The 10 Biggest Mistakes That Sabotage Your Creative Content

The path to a successful piece of creative content can be filled with plenty of hurdles. You need a great idea, the right skills to execute, and the distribution channels to send it out into the world. Plenty can go wrong. But we find it’s not always those big hurdles that really sabotage your work. It’s the little things you might overlook that can really hurt your creative content: the inefficient communication, the weak infrastructure, the simple oversights.

We’ve seen plenty of these types of mistakes over the years, and we find they can often be sourced to the same issues. To help you do things better, here are 10 mistakes to avoid in creative content creation.

1) A Weak Brief

Creative briefs can be tricky. You want enough information to give a clear sense of goals and objectives, but briefs can be all over the place. We’ve seen briefs that were practically novels and others that weren’t much more than a paragraph, neither of which help much. To find out how to write the most efficient creative brief, follow this convenient guide.

2) Leaving Key People Out of the Brainstorm

A great idea is no good if it can’t be executed well within budget. A cool campaign concept is no good if it isn’t tailored for the social platform it’s meant for. That’s why you need your creative team in the room when you’re coming up with ideas.

That can mean everyone from the designer to the PR person in charge of distributing the piece. They can vet and determine whether an idea is feasible or on-goal. This is especially true when you’re working with multiple creators (e.g., a copywriter, designer, and animator).

If you leave them out, you’ll end up with a zombie piece of content that was created piecemeal—and that shows through. For more tips on coming up with better ideas, here are some ways to tap into your team’s creativity.

3) Getting Inconsistent or Disjointed Feedback from Stakeholders

Nothing will make you want to pull your hair out like a flurry of “notes” right before you’re supposed to launch a piece of creative content. You’d think it was common sense to get approval from everyone before moving into major stages of production, but we see marketers forget to do this all the time. Whether it’s a motion graphic script or an interactive wireframe, get sign-off at every stage to save yourself a major headache.

4) Not Following Design Best Practices

Sure, you can still make a pretty piece of content that dazzles your team. But true designers know it’s the little things that turn a good design into a great design. We see this problem time and time again, especially with things like data visualization or information design. (For example, a simple change to data labels or rearrangement of pie slices can greatly increase the efficacy of a data visualization.)

If you take pride in your work, you want to do everything you can to help it succeed. Start by learning what 8 design mistakes to avoid, and follow our guide to designing the most common charts and graphs if you need a data visualization refresher.

5) Creating Inaccurate Marketing Personas

You should already have marketing personas created so that you know if your ideas will resonate with the people you’re trying to reach. (Here’s our easy exercise to create them if you don’t have them.)

The problem is that a lot of marketers create their personas from guesswork and their own ideas of who their “dream” customer is. This is just as bad as not having personas at all. To make effective personas, you need to talk, email, chat, survey, and have real conversations with real people. (This also includes connecting with the people in your organization who have these regular conversations.)

6) Lack of Story (or Too Many)

This is one of the most pervasive problems in creative content. Just because you make content doesn’t mean it’s interesting or effective. To make it compelling, you need a strong core story. That means identifying a single narrative and building every aspect of content around it, from words to design. Unfortunately, sometimes marketers get too excited about this, so they pack in as much “story” as they can, creating a dense mess. To avoid this, find out how to tell a single story in a piece of content.

7) Trying to “Sell” in Your Content

One of the most important things to understand is the difference between marketing content and sales content. Marketing content starts a conversation. It’s people-focused. It provides readers value by giving them something that entertains, educates, or inspires them. Sales content is brand-focused. It’s a one-way conversation. Learn more about the difference between sales and marketing, and find out what messages to send at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

8) Having No Brand Identity

Your brand is the composite of many things, but your voice and visual identity are vital in content. Having none, not following guidelines, or straying too far muddles your brand identity.

The purpose of content is to introduce yourself and begin a conversation. To do this well, you need people to know who you are and why they should trust you. A strong brand identity does that. To see if yours is up to par, learn about the important elements of a brand identity.

9) Spreading Yourself Too Thin (or Trying to Do Too Much)

We see a lot of marketers become a slave to their editorial calendar. Focused on hitting deadlines and churning out volume, they get sucked into the vortex. But volume alone doesn’t serve your goals. Effective content does. It’s better to do one thing well than a bunch of things poorly. To make sure you aren’t falling into the trap, find out how to make content that provides true value

10) Wasting Your Content

Plenty of marketers press publish once and forget about it, but so much of your content can do more for you at every communication touchpoint. You put a lot of work into your content, so get the most out of it. Consider ways to repurpose, republish, or remix content. An e-book can become an infographic; an infographic chart can become a visual tweet. For more ideas, find out about how a divisible content strategy can give you the most mileage.

Remember: Making Great Content is a Process

To make more effective creative content, stay educated, follow best practices, and always experiment. If you want more tips, here are a few posts that might spark some interest:

If you need a little extra help, holler at us.