Why “being busy” shouldn’t be a content marketing success metric

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

This brochure, blog post, whatever piece of content I just finished took me a while to produce. Hours that added up to days and maybe even weeks, but I don’t even want to consider the actual amount of time it took, because, well, that’s a lot!

Wow, it took that long to produce this thing?


It looks nice. The copy is very well written, too. But did it work?

Well, we spent a lot of time on it.

But did it work? Did it do what we intended it to do? Sometimes that’s hard to measure and sometimes we don’t know. It’s okay if we can’t measure every word’s exact impact, but we do want to be able to measure something and make sure we set ourselves up for success and aren’t just busy for the sake of being busy.

Related reading:

Good luck predicting the value before putting any effort into it 

Even more on production time measurements

Let me give you an example from my journalism days on how to be busy with an eye toward results: I didn’t have quotas for articles or anything like that. I often covered breaking crime news. So I would go out and start reporting the news. I’d talk to police officers, witnesses and collected information for my story. And I couldn’t – or at least wouldn’t want to – come back to the newsroom and say: “I was really busy today, but sorry no story to share.” (And yes, back in that day I would have to go back to the newsroom to write my story. This was before cell phones usable for typing.

Did all of my stories take off and resonate with my readers? Likely not. Did all of them sell more newspapers? No. Some did, though. Some were so huge, they printed extra copies! And some established us as the place to go for context. But not all of them.

The key, however, was to not just be busy, but to produce content (though we didn’t use that term then) that has a chance at being helpful, interesting and sometimes entertaining to readers. Our goal, of course, was to keep readers and even gain more. The larger the audience, the more likely advertisers would want to work with newspapers. (Of course, back then, I didn’t think about advertising.)

I could be busy all day having meetings, checking email and brainstorming with other reporters. And while that may feel good, when there’s no output at all, being busy won’t lead to outcomes or results.

Of course, I couldn’t pursue every potential story out there. Some days, there were many, but we only have so much bandwidth. So I tried to pick the ones I determined (guessed!) would be most relevant to my readers. Sometimes editors guessed (overruled!) for me, but the key takeaway here is that we made choices based on what we think would have the biggest impact. And then the little time we had with daily deadlines looming was used deliberately to create those stories and get them to our readers.

The same concept can be applied in content marketing and content creation:

  • Be crystal clear that something has to be produced.
  • Have a purpose.
  • Eliminate tasks that add no value.
  • Create.
  • Publish.
  • Measure
  • Repeat.

Being busy is fine. I love being busy. Just make sure it counts and moves us toward our goals.