Any number of roadblocks can get in the way of publishing a piece of content.
Sometimes, the writing process takes a backseat to more pressing work. Editors or designers can fall behind. Maybe your website goes down because of a security error and publishing on time is impossible.
Whatever the reason, when other people or external circumstances create publishing delays, it can be infuriating.
Fortunately, most business-minded people know how to spot bottlenecks, improve processes and move on.
But unfortunately, most delays in publishing have nothing to do with a process problem. They're caused by something hidden deep below the surface.
The Chase for Perfection
We believe investing in content marketing is one of the most important decisions a business owner or thought leader can make. You're giving your time, attention and money to write and publish content to grow your business.
But people often delay publishing the content until they feel like it's perfect.
We've all heard, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good," but that's tough advice to follow when it's your business. When it's your livelihood, your employee's livelihood, and your reputation on the line, the stakes are much higher.
But what's so bad about wanting it to be perfect?
The problem is how we think about perfection. We tend to imagine perfection as a state to be achieved. We believe that before the world can see our content, it must be perfect... and it's our job to get it there.
But in reality, seeking perfection is like chasing the horizon. You'll never reach it, no matter how hard you try. Perfection is an ideal — meant to be strived for but never fully realized.
Our heads are full of ideas, memories, experiences, wisdom and insights. But something happens when we see them written down. Because we've never clearly articulated those thoughts before, we second guess them. We doubt the content fully captures the idea.
Then, when we attach our name to it, we become even more reluctant to publish. We believe people will forever associate us with this content, and that if it's not perfect, we'll ruin any chance we had of being seen as an expert.
That may sound exaggerated, but we all feel that desire for perfection to one degree or another.
At its essence, there's nothing wrong with chasing perfection. It's the chase that helps us create better content. But when chasing perfection gets in the way of publishing, it creates bigger problems than publishing imperfect content.
Subtle Signs of Chasing Perfection
Most of us logically understand that perfection is an impossible state to achieve, but there are subtle ways we let it keep us from taking action.
The typical content creation process looks like this:
- Decide Goal
- Choose Topic
- Complete Research
- Outline Points
- Write Draft
- Create Headline
- Edit Article
- Create Graphics
- Publish Post
When chasing perfection, the entire process slows down.
First, we believe every piece of content we create must be brilliant. Or, at least, original. To stand out from the crowd and claim our own corner of the market, we scour competitor blogs, websites and articles to see what everyone else is saying.
Then, to provide deeper insights where others came up short, we dive into heavy research to support our thoughts.
And while there's nothing wrong with competitive analysis or topic research, chasing perfection makes us go a little overkill. We obsess over others' blogs. We over-research every element.
Finally, when we feel adequately prepared, we begin writing. With the mountain of research we've gathered, this takes much longer than we anticipate and leads to continual delays.
In editing, we comb through every sentence and constantly feel like there's a better way of conveying our thoughts. Then, we decide the article must be rewritten entirely. But when we start from scratch, we notice the same sentences and paragraphs we initially wrote appearing on the page.
This leads us to question the purpose or usefulness of the idea we started with.
Does it even matter? Am I saying anything that will make a difference to my audience? What will other professionals in my space think?
At this point, there's no easy way through. We can either scrap the idea or restart the writing process, but the result is that publishing is delayed.
The Cost of the Chase
There are two major costs of chasing perfection in publishing new content.
The first is internal. When we're chasing perfection, we're never satisfied with what we've created. If we move ahead and publish something that's not perfect, we feel like a fraud. And if we don't publish, we feel like a failure because we've wasted resources on creating content that will never help our business.
The second cost is external. In content marketing, attention is our currency. When we don't publish, we don't get attention. We're also communicating that we have nothing valuable to say, which trains our audience to ignore us.
For people who aren't already in our audience, failing to publish content means they're much less likely to ever find us.
On any blog, a few posts account for the overwhelming majority of pageviews. This is the 80/20 rule in effect. In their article on content marketing, iDoneThis describes how just two posts are responsible for over 50% of their traffic.
This trend is no outlier. It's the case with almost every blog, but you can't reap the benefits from those "hit" posts unless you publish.
"What's problematic about the power law in the context of content marketing is that it feels like a hit-driven business in which you're on a constant treadmill. However, the flip side of the power law is that, with data, you'll begin to see that to get the 20 articles that are hits, the only thing you need to do is write 100 articles."
It's easy to assume the posts that drive these disproportionately high pageviews are perfect. But they're not. The company could easily improve each post. Despite their imperfections, however, they attract the most views, leading to a compound effect on the reach potential of the entire blog.
None of this is possible without publishing.
The Real Reason We Chase Perfection
If the reason we delay publishing is because we're chasing perfection, then why are we chasing perfection in the first place?
Is it because we're worried our readers won't care? Or is there fear that the language won't fully capture our idea?
It's actually much deeper than that.
The real reason we chase perfection is because we lack confidence in our own expertise. We're scared to speak about a topic because we doubt our own authority.
The core problem isn't in doubting our own content. It's in doubting ourselves.
But this is solved when we realize where authority comes from. In thought leadership, expertise isn't based on how much you know. It's based on how much value you give to your audience.
Being an expert to your audience isn't about heaping tons of information on them. It's about who you are to them and the specific value you provide that helps meet their specific need.
While you may doubt whether an individual piece of content provides enough value, you can't question whether or not you have any value to give. If you couldn't offer anything valuable to your audience, you wouldn't be in business in the first place.
This is your starting point.
Breaking the cycle of hopelessly chasing perfection starts with realizing that the value you provide to your audience is what makes you an expert. And once you can accept this, you can take action to get the word out about that value...
Which brings us back to the issue of publishing.
The Publishing Imperative
When you let go of the idea that everything needs to be perfect, you need to get into a publishing rhythm. Here are three quick tips to stop delays from continually holding you back.
1. Choose topics based on your audience's specific needs.
Expertise isn't rooted in how much you know — it's rooted in regularly providing value to your audience. To maintain a high level of confidence in the content you create, choose topics that speak directly to a specific need your audience is experiencing.
Then, whenever you doubt your content and ask, "What difference does this make?" the answer will be clear.
2. Set a publishing deadline.
Next, set a firm deadline for when the content will publish and commit to it. If you're creating it all yourself, plan far enough in advance to give yourself adequate time for each step of the process.
If you're using other people to help you create the content, set deadlines along the way to ensure there aren't bottlenecks.
3. Give yourself a time limit for each step of the process.
In addition to deadlines, use time limits for each step of the process. This keeps you from over-analyzing competitors and over-researching on the front end. It also keeps you from editing too many minute details that don't impact the main goals of the article.
4. Remember what you're creating.
Last, remember exactly what you're creating and who you're creating it for.
People consume different content in different ways. When writing a blog post, remember that your audience, even the most dedicated readers, likely won't read it word for word.
You're not writing a novel your audience will read while curled up on the couch free from distractions. They'll likely be reading your content on their desktop with 12 other tabs open on their browser, or on their phone while constantly being bombarded with notifications.
Keeping this in mind takes the pressure off trying to get every sentence exactly right.
Also, a blog post is NOT a printed book. You can always go back and edit anything that needs to be changed after it's published. Whether it's correcting errors, adding in missing data, or just making occasional updates to make sure the post stays relevant and current, blog posts are editable. You're not setting anything in stone.
Stop Chasing and Start Publishing
Obviously, believing in your expertise and dropping the chase for perfection doesn't happen overnight. Confidence doesn't come from reading a single post.
It's something every writer struggles with — myself included.
While we may not always be confident in our own expertise, we know that not publishing only yields negative results. If you still have your doubts — and you definitely will — start publishing regardless. Confidence will come.