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Group Therapy: Common Issues in Content Marketing

While in our own minds, we content marketers are incredible superheroes able to create content faster than a speeding bullet and meet impossible deadlines in a single bound, the truth is: We’re only mortal. There’s always going to be something that gets in our way and makes it harder than it should be to crank out truly stellar content. Below you’ll find a brief sampling of common issues in content marketing.

Here are the tremendous response we received to the simple question:”What is your content marketing kryptonite?”

Think of this as group therapy.

WHEN WE’RE THE PROBLEM

Mike Devaney, Direct Response Copywriter

I struggle with the desire to be EPIC. I’m laughing about it, but I’m serious. Yes, “epicness” is a good thing if you’re hoping to be the next Axl Rose, but as a direct response copywriter, I should be a lot more comfortable with formulas and checklists.

Too often, I do the research, look at the current promotion, and start piecing together the sales letter before, in a burst of fantasy, I break free and start scribbling furiously. I think I might be on to something by letting my id speak, but then I come around and toss the scribble into the recycling bin. (Ironically, this is the exact opposite of how I bill myself: a “no-frills, just the facts ma’am copywriter.”) Thankfully, none of my clients see me while I work. If they did, they’d probably want to change the terms of service from an hourly rate. That way, they would avoid subsidizing my daydreaming habit.

Dechay Watts, co-founder of SPROUT Content

Personally, my biggest weakness when creating content is not asking enough questions up front. After a short interview, I typically understand a topic conceptually, but later realize that I needed more details to really get a point across from a different perspective. The internet helps spur ideas and can be a great resource for creative examples, but asking the right questions from the start is a much more powerful tool.

I also tend to write short and to the point. To overcome this, I write a quick draft that comes naturally then come back to it later to spruce it up.

I also keep a pack of chocolate Pocket Coffees on my desk. Popping just a couple can bring everything into focus.

Jennifer Riggins, Marketing Director, GetApp

Definitely my number-one self-created problem is that I don’t say no, and that means that I never have time and am always rushing and unsuccessfully multitasking. As a freelancer who has a full-time marketing director role, I get an insane amount of offers, a lot of which come from friends creating their own businesses. How can you ever say no? Plus, even when I am getting paid, when I’m juggling so many freelance jobs … somehow, along the way, I rather often forget to send an invoice to get paid on time.

Jennifer Riggins is a New Jersey girl living in Barcelona, writing about startups and innovation in Spain for CBS SmartPlanet, and is the marketing director at GetApp.

WHEN THE CLIENT IS THE PROBLEM

Sometimes, in all honesty, it’s not us at all, but them. They don’t know what they want, or they’re fickle, or they’re not giving you the space you need to do your job.

Lisa Bamford, Director of Branded Content, Fletcher PR

Brevity has always been a necessity. However, it has taken on a more pivotal role as our vernacular now includes condensed words (and I use the term “words” lightly) such as “LOL,” “TTYL,” “OMG,” “ICYMI,” “adorbs,” “amaze-balls,” “selfie,” “totes,” “cray-cray,” and “obvi.”

My struggle with brevity is that I feel like I’m up against an audience where nearly everyone has “content ADD,” and there’s no Ritalin strong enough to tackle it. Compounding the challenge, content writers are up against celebrities who are marrying their fame with being brand spokespersons. Brevity, pop culture, social networking—can we stay ahead of the content curve? Well, I’m “totes” a “Belieber” that we can, but it means being more malleable, versatile, and creative with brief content. And, as many content writers are “Type A,” that may take some “cray-cray” effort.

Hugh Taylor, Freelance Tech Writer

In my experience, there’s often a disconnect between what the client says he wants and what he really wants. In some cases, the client may not actually know.

For example, a marketing director at a large tech company might be instructed, “Get us some thought leadership on cloud computing.” That’s a perfectly good goal, but the client may need to be guided through a creative thought process that gets into the pros and cons of taking on a massive trend such as cloud computing. The writer has to be available as an extension of the client’s creative brain. Of course, the best writers can tell the client what he really wants without actually saying, “This is what you really want.”

Michelle Friedman, SEO and Marketing, Medical Scrubs; Freelance Marketer/Copywriter

As a content writer, my job is to take an image or idea and put it into words, molding and shaping the flow of language until I am portraying each nuance with a symphony of sound. Details matter in the overall vision. The problem comes when there is no vision. Or when the vision is a kaleidoscope of half-formed thoughts that bear little resemblance to each other.

At the start of a project I grill the business owner, department head, or visionary, whoever he may be, about what he’d like to portray. Sometimes the client will say, “Lowest price. And that applies as well to what we’re willing to pay you.” Yippee. Sometimes he’ll say, “We really offer great customer service, just don’t call right now, our phones are down, but we also have really low pricing—oh, and our quality is superb.” Settle in, folks, this is going to be a long one.

I polish egos, play pick-up-sticks, and try to pinpoint what exactly makes this company stand out that I will be able to market. Sometimes when I drill down to the core of the company I uncover gold. And sometimes I hang up more confused than when I started, trying to convince consumers to try something for reasons still unknown to me. Sometimes when I’m marketing my biggest obstacle is that there’s nothing to market.

Kristy Totin, Content Marketing Manager, Teknicks

One of the biggest roadblocks that I face is having to create content under too many guidelines, and having too many individuals involved in the approval process. Very often I will have to receive approval from clients for every little piece of the content puzzle: the blog topic, the tone, the image, the social posts, the publish date, etc. It’s difficult to be creative and try new things while being given very little creative freedom.

A good content marketer will immerse him- or herself in the buyer persona, and know exactly what kind of information the readers will find valuable, and the tone and language that is most fitting. It should be left to the content creators to execute the content strategy, and clients should give the content creators a little more freedom in order to do so.

WHEN THE WRITING IS THE PROBLEM

Maybe our head’s on straight and we’ve got the perfect client with a clear vision for the project. That still doesn’t save us from blank-page syndrome, or pacing issues, or writing too long or too short every. damn. time!

Liz Carroll, Content Creator, Goedeker’s

My biggest weakness is writing too little about subjects. In college, I was taught to cut, cut, cut. Get straight to the point. Leave out the flowers. However, in blogging and SEO, longer content tends to be more shareable, and you have to be funny while still relating with customers and sounding professional. It can be a difficult juggling act.

I often find myself stuffing my work with flowery language and—gasp—adverbs. We all know the road to hell is paved with adverbs (Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft).

To combat this weakness, I have spent more time reading popular blogs that are a perfect blend of solid writing and length. I try to tailor my own style after those. The more you read, the more you learn.

Collin Jarman, Digital Analyst, COCG

When I’m writing a blog, I often suffer from what I call “tunnel visioned writing.” That is to say, there will be some point that I’m excited to make or some concept that I’m excited to explain, which is a great place to start! But I’ll get so absorbed in my excitement of fully explaining this new concept that I’ll glaze over all the details leading up to it and not cover them nearly well enough. Thank goodness for editors who will be honest with me about my pacing!

Katie Mayberry, Content Marketer and Principal, Spyglass Digial

My kryptonite is my urgency. I can get so anxious to publish ASAP that I publish before I’ve thoroughly reviewed something. My social media fingers move faster than my reason sometimes and can lead to producing less than my best. But on the positive side, I don’t suffer from analysis paralysis. I guess these things have their trade-offs. Some tips for people who are like me to avoid this kind of thing is to have quality proofreaders and a strong editorial calendar. You want to make sure you have time to plan out and review your material as much as possible.

Mo Kopstick, Video Producer and Tech Consultant, Revaya Productions

I can’t stand the blank page. Starting from scratch each time I begin a video project scares the heck out of me and makes me crawl into the fetal position of procrastination for days before I get started. I’ll come up with a fantastic idea, know exactly what should be done, have all the video, picture, and text files ready to attack with, and then open my production software and that empty video canvas will stare at me waiting to be worked on. And so I then hide for a few hours or days. I eventually come back and do my magic, my clients are happy, and I don’t charge for fetal position time, so it all works out nicely.

Mike Juba, Content Strategist, EZ Solution

Probably the hardest part about content writing is coming up with a great, unique, resourceful idea that will teach the reader something and get them to share and talk about it. It is especially difficult when you have clients that build sheds, gazebos, and pole barns, as we have a lot of those, being in Amish land. So thinking outside the box can be difficult and more time consuming in the research stage of an article, but the better the idea and concept, the better chances of acceptance and of it being valuable to your business.

Another big weakness I have is that I sometimes write too long. Most blogs only require 500 words, and some prefer them to be under 1,000 so they are easier to digest by the reader. By the time I put all my thoughts on paper and construct what I perceive to be a well-written article, I realize I’ve written too much, and there really isn’t much fluff in the piece. Sometimes I just find a good divider and turn it into a two-part blog post series.

Hopefully something in here helps and is unique from the others… If not, just say my biggest weakness is writing for Amish businesses because they never answer their phone to answer questions (they can’t).

WHEN LIFE IS THE PROBLEM

As much as we might like to sometimes, writers don’t write in a vacuum. We need to deal with all the little irritations and details that spice up every person’s life, but we have to do it with a deadline hanging over our head!

Anna Morrish, Marketing Executive, DMC Software Solutions

I believe my biggest weakness when it comes to content and writing is noise. This can be anything from too little or too much, or even just a bad song choice. I do, however, have a productive writing frenzy if I listen to the Red Hot Chili Pipers, a band that incorporates bagpipes into their music. The up-tempo beat stimulates my mind. Everyone does have their vices, however unusual.

Susan Payton, President, Egg Marketing & Communications

I’d say my kryptonite is analytics. It’s not often I’m held accountable for how well a blog post does, and so measuring it isn’t something that comes easily to me. Sifting through analytics data? I’d rather pick cat hairs off of the couch. And yet it’s becoming more expected in my field. Guess it’s time to put my prejudice aside and sharpen my skills!

Susan Payton is president of Egg Marketing & Communications, which specializes in creating content for small businesses.

Shelby Ellis, Marketing Specialist, Residential Acoustics

One of my biggest weaknesses is getting lost in the Internet. Before each post, I research the topic I am planning to write about. When searching for keywords on Google, many different phrases pop up in the auto-complete box. Some of the drop-down options intrigue me, while others are humorous! If I happen to stay focused through the search engine step of the process, reading an article could cause me to lose focus by providing a link to a different article I may find interesting. But if you ask me, that’s just good marketing.

Shelby Ellis is a marketing specialist at Residential Acoustics.

Hopefully you’ve seen yourself in this random sampling of weaknesses that make otherwise invincible writers stumble. If you’ve got suggestions for our writers, or your own unique weaknesses we haven’t covered here, tweet us @Contently.

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