There is no question that we need help to create the best possible marketing content. Editors within our team are critical to bringing out our best. High standards and approval requirements can prevent high regret releases from occurring. Like anything, though, a little goes a long way.
While well-intentioned, the pursuit of perfection can lead to project stalls or even abandons. Here are three perfection paralysis scenarios…with action-oriented antidotes!
Perfection Paralysis Scenario 1 – The Perfectionist
This doesn’t sound so bad, right? Someone who is actually a perfectionist helping you perfect your copy….PERFECT!
It can be. If the Perfectionist Editor confines himself to looking for mistakes that will crush credibility, mislead, confuse the audience or damage your brand.
But what if she stalls your copy because she doesn’t like your (brand consistent) style? Or disagrees with word choice? Wants to rewrite in his own voice? Only to rewrite the rewrite back to the original sentence? Frustration, missed deadlines, and more — oh my!
Perfection Paralysis Scenario 2 – The Mehditor
The hallmark of the Mehditor is her indifference — the verbal shrug, “Meh,” is her typical response, if any. Sounds useless but OK, right? You know she won’t read it, or if she does, with little attention, so you hope everyone else does a good job. Except, she not only doesn’t read it, she won’t approve it.
Maybe the Mehditor waits until the absolute last minute to engage, then gives feedback that indicates he doesn’t like it, but with no suggestions. “I’ll know it when I see it, “ is his slogan. Perhaps his (late) commentary is fraught with questions that indicate he doesn’t even understand the project. This holds everything up, wasting time and money.
Perfection Paralysis Scenario 3 – Content Wise, Publish Foolish
Before you have even begun your project, the penny wise, pound foolish editor leads with a list of expenses your content cannot incur AND the demand for perfection. All the details must be correct (even if they are likely to change).
Everything needs to be submitted early so it isn’t a rush job that incurs extra fees, but no details are finalized. The pressure and second-guessing prequel can leave you chasing your own tail and reluctant to begin, much less complete, a project.
Fear not. There are few things you can do to inoculate your project against perfection paralysis.
Suggestions for Paralysis Prevention
Write an outline. Submit a detailed outline before you start writing/designing and get agreement from everyone who needs to approve your content that this is the outline you will use.
Make sure your outline includes descriptions or sketches of visuals, where the logo will be placed, contact info, etc. It is easier to edit the outline than completely redo a final draft.
Simplify. If cost, or a desire not to reprint, is an issue, simplify your outline. Do not include details or images that are likely to change with each product improvement. Stick to features and benefits that will stand the test of time.
Create a timeline. Assign approval dates and approvers for each step. Maybe layout is approved by one date, artwork or technical content is approved by another date, and copy details like spelling by another date, etc.
It is possible that each step only requires one other person to review that content for you Make sure everyone agrees to the dates, the turnaround time for their edits, and their roles.
Prepare a budget. Include a budget with your timeline that shows the impact of delays. For example, if your printer normally requires 2 weeks lead time to prevent a rush charge, make sure that this is clearly understood and featured in your timeline.
Include a checklist. When you send your copy for editing ask your editors to review for specific attributes and have the reviewer submit the checklist with their comments. This prevents editing scope creep and editors missing the points you need them to cover.
Enforce a deadline. Include a deadline with your submission to your editors and the words “if I have received no response by you by _______ I will assume this is approved with no changes.”
Offer incentives. Offer rewards for finding mistakes and on-time delivery of comments. For example, give away a free coffee or other reasonably priced treat to the person who finds the most typos, layout errors, etc. Consider a small gift card for on-time or early delivery of comments. These small incentives use positive feedback to reward that fresh pair of eyes critically engaged with your copy in a timely fashion.
Perfection paralysis — averted!