Weather. That thing that’s happening outside your window, right now. That got you wet on your cycle ride. That makes your lettuce grow. The ice-breaker ( ! ) for a million conversations every day. All that.
And more than that. Think about the connection between our moods and the weather’s. Between its seasons and our internal seasons. We’re all steeped in the language of weather too. Not to stretch a point but while we may never shape the weather, the weather has definitely shaped us.
So we thought – what do content creators need to know about the weather? Truthfully, the answer we arrived at was ‘not very much’. However we were never going to let that rain on our parade ( see what we did there). So here come 3 thunderous pieces of wisdom for content creators, wrapped in some slightly nebulous, not to say foggy, weather metaphors. We follow that with a torrential downpour of weather-related tropes which work just as well – kinda – on the practical and metaphysical levels, for content creators.
How the First World War transformed the weather
Up until the First World War weather was forecast – paradoxically – mostly by looking backwards. Forecasters would collect weather measurements – temperature, air pressure, wind direction and so on – in their locale. They’d chart the data and then look for a match with a historical chart. The reasoning was that similar charts produced similar weather. And so the ‘hindcast’ – the actual weather on that day in history – became the forecast. The big change happened when the physics of the atmosphere were set down as a set of equations. Now you could feed the data in, and calculate a forecast. The only real difference between now and then is the shift from slide rules to supercomputers for doing the calculating.
This reflects a change in how we plan for future content. Our weather forecast for content starts with content strategy. A content strategy is the means by which you make your website and content work for your business. It forces you to make decisions on all the big questions -who, why, what, where, when and how. It helps you focus all your content activities around a clear goal.
Looking backwards gives us an opportunity to take a bird’s eye view of content already created – what do we have on board already? where are the big gaps?- and to take stock of its past performance – we need more of this, less of that. To go forwards and create new content we feed in a data set that includes business goals, customer needs and customer research.
200 words for rain
It’s said that Hawaians have 200 hundred words for rain. But that’s an unhelpful perspective. Rain, to Hawaians, is a medium for storytelling, and the words invoke combinations of sensations and emotions with beautiful clarity. We should be as aware and as eloquent in our own use of words. Don’t be trapped by business vernacular or technical jargon. Don’t box yourself into a B2C or B2B mindset. We’re ultimately all humans, words connect us deeply.
Use the real words your customers use when you’re talking to them. Tell them stories that shed light on their challenges in an empathetic way. Empathy in business terms usually means ‘say it as simply as possible,’ but it can also mean paying attention to subtle shifts and differences in meaning. When it comes to your business lexicon, never choose an obscure word to impress (it won’t), but don’t be afraid to choose a surprising word or phrase if it helps make a connection. Surprising connections jolt an audience, grab attention and are memorable.
The Roaring 40s
Weather is chaotic up close – like, will it be sunny in London next Wednesday – but on the large scale you can rely on some regularity. That’s already a bit like content marketing – right? – but you deserve a better metaphor than that, so we kept at it.
Back in the age of sail, ships from the UK heading for the Far East or Australia would of course start by sailing south. But around the latitude of Madeira they’d turn west, and cross the Atlantic to Brazil, powered by the North East Trade Winds. Then it was south again, gliding over the equator and onwards, all the way to 40 Degrees South. Only then did they turn east, recrossing the Atlantic on the wings of another mostly-reliable wind – The Roaring Forties. Then, apart from navigating the stormiest seas on the planet and the chance of hitting an ice-berg, it was relatively plain sailing all the way to the Indian Ocean or the Pacific. Not the short route then, or the simplest, but a reliable and efficient one.
In content creation, it’s often tempting to take the short route. To make a ‘pitch’. To always be selling. But more often than not, you’ll find headwinds that way. People will mostly tell you when they’re ready for an offer or proposal. But that will be after they’ve figured out that you’re relevant, trustworthy, expert, and you’ve demonstrated the kind of credentials and values that matter to them. That’s why, very often, the longer route gets you to your destination faster.
Like the navigators of old, you keep the wind at your back.
A torrent of tropes
Don’t say this wasn’t in the forecast. You have been warned
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes |Be prepared for all eventualities and you’ll be fine. Do your research and get your story straight. Be prepared for events to unfold in unexpected directions by exploring as many possible scenarios as you can. Practise a ‘yes, and’ mindset. Arm yourself with all the relevant information, and have the support you need if things start veering into stormy territory. It doesn’t matter if it rains if you’ve got an umbrella, and you won’t get burned if you’ve got plenty of Factor 50.
The wrong kind of snow | Whether or not there is such a thing as the wrong kind of snow is irrelevant. The phrase has become synonymous with laughably lame excuses. Far better to own your responsibilities, and be transparent about your mistakes.
Make hay while the sun shines | Windows of opportunity are fleeting. There will be limited times when your story fits the zeitgeist. Seize them. Act swiftly when you’ve got your moment in the sun.
Rain before seven, fine by eleven | An old wives’ tale or a truism based on the fact that most weather fronts pass over in four hours, it’s a useful way of reminding yourself that everything passes. Even if you wake up to black clouds and pouring rain, the likelihood is that it will have cleared up by the time you have your second coffee.
It never rains but it pours | Weather-wise it’s not true, of course, but the phrase encapsulates that feeling where it’s just one thing after another and disasters and catastrophes seem to pile onto an incident of bad luck. The only truth in it is that when you’re viewing the world in a negative state of mind you will experience more bad stuff. And conversely if you look for good things, you’ll find more of those too. See below.
Every cloud has a silver lining | Look for the positives. Possibly very irritating advice to receive when the worst is happening, (second only to ‘everything happens for a reason’) but it can be a useful mindset shift to help you move on from negative news and difficult encounters. My writerly version of this one is ‘there’s no such thing as bad experiences, there’s only good material.’
We’re done. Whether there’s a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, we’ll leave you to judge. But we hope we’ve at least brought a little hazy sunshine to your day, and if that puts you in the mood to come to your keyboard from a different point on the wind rose we’ve achieved our objective. Have fun!