What are the Warning Signs of Bad Content?
I recently polled the Critical Social community on Facebook to see which upcoming resources y’all were most excited about, and the Bad Content checklist won by a landslide. So here it is, my (very personal) version of a Bad Content checklist.
Notice this has nothing to do with waving “best practice” principles in your face – I don’t care if your copy is long or short, how many videos you post, or whether you’ve got influencers on your payroll. In fact, I can tell if your content is bad without even looking at it – without ever knowing which brands you work on.
All I need to know to predict the strength of your work is a few things about you, the human behind the content.
I challenge you to go through this checklist, and be honest with which of these statements applies to you.
“I feel so attacked!”
Seriously, I’m a little stressed to put this list out there – because I know it’s going to hit some very real feelings for a lot of my audience.
Firstly, let me admit I’ve experienced every one of these scenarios myself in my 8 years as a (neurotic) content creator. Identifying with this list doesn’t mean you’re not talented, hard working, or capable of creating amazing content. In fact, even caring enough to read a Bad Content Checklist proves that you give a damn, which is easily the most important quality for any ambitious creative who will eventually achieve success.
One thing that is guaranteed to slow down your path to success is fear of growth. Not wanting the discomfort of confronting your weak spots, and working tirelessly to overcome them, is a recipe for mediocrity. But I know you want to grow! That’s why I can’t just leave you with a checklist signs you might be bad.
Here’s how to get better.
The 7 Fixes For Great Content
#1: Trade Time For Money
The Bad Sign: Your output is at an all-time high.
The Real Problem: You’re trying to catch up after waves of algorithm changes lower your results on every social media platform. Your client is probably upset because they’re looking at their vanity metrics (likes, raw reach) and not at relative metrics such as your engagement rate, which will paint a more consistent picture of how well your content is performing.
How It Wrecks Your Content: Let’s face it, when you’re rushing your content, you’re not crafting it well. You’re just treating it as a checkbox, desperate to be done with it so you can move onto the next pile of to-dos.
The Fix: Educate your client about the difference between vanity metrics and value-driven KPIs. Track your content creation time diligently, and once you know exactly how much of your client’s resources are going towards pumping out high volumes of content, propose a new strategy. Re-route the money drowned by content creation hours, and experiment with reaching your goals with paid media instead.
#2: Take ‘Em To Brief Rehab
The Bad Sign: You get bad briefs.
The Real Problem: Whoever’s briefing you doesn’t have a working knowledge of your process, capabilities, and resources.
How It Wrecks Your Content: Not only do bad briefs take time away from actually crafting content, but they have an even worse effect. A bad brief is usually just a summary of an idea someone had, without clear objectives. And without clear objectives, your work feels pointless.
The Fix: Communication is key here. Instead of rejecting bad briefs, have a safe-to-fail session where you workshop the idea of what a brief should be – whether it’s with your client, boss, or team-member. Try to get as close to the source of the brief as you can, and remind them how their goals can come to life with content if they brief correctly. Come to the table with a checklist of exactly the information you need to action a brief, and always expect to have some back and forth before beginning the work. This lowers your stress levels as well as encouraging the brief writer to really engage with the purpose of the document.
#3: Start An Ideation Habit
The Bad Sign: You use old content plans as templates.
The Real Problem: Your creative process has fallen into routine – you end up basing new content off last month’s plan.
How It Wrecks Your Content: You know the adage: bored people are boring. And what’s more boring than opening an old content plan? It’s a surefire way to cancel any freshness or energy in your content creation, making sure your audience ends up as bored as you are.
The Fix: Every content plan should start with ideation – have a blank journal and some colorful markers to kick off the process – enlisting a few co-workers in a brainstorm is even better. It also helps to keep a swipe file of bookmarks, case studies and inspiration to explore when you’re staring at a blank page. Once you’re ready to begin drafting, have a fresh, functional template ready for new content plans, so you don’t have to open an old document and get inundated with old ideas.
#4: Write Unmissable Reports
The Bad Sign: Your reports are ignored.
The Real Problem: If you have a nasty feeling your client doesn’t even read the reports you slave away over, the problem is probably about value communication. In plain English, your report should connect with the things your client cares about! If the report is filled with irrelevant, vague, or repetitive content, the client just won’t find time for it.
How It Wrecks Your Content: If you don’t know how to communicate the value of your content to your client, odds are, you’re not communicating it very clearly to yourself either. That means you’re missing out on valuable insights on how to get better, what your audience wants to see, and which tactics are the most effective. Your content stagnates month after month as you’re not improving from insights.
The Fix: Go back to the drawing board and look at your client’s top priorities. Then structure your reports to clearly communicate how your efforts are moving the client closer to their goals. A strong understanding of your social media ROI is vital here – every client is pressed for time, and you have to speak their language to get their attention.
#5 Own Your Time
The Bad Sign: You bail on brainstorms.
The Real Problem: You’re overwhelmed! You’re always reacting to different challenges, and anything proactive tends to be pushed out of your calendar again and again.
How It Wrecks Your Content: This goes back to our first point: when you’re rushing, you’re not pushing yourself to craft the best quality content you can make.
The Fix: Honestly, my work life (and the quality of my content) turned around when I started asking, “Is this the best use of my time?” every time a new urgent request landed on my plate. Accept that, as long as capitalism keeps trucking, there will never be a chill time when other dramas, emergencies and opportunities aren’t clamoring to ruin your carefully planned day. Honoring your commitments not only shows respect for your team and your process, but actually puts you in a higher rung of content creators who have a bird’s eye view of their work. Try deflecting and delegating emergencies in order to keep your commitments for a week – and see if the world actually explodes. Odds are you’ll feel calmer, more in control, and more creative too.
#6: Be Your Own Historian
The Bad Sign: You hate job reviews.
The Real Problem: You don’t know how to express the value you add to your client, and in your team. So you just kind of sit there and think “Damn, but I’ve been so busy…”
How It Wrecks Your Content: When you don’t see every content plan as an opportunity to brighten up your portfolio, and be a potential piece of evidence for your promotion… then what are you doing? Simply seeing it as a to-do item to trudge through. And that lowers your standards.
The Fix: Set aside one hour a month to log your career highlights of the past few weeks. Have a folder where you save great reports, screenshots of effective content, and complimentary emails from your clients. You’ll be amazed at how much you end up simply forgetting after six months or a year rolls around. Your folder should also include your job description and KPIs, so you can check if your day-to-day is really lining up to what the company expects of you. When it’s time for that review or even a job interview, having that detailed portfolio at the ready will boost your confidence and support your value in a tangible way.
#7: Show Value Early And Often
The Bad Sign: Your clients keep leaving.
The Real Problem: Unless your client shut down their shop and decided to become a monk, they probably left for a single reason: there was a lack of value. Either they didn’t feel taken care of, they didn’t understand where their money was going, or their KPIs weren’t being met – likely a combination of the three. Now this isn’t to say that you didn’t work hard – the issue, more often than not, is communicating that value in terms clients can understand, and, hell, get excited about.
How It Wrecks Your Content: Losing clients is terrible for your morale, and wrecks your focus. When you’re stressed about putting food on the table, you’re not in that calm, creative state which brings your best work forward.
The Fix: The fix to this is a culmination of all the above suggestions: when your client knows what you do and how you do it, and you truly understand what your client wants, you’re on the way to a great relationship. (Sometimes assessing value is a bitter pill to swallow – maybe that super fun, expensive, experimental campaign really was more about getting awards than selling the client’s product?) Proving the value with clear, easy to share reports and delighting them with proactive ideas will seal the deal. But the most important part is to manage the relationship in a healthy way: as long as you’re communicating the value you’re adding (and doing the hard work to translate that killer engagement rate metric into an ROI number they can understand), they’ll stay with you year after year. Never be afraid to touch base with them, and ask for feedback well before the dreaded contract renewal phase. Call them to discuss the highlights of monthly reports. Have great snacks when they come for meetings! Everybody loves snacks.
I hope this resource was valuable to you! If you want more information about showcasing ROI, auditing your content creation skills, and making better content, consider joining my course waitlist below.
The Strategic Content Creation Course
Currently in development, my 100% original Strategic Content Creation course will cover all the fixes above in much more detail, as well as covering the 5 key value areas a content creator needs to be truly strategic. We’re not open for registration yet, but you can join the obligation-free course waitlist below!