I’ve always been a perfectionist, and it worked out ok when I was getting through the early part of my career as a journalist. Sources were carefully grilled. Everything had to be fact checked twice. Sentences had to be carefully crafted, and words chosen carefully. My first editor at BusinessWeek told me, “Magazine real estate is precious. Use it wisely.”
Now we live in a new world that is no longer shaped by printing presses and information scarcity. Yet everyday I see companies that make these mistakes: they want to launch the perfect social media program, write the world’s best blog, create the polished video, and so on.
They are suffering from the curse of the corporate perfectionist.
They find out the hard way that this is not what social media and blogging is about. It’s more about conveying compelling ideas and connecting with audiences in authentic ways, not just writing beautiful prose or top-down marketing approaches.
Speed is more critical too. There’s not enough time to go through two rounds of approvals on every blog. Slick videos are meanwhile seen as advertising–they don’t ring true.
The new style–conversational, open, engaging, and fluid—just doesn’t mix with traditional marketing and communications. Think oil and water.
It’s not easy to break old habits but we must. We need to adapt a “just good enough” approach.
Just good enough (JGE) is not abandoning our processes and discipline – these are still critical to the success of any program. It’s more a way of refocusing and balancing quality and related issues against the needs of the new social media world. It’s both a mindset and operating strategy, a slightly revised lense through which to view our world.
The following seven “habits” apply to blog programs, and writing and managing blogs, but the concept cuts across social media, marketing and more:
1) Don’t try to please everyone. If you’re in a corporation and just starting out with a new blog, focus on your key stakeholders. You don’t need to engage with every stakeholder, just the ones affected by the program or blog. Work carefully with them to understand their goals and programs, and any potential conflicts; communicate your program every step of the way, and reach out where appropriate to enlist their support. Pilot programs are a great way to engage key players, garner support and get off to a good start.
2) Don’t try to cover too much. Don’t try to boil the ocean with your blog–focus on a specific theme/topic. This can be very narrow. I read social media bloggers like Louis Gray, Steve Rubel and Chris Brogan. They may veer into other areas but mainly they stick to what they know. Their writing may not match a top business magazine but their cutting edge content and conversational style more than makes up for it.
3) Don’t worry about being the most beautiful: Blogs aren’t a beauty contest, and some of the most successful platforms will make your head swim. The Drudge Report is basically just dozens of headlines and a few pics, with little thought given to graphics.
The Huffington Post is a media circus, packed with graphics–rotating story heads, screaming headlines, dancing bears. Both draw millions of viewers. I’m not advocating an intentionally bad design, but you don’t need to go overboard with graphics.
4) Learn to write fast–and often. The founder of BoingBoing said when he first started the blog in 2000, he’d left for a week only to return and find a big traffic increase. The reason: the guy pinch hitting for him was blogging 20 times a day vs once a day for him. It wasn’t exactly Hemingway, but good enough–and readers loved it..
Another example: TechCrunch would never be mistaken for Fortune or BusinessWeek but they churn out the copy. Most are short, punchy, opinionated, industry focused -and very well read.
5) Keep it simple: Break your ideas down to the simplest form, and make it easy for your readers to understand. Limiting your number of key points will give you focus and help you communicate more clearly.Example: “Just came out of an amazing presentation, and two key points really hit home. Key point #1…..”
6) Write short (if you want). Many marketers still think in terms of long articles or white papers. Think again. Look at Seth Godin, who takes one quick idea and briefly expands upon it with a link or two. Think in terms of “word bursts” vs essays.
7) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Let your bloggers write in their own voices—if they screw up, you can fix it later (your readers will let you know). On a larger scale, companies that try social media experiments and fail will actually advance faster than those that sit on the sidelines for too long (”fail faster”).
Bonus tip: Listen, converse, and connect. Quit working so hard to push ideas down the readers’ throats and back off the hard messaging. Try providing quality information in a human voice, listening and engaging with your audiences; chances are, they’ll come to you.
Sure, there are times when you need the very best and “just good enough” is not good enough.
But in most cases you don’t need to have the very best blog posting, no more than you need to take the very best walk in the park or see the very best sunset.
Settle for less, and do more. Keep it moving, while giving yourself a break. The next project will always be waiting.