I knew I would struggle when I started blogging a few years ago. I blame my years of journalism work. 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 blog, create the polished video, craft the right message.
They are suffering from the curse of the corporate perfectionist.
They find out the hard way that this is not what blogging and social media 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 and I’m still working on it (I rewrote the intro paragraph twice). To help, I’ve adapted a different “just good enough” approach the last year.
Just good enough (JGE) is both a mindset and operating strategy, a lense through which to view my world.
Let me clarify: this is not an excuse to get out of work or get sloppy (warning to my kids: take note). It’s a way of refocusing and balancing quality and related issues against the needs of the new social media world.
The following seven “habits” apply to blogs, but the concept cuts across social media and beyond:
1) Don’t try to cover too much. Don’t try to boil the ocean–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.
2) 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 (my partner is a veteran graphic designer and would shoot me) but you don’t need to go overboard with graphics.
3) 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– 13 posts for a recent day (June 1). Most are short, punchy, opinionated, industry focused (”Google Upgrades Custom Search Box on Blogger”)–and very well read.
4) 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.
5) 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. Back on my (ION) site, one of the most popular blogs was a brief piece on five powerful Twitter search engines.
6) 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” is the new mantra).
7) 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. An excellent example of this is the Conversation Agent blog.
JGE can apply to other areas of your life, such as presentations. Highly polished professional speakers can dazzle a crowd. Yet when I attended the recent Inbound Marketing Summit in San Francisco recently, I was impressed with the speakers–not because of their slick speaking style, but because of their powerful content and the way they connected with their audiences. (See Lessons of the Inbound Marketing Summit).
You might be able to get even more done, and do it better, by “doing less,” according to the blog Zen Habits. This blogger talks about focusing your efforts across your work. A recent posting boiled it down to:
1) Setting one “big goal” at a time.
2) Limiting to no more than three projects.
3) Prioritizing the three most important tasks each day.
I would add:
4) Being satisfied with doing a good job and moving on.
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. Give yourself a break. The next project will always be waiting.
(This post orginally ran on MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog. See post and comments here).