Recovering from a Content Marketing Mistake

Spilled coffee to illustrate a content marketing mistake.

In March, my family broke ground on a home improvement project we’d been dreaming about for years and within a few days the contractor made a serious mistake. This marked the beginning of a litany of problems that seem to be the hallmark of such projects. And, of course, the experience got me thinking about the parallels to content marketing. More specifically, how can we recover when we make a content marketing mistake?

Mistakes are inevitable. We’re not perfect, so mistakes happen in life and in business. And even though the control-freak in me dies a little death when things don’t turn out the way I planned, I firmly believe every challenge is an opportunity for growth. Here are a few things this home improvement project taught me about how to handle mistakes with grace.

Address the Emergency Head On

Fire alarm to illustrate emergency.One of the worst things you can do when you encounter a problem is to avoid it. Actually, scratch that. Let me be more direct. The absolute worst thing you can do is lie about it. Whether you’re lying to yourself, or someone else, serious problems don’t go away on their own and they may actually get worse.

Our contractor spent several days digging in our backyard before realizing our soil required a different approach. This information was in the plans, but he hadn’t bothered to read them. At this point an apology would have smoothed things over, but he tried to blame it on us instead.  He said something changed from the original plans. Nothing had changed and we had the documentation to prove it. So he grumbled something about “no charge” and started over.

Look, I get it. In marketing, as in construction, you don’t always know what you’re dealing with until you dig in and that means occasionally we get off to a false start.

Marketing isn’t an exact science. We know certain strategies and tactics are more effective than others, but every situation is different. That’s why we plan. We review everything we know about the situation and agree to an approach before pressing forward. It’s not foolproof, but at least we know what we’re aiming for and can recognize problems quickly when they occur.

Content marketing setbacks can take many forms. Perhaps you invested a ton of time and money into an eBook only to learn that your messaging insulted a certain demographic. Or maybe you employed an SEO tactic that resulted in a Google penalty. Whatever problem you encounter, resist the temptation to ignore it. This kind of behavior will only hurt the business and your reputation.

Instead, acknowledge the problem, make your apologies and address anything urgent. Then, when the emergency has passed, investigate the cause and evaluate your options for making things right.

Dedicate Enough Time for Recovery

Dog recovering from medical procedure.It took a while for our contractor to re-earn our trust. We didn’t like the way he handled his mistake and we questioned whether we wanted him to continue with the project at all. But, eventually, he got into a groove and we began to move forward.

Depending on the severity of your content marketing mistake, it may take some time to recover. If you managed to upset Google, for instance, you can repair the problem quickly but then you will need to wait. It could take months to achieve the same level of organic traffic you had before the penalty. In the meantime, focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Use the opportunity to build yourself up so you can come back stronger than ever.

For example, dedicate some resources to shoring up the foundation of your website. Perform a content audit to find and improve thin content or pages that don’t attract any traffic. Repair broken links, update old blog posts and fix any problems with your website’s structure. These issues are easy to ignore when things are going well, but when you’re trying to recover from a setback the small stuff can make a big difference.

Allow Yourself Space for Reflection

Woman reflecting on a beach.Eventually, the crisis will be behind you and you will feel that you are mostly recovered. Whew! But before you jump back in, take a little time to think about what happened. What could you have done differently to avoid the content marketing mistake? What did you learn? And how will you change your behavior going forward so you can avoid a repeat performance?

This is a good time to revisit your strategy. What results were you expecting from your content marketing activity? Were the goals you had in place realistic? Do you need to ask for extra help? Be honest with yourself and with those who depend on you about what you can and cannot realistically do going forward. Then set new, attainable goals and establish a plan for achieving them.

We’re nearing the end of our home improvement project. It took longer and cost more than we originally wanted, but we’ll enjoy the results for many years to come. And now we’re pros. I’ve been busily documenting all the decisions we made so our records will be rock solid. That way, when we’re ready for our next adventure we’ll know the questions to ask and how to prepare.

A Content Marketing Mistake or an Opportunity for Growth?

Content marketing, like life, is a journey. We set goals and we do everything we can to achieve them. But sometimes there’s a twist that knocks us off our game. And other times we get what we wanted, only to learn it’s not enough. We need to go just a little bit further.

But maybe getting to the destination isn’t the point. When you complete a big task or run into a snag, take a moment to let the dust settle while you review your plans and set course for the next stage of your journey. Then try to relax and enjoy the growth that occurs along the way.

How do you handle mistakes in your work? Let me know in the comments below.

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