Back in the ten-or-so years I spent at Copyblogger, we’d often start thinking about April Fool’s content months in advance.
Some people hate the tradition of publishing prankish or silly content on the first of April. But — maybe because we were a pretty formal, reserved brand most of the time — we embraced it.
It’s really easy for April Fool’s content to misfire. But when it’s done well, it can be a memorable way to engage your audience and spark some good conversations. (They can be really fun to write, as well.)
I thought it might be useful today to talk about what makes the difference between the useful kind and the not-so-good — not just for the first of April, but for any larger event that might be going on.
In praise of occasional content
An occasional poem is not, as one might think, a poem written by a poet with writer’s block.
It’s something written for an occasion, like the restorative inauguration poem written and read by Amanda Gorman.
A lot of content creators used to publish April Fool’s pieces (although they got much less common in 2020), but Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day all get their share of attention as well.
Random holidays are nice for writers because they give us a prompt to work from. And they can shake things up when our usual approaches start to feel routine.
You don’t have to stick to the usual collection, either. A Google search for “weird holidays” will get you to National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, the Night of the Radishes, or one of my favorites, Star Wars Day (May the Fourth).
If you’re flipping through the calendar looking for something suitable, consider these elements:
Stay true to your VEP
I write a lot about VEP — values, expertise, and personality.
That’s the trio that makes sure all of the content you publish is relevant to your project and your audience.
Most April Fool’s content sets aside expertise — the practical subject that you help your audience with.
That’s allowed! Every once in awhile, it’s a good idea to run a post that might be “off-topic” for your area of expertise, but that’s on-topic for your values and personality.
Do that too often, and your site can start to come across as fluffy. But if you don’t do it often enough, you can swing over the line into stuffy.
Finding the right spot on the fluffy-to-stuffy continuum takes some experimentation, so don’t be afraid to swing back and forth a bit.
Staying true to your values will keep that pendulum from throwing you completely out of alignment. And a little silliness on April 1 can keep you from taking yourself so seriously, which isn’t a bad thing.
Don’t betray trust
The biggest place people go wrong with April Fool’s content is making people mad at you by betraying their trust.
If one of your values is equality or justice, it would be a terrible idea to publish April Fool’s content that was disrespectful or contained slurs.
If one of your values is quality or excellence, a post full of typos wouldn’t be a good joke — it would be a betrayal of that value.
But once in awhile, a pinch of absurdity can be refreshing.
As a writer, I liked April Fool’s content because it gave me a chance to explore different ideas and voices.
Probably my favorite of the bunch was this one, where I
ripped off paid homage to Hunter S. Thompson with a wild tale of bats, firearms, ether, and a social media darling in the trunk of the car: Why Third Tribe is Shutting Down
This one was inspired by a made-up buzzword: Freakotourism.
This was a snarky reaction to the glut of automated tools that were being promoted to “auto generate” content: Announcing a Breakthrough Resource for Your Content Creation
And Stefanie Flaxman tried on the “new product idea” with her post promoting Poobliche.
Then there was this post, which inexplicably was not an April Fool’s day post, but it did the same kind of lifting: BECAUSE AWESOME.
Beyond April Fool’s
Since you’re reading this on April 1, you probably aren’t going to turn around and pop something into your content calendar right this second.
But this day of fools is a great time to think about:
- What could you publish that would reveal a more relaxed side of your personality?
- What kind of humor works for your audience?
- How do they feel about satire? (Some audiences hate it, and some have a tough time detecting it. Know your people.)
- Is there an interesting left turn you might take that would still stay true to your core message?
- What could you do differently with tone, texture, or voice, without abandoning your VEP?
The writer’s workshop is returning!
My writer’s workshop is going to be returning later this month, and I’m really excited to be sharing it with you.
It’s designed for content creators, and it’s all about bringing more texture and color to your writing — without veering into fluffyland.
So much content gets published every day — and most of it is still cookie-cutter and average. The workshop is all about elevating your voice and giving you the style and polish to be really proud of your work.
If you’d like to join us, or to learn more about it, make sure you’re getting my emails (you can drop your info in the handy form below). We’ll let you know when the doors are open!