In a routine scan of my e-mail inbox, the discussion pages of my 40-some LinkedIn groups, various news sites and marketing sites, I counted over 100 headlines like the one above, promising everything from business lead generation to building up my profile, to keeping my windows from sticking, to where to go in Ocean City. All tempt the reader with a memorable number of simple solutions, neatly encapsulated in a short, easily digestible list, suggesting that if you compile enough lists about all the elements of your life, you’ll have all the answers and your life will run smoothly.
Is this what content marketing practice has distilled itself down to, a clever headline offering quick easy solutions to life’s tough problems? I certainly hope not, because if your life is like mine and those of my colleagues here, it’s never that clean and neatly arranged – life is just plain messy!
Marketing is a difficult, complex and widespread discipline, vastly misunderstood by the rank and file and by many of it’s practitioners. It takes YEARS of experience to master even the rudimentary elements in a coherent fashion, to be able to apply them in some fashion to a company or organization’s challenges, to identify and isolate the problem, and devise a strategy to combat it with well-thought-out tactics that do more good than harm, won’t break the budget and will return many times their cost. That’s a tall order for any single discipline, but marketing covers roughly 20 different disciplines within it, all of which can and should be considered when assessing and formulating a plan of action. If you can fit that in a list, I’d love to see it.
Don’t get me wrong, lists of reminders can be very helpful and useful as a memory joggers of the various rough spots and pitfalls that can befall the forgetful. But I think the use (and overuse) of the catchy tip-laden headline is the lazy way to go. If our business attention span, our ability to learn new concepts, to absorb data and information, has sunk to the level where lists of tips guide your operative day, we are truly in a crisis. From the outreach side, they are a crutch for the lazy man, a cry for attention in the digital wilderness, where solid, impactful and dense information are traded away for quick thrills and easy clicks, screaming “Hey, look at my stuff, not that guy from the learned institute over there, I’m faster and easier.” They are the cliff -notes of a practice and a discipline that takes time and effort to learn, trial and error to master, and guts and determination and discipline to apply.
Next time you see a list headline with 10 tips on anything, see if you can guess what at least five of them are before you open it. If you’re right, skip the list and it’s author and move on. I’m off to write the next entry, “10 Ways to Be Labeled an Old Curmudgeon Without Really Trying.”