an evergreen toilet, and the power of content

On June 10, 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.

Franklin Roosevelt’s mother, Sara spent days preparing the estate for a visit from the King and Queen of England. The toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom, which was cracked, seemed unacceptable for royal visit, so she contacted the local hardware store and then hired a plumber to 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.

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 — he hung the toilet seat in the most prominent part of the store window with a sign reading 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.” And though the store owner may have initially lost money on the deal, he gained more value in the long run.

Stories like this one have staying power because they’re unique and sharable. A story with staying power is considered evergreen. And this is the type of content you want to develop to help tell your story and increase awareness of your brand.

the value of great content

Business owners understand that it’s no longer a question of whether or not to create content but what content to create. Content marketing is a critical component of an overall marketing strategy.

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 you can tap into some already available resources that you may have forgotten.

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, this content doesn’t already exist online.

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, but 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 your 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’s an old product, 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 today.

vintage = nostalgia

Have a magazine with an old interview and photo 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 you can scan and share.

Customers love to get a glimpse of your humble beginnings, especially if there’s a nostalgic connection to your brand.

let your customers take the driver’s seat

Another effective source of content is your customer base.

Repurpose your online reviews by adding them as testimonials to your website or using snippets on your social networks. If you don’t have reviews, take an inventory of your emails or letters and pull out quotes of customer feedback on your products or services.

You probably have more of this content than you realize, especially if you provide exemplary customer service as part of your core values.

You could also keep a running list of FAQs you’re asked. Ask your own questions to see where your customers might be confused about what you do. Then, pull together content that will not only be evergreen but helpful to your existing and prospective clients.

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 with your overall brand messaging.


If you’ve been dishing out engaging newsletters for 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 lying around. If it was created for print, chances are someone is looking for it digitally. So consider creating an online archive of help documents and videos; a quick review of what proves most popular can also instruct what you create in the future.

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 leverage new opportunities.

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.

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.

But remember: Don’t overdo it; there’s a balance between being promotional and passion driven — and it’s just as important in content marketing as it is with everything else in the digital realm…

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

Special thanks to Fran Macsali-Urbin at The National Park Service for confirming the validity of the toilet seat story. 

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