Father, forgive me. It has been 24 years since my last confession*. These are my sins:
- I created content solely for the purpose of creating content;
- I distributed useless content; and
- I failed to offer value to my readers.
Childhood Excuses: Sharing my professional blunder throws me back to my youth, when I knelt in the confessional, trying to remain anonymous before Father Ciaola, though I was fairly certain he could see through the dark linen cloth.
To ensure a light penance, I relied on the same three sins every kid my age did: I lied, I fought with my brothers and sisters, and I disobeyed my parents. (If you weren’t raised Catholic, just ask someone who was.) Anyway, like I said, I knew I would get off with a light penance if I admitted to these three rote, somewhat-acceptable sins.
A Teenage Error in Judgment: One time – one time, mind you – I told Father Ciaola the truth. What I had done was a bad thing for a 14-year-old girl (I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t THAT bad). Anyway, I confessed it, thinking my honesty would create a sense of mercy in Father Ciaola. It didn’t.
He told me what I already knew, “You shouldn’t do that!” Then he gave me a harsh penance and sent me on my way.
The Shameful Blunder a Professional Content Writer: I didn’t have to confer with Father Ciaola, or anyone for that matter, to know that I had gone astray. All I had to do was look at what I’d written and say, “I shouldn’t have done that!”
I’m a content professional, and I believe I’m good at what I do. When it comes to sharing a business message, I guide my clients in the following practices (which are also detailed in The Archery of Good Communications: 4 steps to convey value).
- Figure out who needs what you offer.
- Respect your own expertise; believe that you have knowledge worth sharing.
- Share valuable ideas and useful, concrete tips.
- Don’t write to sell.
- Write well.
- Give your audience something worth remembering or something worth doing.
- Find out how your audience wants to receive information, and follow their lead.
Takeaways: The takeaway here is that professional blunders come with a cost, and that cost can be a lot more than a light (or even harsh) penance from Father Ciaola.
We should always think about what we have to lose before we push ideas or content or products or services that provide no value to our audience. We could lose:
- The patience of a faithful audience
- Our place as a trusted expert
Even worse, the failure to provide value to our audience can and will eventually result in a loss of business. So, whether we are delivering knowledge, services, or products, the onus is on us:
- We must always put the needs of our audience first.
- We must always respect the time of our audience.
- We must, to the best of our ability, always deliver value and quality.
Sometimes the hardest lessons come in the form of failure, and that’s something even Father Ciaola could not have instilled in me.
*This content should not be construed as a religious or doctrinal statement; rather, it is a sarcastic bit of self-deprecating fun.