I learned a skill as a journalist which has been invaluable to me as a marketer.

As a journalist, I was an expert at knowing when to let go of a piece of content and send it out into space, even though it was imperfect.

It’s the nature of the news business. You have a deadline and when the deadline arrives, you go to air or to print with as much information as you have. You know that you can revisit the story later to add new details. And that must be enough.

One of the hardest adjustments I had to make when I left the newsroom and went to the library was the constant reshaping of promotional messages and campaigns.

The good and bad of the revision process

When I worked in a library, each blog post, print piece, email, social media post, or video would go through rounds of review by several departments. The record was held by our content marketing magazine, which sometimes went through upwards of 15 edits per issue.

All the scrutiny had its advantages. More edits meant grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors were found and fixed. The revision process also gave me the chance to see how each message was perceived by different people with different perspectives.

I purposefully chose reviewers who worked with different target cardholder audiences. They told me whether they thought their patron base would respond to the message. I trusted their opinions and took their advice when they told me a phrasing or image change would increase my message’s effectiveness.

But there were also pitfalls to revision process. The message was sometimes reshaped by people who pressured me to add words or phrases that weren’t customer friendly. They might also wish to dilute or change the message altogether, depending on their department’s own goals or agenda. 

The point at which your library’s revision process goes from helpful to over-examined is the space I want to focus on in this post.

It’s very easy to start over-thinking text, images, and graphics. The message you’ve carefully crafted may not connect with your audience because it disappears in the search for perfection. It can be crippling.

There is a very thin line between authenticity and perfection. It takes practice to walk that line. Here’s the advice I have for you.

Constant improvement is better than perfection

The best content isn’t perfect. That is what makes it good.

Imperfection shows your library’s human side. When you write from the heart, your message feels more authentic. 

Don’t sabotage your own marketing efforts by waiting for the moment when every single detail is right. Give yourself permission to release a piece of marketing content when the time is right, not when it’s perfect.

Creative, honest messaging will be the doorway for your library to connect with consumers in the moment when they are genuinely searching for answers from your library.

I’m a fan of author, speaker, and showrunner Jay Acunzo. I highly recommend his newsletter. His niche is creativity. He inspires others by talking about how creativity intersects with work in the real world.

In this blog post, Jay makes a great point that I think about all the time. He says, “How can we aspire to perfection (even if it’s never something we reach) while still moving forward without delay (even if we aren’t creating amazing work yet)? Well, I think the key is to place perfection where it belongs: away in the distance. Then, we can busy ourselves with marching towards it.”

In the library, that means we must do the work and ship it when it needs to be shipped. But we also must commit to revising it, molding it, and realizing that it is a work in progress.

In your library promotional work, your goal must not be perfection. It must be constant improvement.

But I have a deadline!

You work in a real library with real goals and strategies. And the quest for perfection will sometimes seem like a lofty goal that you don’t have the luxury of achieving.

So how do you know when a piece of content is ready for release, even if it’s not perfect? Ask yourself these three questions.

1. Is your promotion as compelling and authentic as it can be in this moment?

2. Is your promotional piece free of grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors?

3. Is the information in your promotional piece correct?

If the answer is yet to these three questions, it’s time to let go.

Marketing is one giant experiment. Even when you release a promotion that isn’t perfect, you will still learn plenty from it. Measure and record the results of your promotion. Then use that data to adjust and reconfigure your attempts on the next go-around.

Don’t get bogged down in the quest for perfection. Be human. Be authentic. Be true to your library voice.

And get the message out there! Your imperfect message may lead to some perfect insight into your community.

Do you have an example of a time when an imperfect message brought you some perfect insight into your customers? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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