How Much Content Is Enough?

When’s the last time you heard anyone in your organization say, “I don’t have enough to do”?  Most business people are overloaded. And yet, for all that overload, business projects are less and less likely to meet expectations. According to this year’s “Pulse of the Profession” report published by the Project Management Institute, 16% of all business projects “fail outright,” and about two-thirds meet “their goals and business intent.” That’s darn near a coin flip.   

Now, these statistics aren’t specifically for content-related projects. But anecdotally, for content and marketing projects, I can tell you the failure rate feels even worse. Two client stories brought this discouraging perception home for me this week.

In the first case, I was in a planning meeting with the content team and the eight product marketing teams. I was there to facilitate their conversation. As they sat around and discussed how to stand up this ambitious new content platform, an elephant entered the room and stood there staring at everyone. Everyone was talking in circles about how much new content would be produced for the platform and how it would or wouldn’t affect the number of assets the content team would continue to produce for the product teams. You could hear the subtext in the “meeting talk.”

  • “We’ll need to get aligned on that roadmap.”
  • “Let’s take that offline and talk about how we’ll address that.”
  • “We can get a smaller group together to talk about scalability and bandwidth issues.”
  • “We’ll take a holistic approach to this and look for the synergies. We can repurpose much of that into assets that will work across verticals.”   

Finally, I’d had enough.

“Let’s face it – some of you are going to be disappointed. The whole point of creating the content team, and of the new content platform, is to reduce the number of content assets you’re creating for marketing. You can either pretend that you can keep this velocity up and improve the quality, or you can admit now that you can’t. If all we do is talk about adding more, you’ll just add more crap – and that’s exactly what you don’t need. Let’s, instead, start talking about creating a few amazing pieces that can work for as many of you as possible.”

The elephant, and perhaps my welcome, left the room. But someone had to say it: Marketers must say No more often to content opportunities.

The second story is similar. I was having a phone call with a prospective client. She’s one of two content people who stretch their skills across nine products. “Our marketing managers are so siloed,” she said, “that they come up with 10 to 20 projects each and then prioritize the top five that they’ll do for their product. They prioritize the ones that propose the highest ROI.” Across nine brands, that’s 45 projects. Instead of doing five projects across all nine products, which might have a better chance of incredible success, they plan 45 projects. The thinking goes like this: We need to be busy, so create more content projects! Of course, the two people on that content team never have the time or the money to do all those projects.

When you force more and more content through the pipeline, you ensure that the content won’t be as good as it could be.

When I used to be asked, “How much content should we be producing,” I used to say, “As much as you can be great at.” As I’ve noted before, this is a wrong answer, and I’ve since revised it.  Now, when I’m asked that question, I say, “As little as you can that creates the impact you intended.”

That’s how much is enough.

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