Doing the Quiet Work

Someone came up to me at a conference recently  and paid our CMI team a compliment. She said, “I love how you guys constantly come up with such great content. Your team always has such useful pieces. How do you do it?” 

After of course saying “Thank you,” I said, “We do the quiet work.” 

Here’s what I mean. Like many organizations, we’re under pressure to publish a lot of stuff. Granted, we have guest posts that help fill our pipeline, but when we publish something original, it comes with a ton of work that doesn’t necessarily show.

When we’re working on a bigger piece, even if it’s authored by one person, we look to each other for expertise, input, and ways to make the piece better. We take our time. We have deadlines, of course, but generally follow the John Cleese recipe for creativity: space, time, more time, confidence, and humor. For example, I often work with the incomparable Marcia Riefer Johnston (who also edits this newsletter) for pieces to the intelligent content community. We often bring in Michele Linn, or Joe, or other team members to bounce ideas off of and shape a piece.

This is the quiet work. It’s work that shows in the depth of thinking, the quality, and the longevity of the piece. It doesn’t focus on what I find so many marketers focus on – the big splash or sexy aspects of attracting audiences. I was working with a client recently that was getting a huge amount of traffic to their resource center. Click-through rates were through the roof. However, engagement with the content barely scratched the surface. Why? Under the sexy, SEO-optimized headlines and beautiful graphics was, well, nothing.

When you create content, make time – in your own process and in your team’s process – for the quiet work. It’s what has people coming up to you saying, “I love what this team does.” It’s what has you telling yourself the same thing.