Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

Trying to be perfect can kill storytelling

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July 2017 update ⬇️⬇️⬇️

You’ve heard me talk about how perfectionism can kill content marketing and organizational storytelling-including in the post below, which I first published in July 2014.

I was reminded of this when I was starting to read Jon Acuff’s new book “Finish: Give yourself the gift of done.” ⬅️⬅️ Affiliate links, meaning I get a cut if you buy ⬇️⬇️ And also, please note that they sent me an advance copy for free.

Researcher Mike Peasley  actually looked into what makes people more successful in a new project over time. The results as explained in the book where that  when people took the pressure of being perfect off in a project they were much more likely to be  productive.

I’ve been preaching the don’t go for perfect thing for a while but it’s good to see the research back it up. 😎👍 Of course, there’s also a fine line to  being  too fast and sloppy.

When I was speaking at the Best of Content Marketing conference in Berlin in 2017 this topic actually came up when I mentioned how uniqueness can outrank perfect content.  Some people didn’t necessarily love hearing that and I get it because being better by producing more perfect content should be a differentiator. And it can be but not if it only rehashes what everybody else is already saying.

Related: Why you  have to talk to your subject matter experts to get unique content 

I  joked at the conference that I’ve created a niche in creating highly unique but slightly above average content. What I mean by that is that most of the content I produce won’t win a literary award. But much of my content does work for my key audiences because it’s unique  and useful to them.

July 2014 post ⬇️⬇️⬇️

If every post on any of my three blogs were perfect each would probably only have one to two posts. Instead, there are dozens and this blog alone has over 60,000 published words as of June 2014. That doesn’t mean I don’t aim for perfect, but at some point the publish button has to be pushed. Or else, the post won’t get published.

Sounds simple, right?

But yet, blog posts, articles, anything we publish can be held up because we just have to read it one more time. Or add one more detail. Of course, at this point we won’t catch many mistakes if there any left anyway. We’ve read it 43 times already. And that additional detail? We don’t really know what it should be, but we know there might be, probably would be something that we might be able to add. Sounds wishy washy to me.

Maybe we have to run the article by 21 people for approval. Everyone fiddles with it. One person changes something. The next person changes it back. Once that process is complete – eight weeks later – the article is published. And it didn’t go viral in the first two minutes.

But it was perfect based on the time investment. Maybe it’s not to the audience or perhaps the distribution strategy wasn’t perfect.

And, things that are worth an audience’s time and attention, can and do take time. WordPress guru Chris Lema gave plenty of examples and reasons in his WordCamp Orange County talk in June 2014. (Watch it here.)

And now since that article didn’t go viral – most content doesn’t – we question if the strategy is working. But that’s the wrong question – especially early on in storytelling (aka content marketing) strategies. Most authentic storytelling strategies take at least a year to develop and starting to work.

The keys:

Executive buy-in and expectations: Make sure decision makers understand the timeline.

Think of it this way: Most executives didn’t become executives over night. It took time and lots of work to get there.

Team buy-in: Make sure to celebrate the small successes and enjoy the plowing ahead part. Authentic storytelling pays off long-term. Did I mention that it takes time? 🙂

Relevant content: The best intentions will fail if content is not relevant to audiences, doesn’t solve an audience’s problem and is written in marketing speak.

Constant: Content needs to be shared constantly. For example, Twitter streams move so quickly and for some users can turn over completely in second. Our attention spans get shorter and our time is limited. We consume what’s there and relevant to us.

Consistent: Don’t change what you talk about constantly. Pick a topic, define it, and talk about that. You can’t be an expert in everything.

New: Share new things. People pay attention to new stories. There’s a fine line between just coming up with an outrageous (and new) opinion and sharing that through your digital channels and sharing actual new things of value.

Striving to be perfect is a good goal, but don’t let it stop progress. Define your topic of expertise, decide what there’s is to talk about, talk about that and publish, publish, publish. And of course remember to promote your content. Don’t count on “build it and they will come.”


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Christoph Trappe

Hello and thanks for stopping by. I'm Christoph Trappe and I'm the Vice President of Content Marketing Strategy, Americas, at ScribbleLive, which is based in Toronto and is a global content marketing software company. Before I started at ScribbleLive I was VP of Content Marketing and Conversion at MedTouch, a Boston-based company that helps healthcare organizations with digital marketing. I've written two books, speak at conferences around the globe and blog frequently on here. I love sharing my stories and helping organizations share theirs. If you need help, just visit the Contact Me page in the navigation and drop me a note. I'm always happy to chat! Thanks for reading! - Christoph ctrappe@christophtrappe.com 319-389-9853

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