Often times, content marketers (and marketers in general) can forget that they are artists. Marketing is an artform. Content can be as beautiful as any painting or poetry, be it a landing page, what you think is a perfect line of copy, a brilliant design, a funny email, or a great tweet.
However, all marketers have restrictions placed upon them. They have to:
- Operate under brand guidelines
- Pay attention to metrics
- Do some A/B testing of their content, subject lines, offers, or approaches
- Take the pulse of their audience and the industry that they’re in
- Personalize to your audience
- Follow along with their brand’s messaging
- Run a cohesive campaign
- Work together with sales, social media, IT, management, partners, influencers, and everyone else
And, of course, your content marketing has to in some way positively contribute to ROI.
You can’t just let go and create. You can’t just let your imagination run completely wild and unfettered—not when you have guidelines and rules to follow. You have stakeholders you have to satisfy. If your campaign manager asks for an email, you write the email to their specifications. If your events team asks for signage, you don’t put whatever you want or think sounds awesome. You write copy that they prefer and can work with.
After all, content marketing is your job. This is business and not playtime, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself at least somewhat.
Sure, at times, you can be funny, creative, quirky, and clever with your content. You can send an event invite out shaped like origami. You can send cheeky, lighthearted emails out. You can post riddles and weird facts in your social media posts. The marketer and cartoonist Tom Fishbourne once said, “The best marketing doesn’t feel like it’s marketing.”
But it still is marketing. There’s a limit. You can only go so far with your creativity.
Or is there?
Say you’re writing a novel. If the book has a serious tone throughout, suddenly making it really odd and comical would be quite jarring. The characterization has to stay consistent, the plotting has to be sharp and make sense, and the mystery has to offer a satisfying conclusion.
So, actually, when writing fiction, you don’t have complete creative freedom. You still have to operate under the restrictions you put on yourself, audience expectations, and common sense. You have to ask yourself things like:
What genre is it?
Is it for adults? Children? Everyone?
Yet, even when faced with such restrictions, novelists still put their all into their works. They pour their creativity into them. They try out idea after idea on the page.
It’s just that not everything makes the cut.
Don’t Fear Your Editor(s)
Editing means proofreading and also going through your work and seeing what works and what doesn’t. You prune and cut out what doesn’t work and sharpen the rest. Often times, this means what’s simplest and most powerful is what to use. In school, I was taught that good writing is concise writing, and good marketing is concise and powerful marketing that gets an easy-enough message across in the most eye-catching and informative way possible.
How does this all tie in?
Any artist or creator, be they a content marketer, email marketer, journalist, inventor, writer, poet, sculptor, actor, director, or whatever else you can think of, always sets some limits on themselves depending on what they’re actually doing. They narrow their focus to get their point most effectively across.
And their work still isn’t done. It needs to be edited. It needs to be looked at objectively. It has to be whittled down to the sharpest and most powerful points. You can be your own editor, but you need someone else looking over as well. Sometimes, you need multiple sets of eyes (and as a content marketer, this will often be the case anyway).
Never a Final Draft
No one ever produces the absolute perfect piece of content. There’s always room for tweaking. Someone will always see something they want changed. But don’t fret. Rejoice. This will only make you a better and better writer, designer, artist, and content creator.
Think of it like this. You never completely finish a project. At some point, you give up on, it as the old saying goes. You failed. It wasn’t perfect. The whole world didn’t applaud the moment you published it. Still, it went out and it might have gotten results, and you can learn from the experience.
There’s always room for improvement. You see it in the metrics, ROI, audience engagement, or you just know deep down what else you could have done.
Your content might still reasonably well, but if you couldn’t improve upon the next time, why bother? Why do anything?
Because you’re an artist, and you just can’t stop. You realize that there is no final mountain to climb or ultimate moment of success. You keep on going and producing.
It’s a new year, and it can be a new you. Every project gives you a chance to be a new you, though. The important thing is you get started and get something done. If you need a new mindset, make this your New Year’s resolution: I will put work out there. My job needs content.”
After all, the marketer Lee Odden pointed out that “Content is the reason search began in the first place.”
You have to get something down first to have that content, however. The novelist Jodi Picault said, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank one.” Everyone has to start somewhere, and no matter how bad or rough it might be, you can shape it into something better over time.
With all the edits and tweaks and drafts, you might start doubting yourself. You shouldn’t. It’s natural. It happens. Sometimes, yes, you don’t need to edit as much and you don’t need everyone in the company and your city and state or province weighing in, but that’s a judgement call for who provides feedback and when you should take it. You shouldn’t let it all get to you. You are a content marketer, ninja, and superstar because your talent brought you there. It got you in the door. Now it’s time to produce, and that means putting in the hard work, doing the revisions, taking the heat, compromising when you have to, and hitting deadlines. What separates the greats from everyone else is what they put into their work process.
Stephen King said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
Get it done. That is your mission. Keep everything moving and get content the door and make adjustments when you have to.
Working with a brand might be frustrating, but marketers can still find ways to be creative. Learn “How to Find the Right Voice and Tone and Work with Your Brand’s Style Guide.”
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