Why Perfectionists Make Great Content Marketers
Does perfection get in the way of good? Arienne Holland argues that perfectionists make great content marketers. What do you think?
A colleague I respect — ever the pragmatic, realist type — occasionally reminds me: “Perfect gets in the way of good.”
OK, OK. I get it. Sometimes people who strive for perfection can’t tell when something is good enough to go.
But I say: “Good gets in the way of great.”
I’m a perfectionist. And I’m tired of hearing that’s a major flaw professionally. Setting a personal bar for outstanding work — consciously or unconsciously — has served me well as a writer, editor and leader. My employers and colleagues have benefitted along the way.
So why do most major media reports on the subject have headlines along these lines?
- Being a Perfectionist Is Hurting Your Career – Globe and Mail
- Perfectionism Is the Enemy of Everything – Forbes
- Controlling Perfectionists in the Workplace – Psychology Today
“Controlling”? Treating professionals with the highest standards like problem children strikes me as shortsighted. How about “working with”?
The world could use a few more perfectionist content marketers. Here are 6 traits that make perfectionists great content marketers:
Sometimes a writer has a great lead on something newsworthy — but the obvious sources aren’t willing to talk. Other times, a writer has a diamond of an idea, but it’s trapped in rough form. Perfectionists will uncover new sources and cut away at their ideas until they find a way to tell the story. In the end, they write things that no one else had the persistence or originality to write.
When perfectionists make mistakes, they feel them with keen pain. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mere typo or screwing up a significant piece of history — the gut ache lingers. That’s why perfectionists double-check their work while they’re writing. They double-check it during the editing stages. They double-check it after it’s published. That makes six checks. (Don’t think I didn’t double-check that simple math.)
Perfectionists don’t like to do things they’re not good at doing. Either they improve, or they quit. They won’t promise to do something that they can’t do well. And when they deliver what they promised, it won’t be anything less than their best possible work. Need something outstanding? Hire a perfectionist who specializes in it.
Perfectionists don’t linger in relationships that aren’t living up to their standards. This might be terrible for their lovers, but it’s great for their editors. As long as a perfectionist is given the trust and time to do their very best work, they’ll stay loyal. As soon as you start to micromanage, or to demand more content to the point that quality suffers, they’ll start looking for a new gig.
Whatever their style — early, careful planning to meet deadlines or so much last-minute futzing that they miss them — you can count on a perfectionist to stay the same. It might sound weird to count on your perfectionists to miss deadlines every time, but once you know that’s their habit, you can plan accordingly. Rest assured that they will come through with consistently great work.
Perfectionists who are good collaborators (note: the traits don’t go hand-in-hand, nor are they mutually exclusive) tend to elevate the work of those around them. They encourage others to do their best on important projects, and they help people reach their goals. Good content marketers can become great content marketers through the influence of a perfectionist colleague.
Perfectionists Shouldn’t Be Pariahs
Instead of shunning perfectionist types, let’s acknowledge their value.
Perfectionists aren’t perfect people. Nor do they want to be — not exactly. They want to please everyone, to do everything right. Even if they aren’t trying to make everyone else happy, they’re driven to satisfy themselves. When a perfectionist’s brain is screaming, “This isn’t right yet,” it’s nearly impossible to stop until the voice says, “There. You’ve done it. Finished.”
Yet, I know from experience that if I allow perfectionism to dominate every decision I make or article I write, I end up frustrated, stressed, and (eventually) burned out.
And I no longer assume others are perfectionists or treat them like they should be.
“If you truly are a perfectionist, it’s easier to find the disappointment in people than the good,” my boss Patrick Keeble, Raven’s CEO, told me. “It’s more difficult for the people around you than it is for you.” That’s a truth I take to heart regularly, as the leader of a marketing and customer experience team of nine and growing.
Managers who have unrealistic expectations of their employees are simply bad managers — perfectionists or not. They’ll harm your team.
Content marketers who shoot past the moon and aim for the stars — the perfectionists with an innate need to achieve goals no one else thinks are attainable — those people will benefit your team.
Perfectionists aim for great, not good.
Respect them. Let them do great things.