We all have that friend — you know, the one who is constantly texting you their life story. If you even bother to open their message, you skim and well, mostly ignore.. You reply, “Oh no, it’ll get better,” hoping you’re at least in the ballpark of appropriate responses. In internet jargon, it’s called TL;DR (i.e., too long; didn’t read).
As a marketer, I review a lot of client materials, including blogs, white papers, brochures, email campaigns — basically, any marketing content. Each of these forms of writing start out as well-intentioned efforts to tell a compelling, concise story. But what happens during the review process? Well, the story helplessly grows like a ball of snow. Once the snowball starts rolling, there’s no stopping it, and it takes on more weight with every roll; or in this case, every expert who gets their hands on it.
In marketing, this effect is known as “content by committee,” and can cause you more than just a headache. Let’s look at a few problems that come to mind.
TL;DR: No Attention Span
Don’t worry, you’re still beating a goldfish in terms of natural attention span, but consumers and customers want information quickly. Doubling the word count of your blog, turning a four-page brochure into eight pages, and increasing a technical article from 1,500 to 3,000 words are all examples of the snowball effect. Mindlessly increasing character and word counts greatly reduces the chances of content ever getting read, despite what all the SEO gurus say. Consider that for most online articles, 10 percent of viewers never scroll. Sixty out of 100 will view only 60 percent of a published piece (Slate).
Your Glass Is Overflowing With Your Watered-Down Messaging
Achieving consensus (and approval) within your team can be challenging. Far too often the original purpose of the piece either gets diluted or grows to the point where the original version (and its purpose) is completely obfuscated.
Don’t Forget Timeliness
If you’re producing content against a tight deadline — which you probably are most of the time — “content by committee” could cause you to miss said deadline. You’ll find yourself watching that due date sail on like a rudderless ship — with the content committee wondering what happened.
Keep Your Content out of the TL;DR File
To master concise writing, consider these three suggestions:
- Create an outline (just like you did in school). Get it approved before starting the writing process and stick to it. Your outline will remind everyone of the original scope and intent.
- Edit, review and edit again. Continually look for excessive prose that doesn’t add value. This can be tedious work, but it pays off in the end.
- If possible — let’s just pretend it is — limit your content committee to just a few subject matter experts. Keeping your team small can keep your content goals on track, stick to the production schedule and save costs.
And if all that doesn’t work, there is the real option to accept the fact that not every piece of content is destined for greatness.