The best content strategy practices strive for excellence, not perfection

If you want to implement the best content strategy practices, you need to learn early on the difference between excellence and perfection.

The bane of any content marketer is trying to execute on a content marketing strategy that is paralyzed by perfection. Or rather the need for perfection.

In this post I want to alert you to the warning signs of a perfectionist content strategy, and ways to deal with it.

Defining the difference

This is a prevalent issue in many high tech and creative companies. The reasons behind it are understandable. Management wants to ensure that the brand isn’t damaged. Or, they want to create something that stands out. As I wrote earlier this week, striving for excellence is an important part of any content strategy.

But there is a difference between excellence and perfection. The former is aspirational and pushes you to do better work. It’s the “Scotty Factor” of giving the warp engines “all they can take” so that you attain that extra bolt of energy. (My apologies for the frequent Star Trek references I will no doubt continually make on this blog).

Perfection on the other hand is a myth. It’s a unicorn that doesn’t exist.

The problem occurs when management is striving for perfection instead of excellence. When you strive for excellence, you can see the improvements you’ve made and you know when to “ship.” (i.e. get the product out the door; publish the blog post you’ve edited and re-edited 50 gajillion times; release the video that is now heading into triple digit version numbers; etc.).

The warning signs

In the many years I’ve had the opportunity to work with various tech companies, media companies, and even professional creatives, I’ve learned to recognize when management is striving for perfection.

The budget is not scalable

It’s imperative to have a good grasp of budgeting if you want to have the best content strategy practices. The first sign a content strategy is striving for perfection vs excellence is if the budget needed to achieve the content strategy is too high.

Sometimes budget is not taken seriously enough by those responsible for content. Just because you can spend an ungodly amount of money on a content strategy, does not mean you should.

It would be great if you could launch a Netflix Original Series caliber web show, but if you don’t have $15 billion to spend on content creation, don’t act like you do. It’s what the kids nowadays call “staying in your lane.”

At the end of the day, you need to create content with the money you have. Be smart about it. Look at the budget assigned to your team for any given fiscal period and see where you can get the most bang for your buck. Pretend it’s your money being spent. What kind of deals would you look for? How can you be creative in how you get the resources you need?

Don’t rely on a budget you will either never get; or if you do get it for one project, you’re unable to do multiple projects.

Which is a nice segue into warning sign #2.

The cadence is inconsistent

I lied earlier. I said perfection is a myth, akin to the elusive unicorn. That’s not entirely true. There are times when you do release something that is by all accounts, sheer perfection. Maybe it’s a badass film. Or a super long, ultimate guide to building widgets or something. Whatever it is, I’ll bet you the million dollars you don’t have that without the aforementioned budget, you won’t be able to maintain it. Which means that you’ll put out one or two and then…nothing.

The kiss of death for any content strategy is an inconsistent cadence to the release of new content. Even if you did have the budget, if management (or your client) requires each subsequent release to be sheer perfection, that can kill your consistency.

Which segues to…

The objectives are unrealistic

Maybe you have the budget. And maybe you’re able to create enough content to make it a consistent endeavor. But if before you pull the trigger you are given impossible, impractical, or just unrealistic objectives for success, you need to push back.

You should have objective measures for success. It’s one of the 7 important pillars of a strong content strategy (more on this to come). Having your video series go viral and get a million views in a week is not an objective measure for success. It is, you guessed it, a unicorn. (Again, I’m not saying it can’t happen. I’m saying shooting for it is analogous to hunting a unicorn).

If you’ve never seen this short, watch to the end. You won’t be disappointed.

The prognosis

The million dollar question is: how do you overcome these challenges, and what do you do if you’re overruled and still required to get that unicorn. (I guess that’s two questions).

The process of shooting for excellence is easy in concept, but challenging in execution. It’s a matter of always pushing yourself. Make each subsequent content initiative just a wee bit better (or way better if possible). Find better writers for your blog and better filmmakers for your videos. Ask yourself

  • “What makes me uncomfortable?”
  • “What haven’t we tried before?”
  • “Has anyone tried this before?”

If you are asking yourself those kinds of questions, you can achieve excellence.

Also, find examples of what you’re trying to accomplish. Which companies have achieved excellent work at scale, and see how they did it. Reach out to the person who lead the campaign and see if they’ll share their learnings. You’d be surprised at what people will share (especially if you’re not in a competitive space).

With regards to the client or manager who demands the impossible, yet fancies himself the Yoda to your Luke, well, then, be Han Solo. (Apologies for Star Wars analogies too).

When Han was up against the odds, what did he do? He ran into the fray, guns blazing, acting on instinct, and using all his skills and experience to beat the odds.

In short, if your boss or client insists on making you hunt the proverbial “unicorn,” roll up your sleeves, get in there, use all the expertise you have, and do what you can to make it work. Be sure to go on record with your concerns and hesitation (in a respectful way of course). But, there will come a time when you will be overruled, and the person signing your paycheck will want the impossible.

You may think I’m joking, but I’m not. Channel Han. If perfection is the desired outcome, more likely than not, you will end up cold as ice and encased in carbonite. But every now and then, you may surprise yourself (and your superiors) and successfully navigate that proverbial “asteroid field” without getting pulverized.

Channel Han if you want to have content strategy best practices
Image copyright Lucasfilm/Disney. All rights reserved.

Do you have any tips or advice you can share when faced with having to hunt for content marketing unicorns? Share in LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or the comments below.

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