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overcurating your blog content

Don’t Overcurate Your Blog Posts

January 25, 2018 - influencer content marketing, Practitioner Marketing - ,
By: Chris Riley

If you overcurate your blog posts, you could be losing money and momentum. The cost of not getting blog posts published is much higher than potentially not saying things exactly right. Many companies and marketing teams have a tendency to overthink and scrutinize the content they release into the world, and they often do it at their own peril. Overcurating your blog posts in fast-moving technical markets can cause a lot of damage.

The nature of different types of content

Not all marketing content is equal. Press releases, assets, and blog content all have different tones, structure, and impacts on the market.

Press releases are short, but every single word in them should be spot-on. A press release is a record of a company’s position in the market, and it’s distributed to a wide base. A strong press release is also leveraged by journalists as a basis for writing their own opinions.

Similarly, assets are expected to be highly architected pieces of content with a level of precision that is closer to a book. The expectation is not so much technical detail, but how information is presented, because often the audience is senior and interested in concepts, not details. Getting concepts and organization right is more important, partly because the lifetime of assets is long in comparison to a blog post. The expectation is that the content is more evergreen, and subsequently, the curation of that content and the corresponding barrier to published content is high.

Both these types of content provide the voice of the company, not individuals. This adds to the importance of wording, tone, and other stylistic elements that are associated with the company’s brand and identity.

Blog posts are different. Blog posts, in order to hold authenticity, should be authored by individuals. These individuals each have a voice and a persona that should be true to them and their beliefs.

Readers of blogs expect an element of spontaneity, opinion, and character. Without them, what’s written is not as believable, or even interesting. Spontaneity particularly brings a risk of saying something in a way that is not perfect, or that someone may disagree with.

Do you overcurate?

If that last paragraph made you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, you already have the tendency to overcurate. The fear of putting something out that could be somewhat incorrect, or not said in perfect prose, is a very real affliction.

How do you you know for sure whether you are overcurating your blog content? First off, if you do not have confidence in your contributor, you are starting off-balance. The responsibility of vetting, approving, and motivating a contributor is all on you. Casually picking contributors and expecting gold is not fair.

The 15-minute rule

Here’s a rule of thumb for how well you have vetted your contributor—If you or anyone on your team is spending more than 15 minutes editing the post after reading it, you have a problem. If you find you need to do additional research to determine if you trust the quality of the content, you have a problem. If you can’t decide if you trust the post content within 15 minutes, you have a problem.

There will always be times when a post is just not a fit, and in those cases, you should simply move on and not even bother with revisions. Do this more than 10% of the time, and the problem is probably you. You either picked a contributor with the wrong expertise for the content, or there is a skill mismatch. For the most part, no post should require more than 15 minutes of scrutiny or suggested edits.

Technical accuracy is important

For technical blog posts, accuracy of technical details and code snippets is very important. But even in the world of logic there is subjectivity. Different coders approach different problems in different ways. As long as it works, it might not be the best approach, but it’s still correct. Therefore, you cannot have a technical review by another techie who criticizes the post, because there will always be criticism. That is what techies do (“That is not how I would do it”). The technical review is: Do the steps work? Does the code run and produce the expected result? That is it.

Technical accuracy is important if a user takes what is in the post and attempts to do it on their own. If it doesn’t work, you have an issue. If it does work, but not perfectly, that is an opportunity for the reader to take the next step, but they are not left with false hope. If the user is left frustrated because of glaring gaps in the instruction, this frustration can lead to a negative response—and comments. (But this might actually be a good thing.)

The more comments on the post that relate directly to the post’s technical details, the better the post is going to perform on SEO. Unless the comments are directed at the vendor, techie-on-techie contests are not a bad thing, and sometimes really help readership.

It’s the contributor, not you

What is lost on many companies is that the contributor is speaking on his or her behalf, and the blog is simply the medium. Organizations that think the contributor’s voice is automatically theirs if they publish a post should not have a blog, because it is not the type of asset that works for them. (And that is okay.)

If you have a blog, you need flexibility to allow different voices to be individual and authentic. Just because the contributor says something doesn’t mean that it will reflect on the company. The chances of a post backfiring are very low. In the rare case that it happens, it’s often a good opportunity to engage more.

Responding to the haters

No News is Not Good News,” a recent post on the impact of negative press, highlights the point that controversy can be a marketer’s best weapon. Some organizations even seek to create it as a part of their standard marketing strategy. I’m not suggesting that it’s for you, but those who are afraid of any controversy (by default) are missing out.

If a blog post is not compelling, no one will comment, and without comments, it’s hard to give the post that extra oomph. Negative responses on social media and less-than-tactful comments are not a bad thing, but not addressing a negative comment is. Companies should:

  • ALWAYS respond. Never leave a comment unaddressed.
  • The contributor should respond. To keep true to the post, the contributor should respond, never the company. In a worst-case scenario, you can have employees respond if it’s fitting and they are also domain experts.
  • Never throw a contributor under the bus. You might not agree with the contributor, but no matter what, you should defend their background, their expertise, their right to an opinion, and their ability to explain what they know. Otherwise you look ridiculous for allowing them to write content.
  • Never attack individuals’ comments. Never tell the individuals responding that they are wrong.
  • Always invite the commenter to write more—or contribute a post of their own (even if the post is a constructive response to the original).

Relieve the stress

Sometimes overcurration is simply a part of you or your team’s nature. By establishing a process and rules to follow, you can mitigate the fear that motivates your bad habit and still have a successful blog. For Fixate, this is already built into the editorial process.

Practitioner Content Creation Rules to Live By

  • Do not allow the contributor to talk negatively about any company or person—period.
  • Do not allow your contributors to speak negatively about any tool. This does not mean avoiding critical posts. That would be a huge mistake, because content that is honest is very popular. The writer cannot say “This tool sucks,” but they can say, “This tool did not work for me.” Then, they should say why.
  • Conversely, when they talk positively about something, explain why. Never claim the greatness of a tool without explaining why.
  • Do not allow contributors to shill anything. The rule we use is that if you mention anything competitive, you always mention three competitors—not just one. For example, if a contributor wrote a post on the personal voice assistant Siri, the contributor should not talk about any competition unless they list Cortana, Alexa, and “Ok Google.”
  • Copyedit your content. Contributors are generally not literary experts. They are experts in the topic they write about. Part of your process should be copyediting. And a professional copy editor should do the work, not someone on your team who is a fan of catching typos and spelling errors.
  • Know your organization. If you aren’t the overcurater, but your sales team, an executive, or someone else is, then make sure you figure out how to work with them effectively first. Some organizations have a C-suite exec who sees him/herself as a blogger extraordinaire. These organizations should avoid having a blog at all, unless the content is entirely written by the CEO. (Otherwise, it won’t ever see the Web.)

The takeaway

What matters most about your content is that it’s timely, compelling, meets the expectations of the reader, and imparts value (even when it doesn’t meet expectations).

Your blog is not a novel. The cost of not publishing a blog post is much higher than the cost of publishing something that maybe has a mistake that will possibly be caught by someone with a negative response. For some organizations, especially public ones, the risk and fear are too high. Organizations with valid concerns should focus on assets as a lower-risk, more effective way to distribute content, and avoid investing in a blog at all.

If you are planning on investing in a blog, at minimum you should be publishing twice a week, and the content should be written by a varied pool of contributors who are practitioners. With a proper practitioner content marketing strategy and blog, there is no place or time for overcuration by the vendor. Rather than overthink and overwork content, organizations should have a system to mitigate risk, with clear directives on how they will respond—Or, they can simply turn to the pros, and let a company like Fixate implement and manage the process for them.


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Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.