Sculpt the Backsides of Your Content

I was talking recently with a marketing manager about their thought-leadership program. Their white papers are amazingly good. In one paper, in particular, I noted how they had included details that would elude most of their beginner audience (including me), but that upon second and third reading I had finally noticed. These finely woven details were one of the most interesting parts of the paper. The marketing manager smiled and she said to me, “Yeah, we took our time, and we’re proud of that. We put that detail in for us and as a little surprise for anyone that’s really paying attention.”

I told her that it reminded me of the story of the creation of the statues on the roof of the Parthenon in Athens. Legend has it that when the sculptor, Phidias, finished the sculptures, the city accountant of Athens refused to pay his bill. He said, “These statues stand on the roof of the temple on the highest hill in Athens. Nobody can see anything but their fronts. Yet, you have charged us for sculpting them in the round, that is, for doing the backsides, which nobody can see.”

“You are wrong,” Phidias replied. “The Gods can see them.”

In today’s rushed world of content creation, we are often encouraged to publish at a level of “okay” or “good enough.” We adopt processes that accept “minimum viability” in our products, our content, our strategies. In many cases, we’re rewarded for shipping the average rather than holding for the excellent. We measure our content production by the number of stories we produce, rather than the quality of those stories.

Now, that approach has its wisdom. As Voltaire said, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Perfectionism paralyzes. At the same time, abandoning perfectionism isn’t the same as abandoning the pursuit of excellence altogether.

Are you sculpting the backsides of your content – the parts that no one but you and the Gods (and maybe a few hyperalert readers) will see? The details in the craft of our content are the one thing that algorithms and artificial intelligence will never replace. Why? Because machines will never be able to enjoy the satisfaction of being the only ones to appreciate what’s there.

It’s Your Story. Tell It Well.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.

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