Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

The value of thinking time can’t be measured in time 

I was watching Dave Chappelle, the standup comedian, on Netflix at the gym on a cardio day and it started like this: 

Dave was sitting on a chair and staring off into the distance. The voiceover said this is where all of his ideas come from and he calls this “the stare.”

Oh no, how unproductive. Couldn’t he spend this time more efficiently by sitting at a desk from 9-5 (exactly!) and writing down those ideas, writing scripts, and being busy taking laps around the water cooler. 

Obviously that’s bogus and we know Dave appears successful. He’s on Netflix, etc., but unfortunately way too many Industrial Age leaders, efficiency “experts” and others who try to commodize everything claim efficiency only happens when we measure something. Like time, words typed, output of some kind. And the physical location is always important.

Side note: I watched the show, wrote this and then distributed it in one gym visit. Finishing it up while sitting on a bike and burning 300 more calories.

Those efficient thugs isn’t always  how it works for many creatives, change agent implementers and knowledge workers. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for timelines and reasonable deadlines to force the creative thinking, but please get this Industrial Age thinking out of my Knowledge Workers universe.

Change management people are familiar with doing a lot of things that are technically inefficient yet need to happen before the actual change management magic occurs.

On one wide-ranging change in marketing strategy a CMO and I went around to department heads and others to secure buy-in and support. OMG. That took forever. Could we just start, please? Nope. It would have never worked without their support, which we received. Many were excited to be involved.

And many of them spent additional time thinking about the initiative and sent more ideas and improvements. Very efficient! Yes!

On another project I was talking to an executive who was getting frustrated with slow progress.

I asked how long he’s had these ideas that we were implementing.

“I developed it over a few years mentally.”

And it’s only been six months after public rollout. It takes time and maybe people didn’t have enough time to think about it yet because they are so busy walking around the water cooler. We only have so much brain power! That’s one reason Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day. So he didn’t have to spent decision-making energy on that.

The other piece that fits here is that effectiveness is often measured by physical presence vs. actual presence. 

Contact me here to get a quote on how I can help you with change management and content marketing.

I’ve heard this a number of times from executives and recruiters. 

“This virtual job needs to be performed in this office.”

Yes, they leave the “virtual” out but really it’s virtual tasks. The place usually is irrelevant for most Knowledge Worker tasks. It’s not even that for many their work equipment is at that place. 

Let me pack up all my tools which I brought home and take them to this magical place where innovation happens. 😂😱


But face-to-face meetings are indeed important. Think back to  those earlier CMO examples. That would have been nearly impossibly to do in any other way. 

  • Phone calls – people tune out 
  • Emails – they get ignored 
  • Attachments in emails – there was an attachment? 😱😂

So face-to-face interaction is still important. After those meetings, the CMOs and I debriefed and decided on next steps. I flew home and they went back to their things. 

I had my list of things to do and we’ll talk in a couple days to give status updates.

There’s no reason to be sitting in an office near that CMO at that second.

There’s one exception: In-person interaction is important early on in any project and relationship. That’s why I would recommend more in-person connections early on. 

There are some exceptions to that, too. If you’ve been connected digitally for a while (and have met offline before) this can work without that additional contact.

Of course, one reason the old model is so important is so people can be billed by the hour. I had one executive who needed some help with content marketing and she asked me how much I charge by the hour.

“I don’t charge by hour. I charge by project.”

Plus, honestly, you wouldn’t want to pay an hourly rate for my thinking time. That racks up quickly. Because thinking takes time and if I already know the answer because I thought about it for another client why should it be cheaper for client no. 2?

Change is fascinating. Not everything has to change but some things and some thinking is due for some changes. 

Here’s to more thinking time on how we can make all these things and expectations work together for long-term success for all of us.

Of course, at some point we have to show return. But let’s not mistake input for outcomes. 

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Christoph blogs on The Authentic Storytelling Project and is a globally recognized content marketing expert. The IMA named him Internet Marketer of the Year in 2015. He works with healthcare organizations and other brands around the globe.

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