Fast & Furious NINE – the lesson in that

Yes, the NINTH installment in a franchise about illegal street racing is one of the summer’s most-hyped movies.

The spectre of Hollywood rehashing lowbrow but financially successful films has probably become so routine that you don’t even realize how amazing this is from a content-creation perspective.

Don’t people in your content-creation meetings always say, “We’ve got to have something new each time to grab their attention” or “They’ve seen that before, it’ll never work”?

Both those statements are FALSE. As further evidence, I cite every movie with a number after it. Or derivative TV series like Cobra Kai or all the Marvel stuff on Disney+ right now.

Sure, it’d be great if you could come up with awesome new content every time you put something out. But you can’t, especially when you’re working in a corporate environment. So follow the lead of highly successful Hollywood studios and reframe what has already worked in the past.

A classic corporate example is the annual “State of _____” study that many clever brands have been doing. Muck Rack, the PR software platform, does that for our industry. Every spring, they publish the “State of Journalism.”

And they just released the 2021 State of PR report with data on budgets, challenges and opportunities across the discipline. (I’m a brand ambassador for them so I helped a little bit.)

You don’t need to limit your “sequels” to yearly. Last year it finally dawned on me to synthesize lessons learned from all the complaints journalists tweet about bad pitches. So I started doing it monthly, and now the top three most popular posts on my site are all installments from that series. Here’s the latest.

Sure, you need to refresh your “old reliables” and add new wrinkles. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I know this, but the “Fast & Furious” producers pivoted with the fifth installment (which many hail as the best) by tweaking what had been to that point purely a car-driven culture and turning it into a heist series. I picture the screenwriters’ brainstorming meeting going like this:

“What kind of car chase haven’t we done yet?”

“I know, we can have Vin Diesel dragging a two-ton vault behind his car and use that to batter the people chasing him!”

But even with the need to add new wrinkles, it’s way easier to work from a proven template than to create something entirely original.

I don’t know if I’ll see F9 with my teenagers. But I won’t be criticizing the producers for releasing a ninth installment. Instead, I’ll be nodding as the franchise’s box office gross ticks up past $1.7 BILLION . . . and then brainstorming how I can help my clients create their own successful content sequels.

This article was originally published on June 23, 2021

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