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Are you one of those people who starts sentences with the word “sorry?” As in, “Sorry, but I just think coffee is better than tea.” I’ve been noticing that more and more lately. Not just in every day colloquial conversation, but in the way that businesses of various sizes manage their marketing.
A few days ago I was reading an article written by a marketing professional about using space and furniture to create a more productive work environment which was based on the principles of GTD (Getting Things Done). The article was really good. I found her insights really provocative. However, the first paragraph of the article was an apology because apparently the author had not written an article in a while.
Did this article need to start with an apology? Did it need to have one at all?
This was the first time that I had ever read anything from this author. My first experience was a mix of appreciating the value of what was written combined with caution because the author was telling me up front about a perceived failure. What does that do to my trust? What does that do to the authority I perceive?
I’ll tell you what; it diminishes it.
The apology was altogether unnecessary.
If you listen to our podcast, you’ll know that we have a running joke where we say, “Don’t apologize.” The joke got started before our podcast even premiered. Our good friend Mike Brooks once had an episode of his Nuclear Chowder Podcast where he told his audience that he was going to structure his show so that his main segment would not exceed 30 minutes. Then he went on to produce amazing content for 45 minutes. What followed was legendary in the halls of Casa De Web.Search.Social. Mike went on for 5 minutes apologizing to his audience for talking for 45 minutes instead of 30. But here’s the thing; the content that he created required 45 minutes and there was no way he was going to know that before hand.
Mike and the author above both fell into the trap of setting artificial constraints that didn’t matter because their content appealed to their audiences. What value does limiting a 45 minute conversation to 30 provide? What value does telling me that the article I’m reading had a lag time between it and the preceding article?
I want you, Dear Reader to create content that matters to your audience and leave everything else out. The extra stuff is just fluff. It doesn’t matter. Even worse, it may cultivate a negative feeling.
Imagine for a moment that the author above convinced me that allowing so much lag time between her articles was a bad thing. I would have left and not bothered to return. After all, she’s the one setting the precedent that she’s possibly unreliable. Practically, if someone got to her article, they got there to read that content, not for exposition on why the article took so long to produce. No one cares about that.
On Mike’s end, I’m willing to bet that no one noticed that his promised 30 minute talk turned into 45 minutes. I bet they were engrossed in the value the talk delivered. I was. But imagine if someone decided that they could sit through 30 minutes, but 45… Well, that’s just too much. And they decided to stop listening. After all, Mike was prepared to deliver his 30 minutes, but then apologized for 45. That means 45 is bad, right?
Wrong. And fortunately Mike knows it. He has rarely if ever repeated the same mistake. Which is a shame because our listeners know that we love to make fun of him.
So here’s the challenge for you:
When you are creating content, don’t worry about lengths or word counts. Don’t worry about how much time elapsed between your current piece and the last.
Just focus on your audience and what they need. That’s it. And while we’re here, I want to tell you something that may be a bit jarring for you to hear: When you go 45 minutes instead of 30 or you write 10 paragraphs instead of 5 or you apologize for having a cold…guess what? No one cares. Well, not that they don’t care about you, but they don’t care what happened behind the scenes to get them to this content. They just want the content. Don’t project your guilt onto the audience. It only serves to diminish the relationship.
As for me, I lied to you. I said “sorry” in the title of this article, but I’m not sorry. I’m here to tell you once and for all…
Stop apologizing for your marketing.