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10 Content Marketing Lessons From Mean Girls

Christina Pashialis, founder of ContentUK, walks us through 10 content marketing lessons from Mean Girls. You go Glen Coco!

Enjoy these 10 content marketing tips… as inspired by the film Mean Girls.

That’s right. Regina George and the Plastics can teach what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to your content marketing game.

 

 

Let’s jump in!

 

1) Speak the language of your audience… stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen

 

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Is your copy speaking the language of your target audience?

Gretchen’s attempts to make ‘fetch’ a go-to phrase doesn’t catch on and Regina George famously tells her to stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen.

Are you making life difficult by introducing new terminology in your content?

 

 

Sure, HubSpot made ‘inbound marketing’ mainstream and Drift coined ‘conversational marketing’, but, for new terminology to stick, it takes a lot of resources.

Nine times out of ten, it’s easier to use language already used by your audience.

Meet your customers where they are:

  1. Listen in on sales and customer onboarding calls
  2. Read customer support transcripts
  3. Take note of the common terminology used by your target audience and how they describe challenges
  4. Note the hashtags and phrases that are already popular amongst your niche on social media
  5. Use these exact terms in your content

Use language that already resonates with your target audience instead of trying to make ‘fetch’ happen…

 

2) Repurpose content that works

Mean Girls is based on the non-fiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman.

Can you take inspiration from content that has already been tried and tested?

You can use content tools to see what already works:

Buzzsumo: Buzzsumo lets you type in topics to see which pieces of content are most shared across social platforms like Reddit, Facebook and YouTube. Do certain types of content get shared more on different platforms?

SEO tools: Use am SEO tool like Clearscope or AHREFs to see which styles work on organic for certain topics. Do listicle formats seem to make the top 10 results for your keyword compared to ‘how to’ formats?

Once you’ve seen which content already resonates for a given topic, you can adapt it with your own spin.

 

3) When things go wrong or resources are low, get creative

There’s a scene in Mean Girls when the Plastics are performing Jingle Bell Rocks at the school talent show. The soundtrack stops amidst their performance and Plastics improvise by singing acapella.

Be like the Plastics… if things go wrong, how can you improvise?

Perhaps a busy CEO or influencer has promised to write you a guest post and they keep missing the deadline. Can you book in a 30min call with them about a topic they know well, record it and create the post that way to save them time? I’ve used this method successfully in the past!

When things go wrong, it’s a chance for your creative muscles to flourish.

 

4) Map out an audience ecosystem and know your Plastics from your Art Freaks

Before you come up with a content strategy, map out your target audience ecosystem so you know the market you’re working with.

In Mean Girls, Janis gives Cady a map of the North Shore High School cliques. It shows where all the cliques sit; from The Plastics to The Art Freaks to the Girls Who Don’t Eat Anything. From this, they map out a strategy to get revenge on Regina George.

Take inspiration from Janis and map out your marketing ecosystem before you plan out a content strategy. This ecosystem can include:

 

 

You can tap into this ecosystem when it comes to your content strategy and distribution channels.

 

5) Be Human. Be true to yourself and focus on your story

Initially, Cady tries to be someone she’s not to fit in with the Plastics and dumbs herself down to get the guy she likes. In the end, everyone accepts her as she is.

The same can be said for staying true to your own brand voice and story. How can you humanise your brand with content?

  1. Connect with people. Use your brand’s social accounts to ask questions of your readers to open up a 2-way conversation with your audience
  2. Show vulnerability by publicly apologising when you’ve made a mistake (see tip #10)
  3. Share the human stories behind your brand. What’s the founder’s story? What inspired the company journey? People connect with real-life stories
  4. Make customers the star of your content instead of just the product. This could be through customer interviews about challenges they’ve overcome

Don’t be afraid to go beyond product-centred comms and create content that shows vulnerability and your story.

 

6) Appeal to your primary persona… but don’t forget your secondary audience

When Mean Girls came out, it cleverly appealed not only to its target audience of teenage girls but also to the ones taking them to the cinema; their parents. The adult characters in the film are relatable (those outside the film’s target demographic rated the film highly).

Your content may be targeted to your primary persona but can you use the opportunity to engage secondary stakeholders?

Primary VS Secondary audience:

“Primary audience (…) have the buying power and ability to make purchase decisions. Secondary audiences can influence the buying power of the primary audience and should be thought about in marketing efforts for this reason.” – Kayla Carmicheal – HubSpot.

If your content can appeal to the target user as well as the decision-maker, you’re onto a winner!

 

7) Don’t try to “burn book” the competition, just outrank them with better content

Don’t go bad-mouthing your competition! In the Plastic’s infamous ‘burn book’ they spread rumours about teachers and students… which gets messy.

Forget burn-booking your competition and focus on outranking in your niche using methods like Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique:

Step 1: Find link-worthy content

Step 2: Make something even better

Step 3: Reach out to the right people

Read more about the skyscraper technique.

 

8) Don’t make your blog posts all about you like Regina George

Regina George is self-centred throughout Mean Girls. The whole school unanimously agree they’ve been ‘personally victimised’ by her.

Don’t be Regina George! Make sure your content puts the reader centre stage. Be more like Cady; when she wins prom queen, she shares a piece of her crown with everyone in the crowd.

“We see a lot of agencies where their blog is just 1 founder (usually a straight cisgender white dude) waxing philosophic about all things content marketing. This is a bad sign!

When evaluating agencies to work with, consider how well they share the mic internally and across their team. Why? Because it speaks to their ability to reach your diverse audiences and the spread of talent across the team.” – Paul David, Co-Founder at Literal Humans

Can you share some of the stage when it comes to content by including guest posts and quotes?

 

9) Give honest feedback

Don’t be afraid to give honest (but constructive) feedback when it comes to content. After the burnbook is released, the students do an exercise in honest conversations instead of talking behind each other’s backs.

When it comes to working with freelancers, Megan Rose advises that feedback should be nice, be specific, be clear and give links. How can you give honest, constructive feedback when you receive content?

 

10) Apologise when you know you’re wrong – Be Humble

 

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You might accidentally publish content that is tone-deaf (we’re human!) and get backlash on social media.

Cady apologises to Mrs Nobury for contributing to the infamous ‘burn book’. Follow Cady’s example, and, in the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, be humble.

If your company makes a mistake, issue a public apology with sincerity. Commit to reparative actions like contributing to communities you’ve harmed or changing your content to represent diverse communities.

Picturehouse Cinemas changed their website and customers had trouble booking tickets. They sent an apology email to customers, acknowledging their negative feedback and explaining specifically how they plan to improve.

If you make a mistake, it’s best to be human; apologise with transparency and explain how you intend to do better going forward.

There you have it. 10 very fetch content marketing tips as inspired by Mean Girls. From humanising your content to avoiding burn-booking your competition!