Are You Creating Content for the Delivery or the Response?


My friend Erik recently got married. He's one of the best damn content creators I know. His writing skills and voice are superb. His design abilities are emerging in the best possible way. He carves wood sculptures, sings and plays Irish music, and generally acts as if tomorrow's not promised so better deliver all you have to the world today. In short, he's a creative force of nature. (Follow him @BardOfBoston and

His now-wife Juliette, on the other hand, is a great product manager. She's got a logical mind, loves figuring out the right process, and interacts with software engineers daily ... without embarrassing herself like some might do. (Cough me cough.)

Last night, I learned that they decided to write their own vows ahead of the wedding. Erik teased Juliette for beginning her writing process with a bulleted list. She replied, "I don't like to waste time. I was all about the delivery: Bullet One - Vow. Bullet Two - Vow."

Erik feigned a robot voice: "I. Love. You. Er-ik."

Now, Erik and Juliette had an amazing wedding, and the two of them both felt the warmth and love in each others' vows.

But how often do these ideas of delivery and response come into conflict in our work? How much time do we spend optimizing for hitting Publish compared to optimizing for the right emotional response to our work? I think any creative working in business has to think about the interplay between these two things -- and yes, if you create content even for marketing, you are now a creative.

When Erik wrote his vows, he started with the response. What could he write that would be meaningful and memorable to the other person? Heck, when Erik writes anything, that's where he starts -- getting some kind of emotional reaction from an audience. (Here's the best possible example. Hilarious, warm, sarcastic, human. All the feels. All in one post.)

Imagine if everything you created was focused around those responses? You have to create something both meaningful and memorable. Would we write as many listicles? Would we think about SEO quite as much? Or would we spend more time working on our craft of writing, design, audio, video, and storytelling in general? Would we spend more time with customers, listening to their thoughts, their language, and their own personal narratives? 

Too many of us think about the delivery first, then stop. We seek things like ideal word counts, time-saving tools, and ideas we can put on repeat over and over. We corporatize and optimize and scrutinize and operationalize because all we think about are eyes. We think about reaching others, not about resonating.

Resonating is about intellectual and emotional response. It's not about simply "getting this thing out the door" or "publishing more" or "getting more eyeballs" on something.

When a great writer writes, they think about triggering some kind of emotion. They get in the heads of another person and view their draft from their perspective. As I write this, I am imagining you eagerly consuming each paragraph, responding to my jokes, building your anticipation with each list, all so I can drop the hammer at the end:

We're all getting pushed to simply deliver more work, more stuff, more "content." But this isn't actually about creating simply to deliver a thing into the world. This isn't about creating for Facebook, for Twitter, for search, for email. THIS IS ABOUT CREATING FOR PEOPLE!

And the best creators create not simply for the delivery of the work, but for the response.

create for the response 2


This post's One Different Thing: Shorter than usual

^ What is this? ^

Content marketing would be a much better industry for both practitioners and audiences if we tried to do just one subtle new thing in each piece we created, rather than churn out more copycat junk. It's a small thing to try that could make a big difference. Read more about the One Different Thing challenge.

Posted on October 20, 2015 .