What Does a Rubber Duck Have to Do with Writing Killer Content?

Jul 2016

What Does a Rubber Duck Have to Do with Writing Killer Content?


I learned a new term over the weekend: rubber-duck debugging.

This funny little concept came across my radar in the course of writing a blog post for one of my clients in the software industry, and apparently it’s an old programmer trick for finding bugs in one’s code.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The programmer obtains a rubber duck.
  2. The next time said programmer is stuck trying to find a bug in her program, she explains her code out loud to the duck, line by line by line, with the assumption that the duck knows nothing about programming.
  3. At some point during her explanation, she experiences a glorious, head-smacking moment when the bug becomes apparent, and now she can fix it.

As content creators, we have more in common with programmers than we may think — having been married to one for nearly 18 years, I can attest — and it turns out this trick can work beautifully for us as well.

So the next time you’re banging away at a piece of content that just doesn’t work, no matter what you do to it, try the rubber-duck debugging technique.

How to “Rubber-Duck Debug” Your Content

Here’s how that might look. Let’s say you’re working on a blog post about a recent breakthrough in medical technology for the treatment of a specific condition.

Step 1: Grab Your “Audience”

Obtain a rubber duck. (Don’t have one? That’s OK: Any toy will do.)

Step 2: Frame the Post

Explain out loud to the duck (yes, the “out loud” part is key):

  • Whom you’re writing this post for (Patients? What kind of patients? Doctors? What kind of doctors?)
  • Why this post is important to that audience — address the “so what?” factor
  • What this post accomplishes for your brand. Will it expand your thought leadership in general? Raise awareness of an issue for which you offer a solution? Help grow your list by directing the reader to an e-book or other resource?

Step 3: Explain the “How”

Go through your post, paragraph by paragraph, and explain how you’re going to accomplish the goals you’ve set for this post.

Don’t read the text out loud word-for-word (although that’s a bang-up strategy for proofreading). Explain it, with the assumption that your little friend knows nothing about the topic. It’ll sound something like this:

OK, Squeaky, this first paragraph is where I set up the problem that we’re going to solve. I’m opening with three shocking statistics about how many Americans are dealing with [whatever the condition is] — that will grab the audience’s attention. Then I segue into the treatments that have been used so far, and I talk about why they’ve been less-than-optimal solutions. Of course, there are a whole bunch of treatments out there, but I’m focusing on A, B, and C to keep things short and simple …

Be as chatty as you care to be. The more detail you offer, the more benefit you’ll get from this exercise. And Squeaky will just sit there listening patiently until you’re done. (Kinda nice, huh?)

Step 4: Make Notes

Don’t stop until you’ve explained the entire post to your little yellow buddy, and do keep a notebook handy to jot down any light-bulb moments that arise. Chances are you’ll have more than one.

Meet My “Duck”

No, I don’t have a rubber duck at my own workstation. But I do have this guy:

What Does a Rubber Duck Have to Do with Writing Killer Content?

And Lord knows if Eric Cartman can understand my content, anybody can.

Happy rubber-duck debugging!

Monday Marketing Mojo: One thing you must know about B2B blogging

Want to learn more about B2B blogging? Download your free gift, Ninja Secrets of B2B Blogging, at b2bbloggingebook.com.








About the Author

Rachel Parker, Founder & CEO of Resonance Content MarketingA self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).

As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and a sought-after speaker, having presented to many major business and marketing organizations. To learn more, download our complimentary audio 5 Things You Must Know About Content Marketing.

content_marketing_50 BizSugar KredFeatured Author on Business 2 Community

Our Clients Are Saying

  • Added 5 figures to my business in less than 4 weeks

    Rachel took the overwhelm and stress out of writing content for my marketing campaign! When I approached Rachel, I was really concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to focus on writing copy for a lengthy marketing campaign that included sales pages, solo emails, newsletters and social media updates. Well, let’s just say I’m glad I hired Rachel because I couldn’t have done it without her support and expertise. I loved how she used my voice and words to craft content that helped me reach and attract my ideal client. As a result of working with Rachel, I added 5 figures to my business in less than 4 weeks, hundreds of new social media followers and exceeded my sales and list building goals! You know your marketing copy is working when you hear someone say, “I see you everywhere”. Thank you Rachel for helping me not only get seen by my ideal clients but get paid!

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    My company had little or no time to spend on social media. Our needs were to ensure a steady stream of posts across three platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) by harvesting and re-purposing content from our own site and news streams. So I contacted Rachel Parker of Resonance Content Marketing.

    The result was two-fold. Not only did our ranks of followers grew steadily, the steady drip, drip, drip of content helped us train our personnel and direct their own individual social media efforts.

    Rachel and her team are extremely organized and open to discussion and new ideas. They deliver a rapid response to new opportunities — and an overall feeling of being on the same team. One of the best “vendor” relationships I’ve ever had.

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    Working with Rachel was a delight. Not only does she communicate very well, but she provided valuable insight about our social media platforms and followers. We have much better engagement with our fans and followers, which increased our likes and interaction rates.


  • Increased website traffic, New Lead Generation

    We were experiencing a lack of internal resources to consistently maintain the Ustream blog. So we turned to Resonance Content Marketing to write blog posts on current industry topics while maintaining a consistent tone with the brand. The result is increased website traffic, new lead generation from gated assets on blog, and better educated/qualified leads. And I now have more time to spend on marketing strategy with the confidence that the content we push out is extremely well written and engaging.

    Rachel is an amazing writer and has really managed to create engaging and relevant blog material on topics that aren’t always super interesting. On many occasions, she has been able to quickly turn around one-off requests and the results are always top-notch. She has also helped guide our content strategy based on her expertise in content marketing, which has been a huge asset to our team.

  • Social Media Ranking Better Than Ever!

    We are so happy to have hired Resonance for our social media needs. We spend most of our time serving our clients and studying our field so we can provide the highest quality possible. We no longer worry about our social media, as we have total confidence in the wonderful work Rachel and her team have accomplished.

    Our social media is active, promoted, and is ranking better than ever! People often comment about what they see on our Facebook page. Resonance has added a creative, and artistic twist to our social media that is appealing and captivating to our audience. This has allowed me more time to work with my team and clients, so I can focus on service towards the people that help our business grow.

    I know there will be wonderful content on Facebook, and that Rachel will answer to posts, comments and questions as soon as a comment arrives. I am often impressed at how quickly she responds! Thank you Resonance! I highly endorse Resonance and encourage companies who need social media strategies to work with Resonance! You won’t regret it! 

  • Event Sold Out Two Years In A Row!

    Rachel worked with me on creating a content marketing calendar and content for the Big Social Media Summit (Big SMS) three years in a row. She is very organized and knows just the right amount of posts on social, email newsletters and content to send.  Her content marketing efforts helping us sell out our event three years in a row!  I am expecting the same for October 2014.

    Rachel was hired to write content for our email newsletter and content for our social platforms. In addition, she had a budget to do advertising on social media. She participated in the event live and after the fact to assure buzz was created before, during and after the event. As a result, our event sold out.

    When I work with Rachel, I have total peace of mind.  I know that she is on target, on time, reliable and delivers over and above the results I expect.

    I trust Rachel totally with her ideas on strategy, marketing and the content used to not only promote our events, but also post on my behalf on social networks. I have been doing social media for 8 years, and I hire Resonance to post on some of my social sites as it saves me time, and keeps my social sites relevant and current. They always post great, engaging content that gets my social properties likes, comments and shares.


  • Professionalism and Sincere Desire to Help

    I just didn’t seem to be able to find the time or the right words to explain what I offer and how my company helps people accomplish their goals. Rachel was able to ask me some questions, do some research and capture my voice while writing my website copy exactly as I needed it to be written.  Now, the copy on my website is much more professional than what I would have created and having this task handled by Rachel and Resonance freed up my time to complete other tasks I am better suited to do.

    It was a joy to work with Rachel. Her professionalism and sincere desire to help was apparent from the first communication until the final delivery. I will definitely use Resonance again and highly recommend their services.

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