an evergreen toilet seat: content where you would least expect it

On June 10th, 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the Roosevelt estate known as Hyde Park on the Hudson.  This was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever visited the United States and it marked an important moment in history.

Roosevelt’s mother, Sara, spent days preparing the estate for the visit. The toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom, which was cracked, seemed unacceptable for a visit from royalty, so she contacted the local hardware store and had a plumber come and install the most expensive toilet seat they had available. However, as inappropriate as it would be for the Queen to potentially damage her derriere, FDR’s mother was a frugal women and she didn’t want to throw out the old toilet seat that, in her opinion, was perfectly acceptable.

June 11, 1939 royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain to President Roosevelt's home town of Hyde Park, NY.

Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library & Museum

So when the King and Queen’s visit was over, FDR’s mother returned the toilet seat to the hardware store without paying for it and had the old cracked seat reinstalled. Instead of being upset with her, the hardware store owner seized the opportunity and hung the toilet seat in the most prominent part of the store window with a sign that read: “The King and Queen of England Sat Here.”  Sara offered to pay for the toilet seat, but the store owner said not to bother because it had been “really good for business”.

Although the store owner may have lost money on the deal initially, he gained more value in the long run. It is stories like this one that have “staying power” because they are unique to your business and are sharable. This is a true evergreen story.

the value of great content

Business owners understand that it is no longer a question of should they write content but more a question of what content should they be writing. Content marketing is an important component of an overall strategy but understandably, it can be intimidating. If you have a new blog or are just getting started on social, getting the necessary resources in place to create quality content can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be. Most companies have available content and they don’t even realize it. So before you put a content plan in place, take into consideration whether or not you can tap into some already available resources that you may have forgotten about.

raid the old file cabinets

If you are an older brand, consider digging back into your archives of printed materials. This can be especially valuable because most likely that content does not currently exist on the web. Anything from old advertisements and newspaper clippings to sales flyers and previous versions of products can be scanned and reused. Think about creative ways to display these rediscoveries and keep in mind that content for print is not always going to read well on the web. Decide what angle you need to take to repurpose the content.  If it is an old ad, you can write about how it relates to your ads today, or how you have changed direction with your brand.  If it is old products, you can talk about the improvements you have made over the years.  This can be especially beneficial if your customer’s input was an integral part of the product development. You could even do something fun like pull together old coupons into a coupon ebook that customers can use or compiled how-to worksheets and gang them up into a Slideshare.

vintage = nostalgia

Have a magazine with an interview and picture of you from 30 years ago when you were just a budding young entrepreneur with permed hair rocking a Members Only jacket?  Perhaps you had a big grand opening when you launched and have printed photographs that you can scan and share. Customers love to see where you came from, especially if there is a nostalgic connection to your brand. Even an old creative job posting from back in the day can make for good conversation.

let your customers take the driver’s seat

Customers do a great job of creating content for us. Repurpose your online reviews by adding that content to your website or using snippets of it on your social networks. If you don’t have reviews, take an inventory of your emails or letters and pull out quotes where the customers have given feedback on your products or services. Most likely you have more of this type of content than you might realize especially if you provide exemplary customer service as part of your core values.

Keep a running list of FAQs you get on everything from phone calls to your social networks. Ask questions often to see where your customers might be confused about what you do. You can fairly quickly pull together content that will not only be evergreen, but will also be in response to your customers and helpful to them which will win you brownie points.

staying alive

Keep your best stories alive by reinventing them to match current trends. Think about ways in which you could retell a story that had an impact or how you can transform it to tell a new story. If you have content that is popular, hold a brainstorming session to come up with topics that are closely related to those that have been successful for you in the past. Drawing parallel lines can be a very effective marketing tactic and it helps lend to your overall brand messaging.

Repurposing Content for the Web


If you have been dishing out engaging newsletters over the years, these can be a great source of content. Some of the content may fall into the “vintage” category and some might be great evergreen content that can easily be sourced and updated for the web. You can create crawlable PDFs of your newsletters and make them available online or you can pull chunks of content to use on your blog, on pages on your site or on your social networks.

be helpful

Most likely you have some instructional guides, videos or how-to documents or sheets lying around; even research that you have conducted or case studies can be valuable content for searchers. If it was created for offline, chances are someone is looking for it online. You can create an online archive of help documents and videos which can pave the way for generating ideas for future content based on which content is most popular and engaging for your audience.

budding company

Even if your company is in its infancy, potential content is all around you.  Chances are you are working really hard to build your brand.  Take every opportunity you can to show that to the world.  Take photographs when you meet new people, take video of your products being developed…be alert and aware of opportunities that present themselves.

the comeback kid

Content creation should become second nature. We all have phones and snapping a quick photo or taking a short video is as easy as the push of a button. If you are spending time and energy doing something for your business you should be thinking about ways that can be extended into content development. And if you get lucky enough to have something as unique as a toilet seat that was graced by the King and Queen of England land in your lap, take advantage of it. Don’t overdo it though, remember the balance between being promotional and passion driven is just as important in content marketing as it is with everything else in the digital realm.

Have any creative ways you are utilizing existing content? What “toilet seats” have hung in your windows?

I would like to thank Fran Macsali-Urbin at The National Park Service for confirming the validity of the toilet seat story. 

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