, or dancing. They want to be famous, just for being famous.

That wouldn’t even be so bad — it’s totally possible now with the popularity of reality TV. But it’s more the way they want to do it. The obsession with looking a certain way, dressing a certain way, owning certain things. Trying to be just like these people on TV without considering the stuff they don’t see.

Sure it might look like these celebrities have it all — jetting off around the world, getting sent the latest designer gear and being invited to high profile parties. But it’s not all sunshine and roses, as has been proven time and again with the toll it takes on their mental health. Suicide, anorexia, addiction — how many tragic stories do we need before the media takes some responsibility and stops exploiting these people?

But while I could write an entire book about the negative and damaging aspect of the whole celebrity-influencer-false-expectation-setting crap that seems to be an accepted part of society these days, that’s not the point of this article.

So what I do want to talk about instead is how you can use the principles of influencer marketing on a small scale. Because there isn’t essentially anything wrong with tapping into other people’s audiences. Collaborations, partnerships and celebrity endorsements were a thing long before Made In Chelsea, Instagram or TikTok were around.

And just as big brands pay top influencers to talk about their products, you can get people who have a similar audience to you to share your content. If you’ve written value-adding content, find people with a bigger audience than you and ask them to share it.

Another way you can tap into other people’s ‘influence’ is by tagging them in your social posts. That doesn’t mean mass-tagging anyone with a big following or tagging people just for the sake of it. That just p!sses people off.

But there are some nice ways you can tag people in a post that can help you get noticed for the right reasons:

  • Pay a compliment — if someone has delivered a great webinar, presentation or service, write a post about it and mention the person
  • Mention their content — if someone has posted some content you like, share a link and mention the person, adding your own comments on what you liked about their content
  • Announce a collaboration — if you’re going to be working with someone on a project or someone has helped you with something, give them a shout out

By doing this, you are helping to increase your reach and you are helping others increase theirs too.

Fear of clowns (coulrophobia)

Fear of clowns — coulrophobia — is irrational. After all, clowns are just people dressed in silly clothes and big shoes. But fear is a funny thing and it’s also one of the things that stops a lot of people from creating content.

Fear of getting ridiculed or trolled. Fear of making a mistake or getting it wrong. Fear of not getting engagement. Fear of ‘failing’.

This is one thing that really saddens me because I know there are hundreds of brilliant people out there with loads of expertise, knowledge and advice that they are too scared to share. They lack confidence in themselves or in their writing capabilities.

But back to clowns.

I don’t like them! I’m not afraid of them (admittedly I have never seen the film It), but I just don’t like them. I don’t find them funny. I’ve never been a fan of slapstick comedy.

But even though I personally don’t like clowns, I admire the fact they have been around in one form or another since as early as ancient Egypt.

Given their longevity, it’s clear that many people love clowns. In fact, there are even clown schools, clown colleges and clown conventions that attract people from around the world.

And that brings me to one of the key things about content: you can’t appeal to everyone.

Not everyone will like your style or your humour or even what you’ve got to say. But it doesn’t matter. You don’t need everyone to like it.

I’m never going to like clowns, but I expect there will still be a market for them long after I’m gone.

Some people probably hate my content and will never do business with me; others like my content and work with me as a result.

Some people will have no interest in what you post, others will love you — it’s just the way it is.

And as soon as you stop trying to please everyone you’ll find that sharing content gets much easier and you get better results from your efforts.

Phobia fact: fear of writing is called scriptophobia or graphophobia. Fear of long words is called hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia — clearly someone was having a laugh with that one!

What’s the point of this article?

Hopefully, you’ve found something in this article useful or have at least been entertained by my desperate attempts to link these random topics together.

But this isn’t just an attempt to show off my creative skills (ok there’s a bit of that). More importantly, it’s to show you that you can always find a way to put a different spin on things, even if a topic has been covered a thousand times.

Sure, your content should appeal to your audience, but it should also be fun for you as well. So why not take things you are interested in — sport, film, gardening, birdwatching — and incorporate them into your content.

“What do cybersecurity and tapioca have in common?”

“What can Spanish playing cards teach you about translation?”

“What have Iron Man and VAs got in common?”

All you need to do is pick a topic you like and create content around it.

For example, music:

Or fashion:

Or even dinosaurs:

What interests do you have that you can relate back to your industry?

Give it a go; you might surprise yourself.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings. If you need any help with content ideas or would like some content writing tips, I offer 90-minute consultations.

Find out more here: https://makeyourcopycount.com/copy-consultation/

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.



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