6 ways this 14-year-old's content kicks butt

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6 ways this 14-year-old’s content kicks butt

Go down the YouTube rabbit hole and you never know what little piece of incredible you’ll find.

Recently, this wildly-unrelated-to-my-search video showed up.

SPOILER: It’s a music video featuring the profanity-free rap of a middle-school child. It’s title? “Don’t Cuss.” I watched it, all the way to the bonus at the end.

Here’s the chorus:

If ya wanna hang with us, I don’t wanna hear ya cuss.
If ya wanna hang with us, I don’t wanna hear ya cuss.
Don’t cuss!
Don’t cuss!

If ya wanna be my peer, please protect my ears.
Don’t cuss!
Don’t cuss!

It’s catchy. It’s cute. It has a good message.

And it’s horrible. Hysterically horrible.

Looking for more laughs, I went to the No Cussing website. It’s more horrible than the video! Not quite Yvette’s Bridal, but…

No Cussing Website Screenshot

…and that’s just the top of the home page.

At this point, I felt horrible for laughing so hard. To absolve my guilt, I poked around the site to see if there was something I could buy to support this kid’s honorable intentions.

That’s when I realized this website isn’t horrible at all.

It’s brilliant.

6 ways this website’s content kicks butt

1. Compelling story

Six years ago, McKay Hatch was sick of swear words. He challenged his junior-high-school friends to stop cussing. Some did. But some said they didn’t know how to stop. And that’s when he started the No Cussing Club. How do I know that? He wrote all about it in a personal, compelling letter on his website.

First there were 50 members. Then 100. Then 10,000 members — worldwide. Then a few media people noticed, and now the No Cussing Club is more than 20,000 members strong.

In fact, “Over 20,000 Members Worldwide” is the biggest copy on the website. Just below it, a headline: “This is how it all started.” Below that, “Started by a 14-year-old.” How could you not want to read that story?

What content marketers can learn

There’s a time and a place for writing from the heart. Did one single person have an idea that grew beyond anyone’s dreams? If so, a personal, passionate letter (or audio recording or a short video clip) from that person will be a must-read.

Also, it’s OK to say you’re popular. If your message/product/program isn’t the easiest sell, use the strength-in-numbers approach in your copy. Peer pressure works.

2. Happy photos

McKay’s 14-year-old face is all over the website. There are at least 35 different photos of him — playing soccer, speaking to groups, talking to Jay Leno, posing with Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon!) and other celebs.

No Cussing Club Alicia Silverstone

Then there are the photos of No Cussing Club members.

Courtesy of nocussing.com.

Almost 200 are featured in the member gallery, mostly photos of happy children and teens from around the world. (Also pictured: several adults, including one 103-year-old member, and a surprising number of dogs.)

What content marketers can learn

Abstinence of any sort is not an easy sell. Is your message, at its core, about not doing something? Make sure that you have plenty of photos of people who look very happy about what they’re not doing. People photos work, and smiles work even better.

Also, if you find a working strategy, stick with it. McKay hasn’t been 14 years old for a long time, but you would never know it from any photo of him on the site. Why? The age of his target audience hasn’t changed. Incoming No Cussing Club kids can identify with him, and each other. In fact, McKay says that it was the idea of club members to submit their photos to the website.

“I’m now 20 and people from all over the country still sign up everyday,” he wrote me last week in an email. “My most favorite thing on the website is getting photos.”

3. Data-driven testimonials

There are testimonials, and then there are “I have empirical evidence” testimonials. Mrs. Phyllis Thomson submitted one of the latter after the No Cussing Club came to her school. A science teacher, Mrs. Thomson found a 64% decrease in profanity infractions at her middle school after a two-year study. Plus…

Letter from Mrs. Phyllis Thomson

What content marketers can learn

1. When a seventh-grade science teacher writes you a testimonial and signs it “Sincerely, Mrs. Phyllis Thomson,” use it. Always.

2. Testimonials with numbers are ideal. How much money has your product or service saved a customer? How much money has a customer made with your product or service? If a customer doesn’t volunteer that information in a review or testimonial, ask for a little more. What they can quantify? Just one word that connotes a number — such as “doubled” or “tripled” — can elevate an excellent testimonial to an outstanding one.

4. Simple, common-sense content

McKay didn’t invent the cussing jar concept.
No Cussing Jar label example
But he did have the idea to put a DIY label for one on his website as a downloadable PDF. He designed it, too. The PDF has two label sizes, step-by-step instructions (including “print on a color printer”) and even an example of how it should look when finished.

100% logical. 100% fun.

Then there’s the not-so-fun part of not cussing: bullying. It’s logical that a child who won’t cuss — and asks others not to, too — might be teased, even bullied. So it’s logical that the No Cussing Club website has a report-a-bully form.

Instructions for form to report a bully

And, of course, there’s a “Bully Free Zone” sign as a downloadable PDF.

What content marketers can learn

Sometimes we think big. Whitepapers. Guides. Ebooks. Webinars. But what could you offer that’s simple for you to execute and simple for a customer to use? What obvious thing related to your industry or brand is missing from your website? Can you make it free?

Sure, you can order McKay’s book or buy a No Cussing Club bracelet. But the simple, helpful things he gives away free probably mean the most to his audience. Promotional products work.

And if you’re hung up on the spelling and grammar of that no-bully example, you’re missing the point. No Cussing Club member or not, any child, anywhere, can report a bully and the club will help fix it.

5. Clear CTAs

According to a Google site search, copy on nocussing.com instructs people to “click” 35 times, mostly in links. According to Raven’s Site Auditor, the whole website is 38 pages.

This is not a website that’s optimized for search engines. But search “don’t cuss” or “stop cussing” or “how to stop cussing” or “stop cussing at school” and check out the SERPs.

What content marketers can learn

1. Create content that people like to link to, and the power of those links can outweigh shoddy technical SEO and non-existent anchor text. That’s not advice, just an observation.

2. In some cases, “click here” is better.

(SEOs, UX designers and everyone else who has an opinion, go ahead and shoot me now.)

Know the technical ability and experience of your audience. If your audience is less web-savvy — or perhaps just learning to use PayPal to purchase and download a $2 Ebook titled OH PICKLES! Sassafras, Barnacles, & other G-rated substitutes for cuss words. (Over 100 substitutes, from A to Z) — then it’s OK to tell them exactly what to do. Step-by-”click here”-step.

(To learn more about the book, click here, because I have no idea what the anchor text in that paragraph should be.)

6. Comic Sans

Comic Sans font on No Cussing website menu

Seriously.

If a No Cussing Club website founded by a 14-year-old didn’t have Comic Sans somewhere, would you trust it? Why else does the worst font ever exist, if not for children?

What content marketers can learn

Ugly can be irrelevant — horrible can be brilliant — as long as it fits and attracts the right audience.

P.S. I wondered, so I asked: Has McKay cussed in six years? “I have put nothing in the jar,” he wrote me. “I have been able to control my tongue so far.”

Arienne Holland is the Director of Marketing and Customer Experience at Raven. She divides her time between outreach, writing, teaching and understanding developers. Before Raven, Arienne spent more than a decade as an editor and graphic designer for Gannett. She was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for team breaking news journalism. She likes bread, books and bourbon.

More about Arienne Holland | @RavenArienne

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